Sermon – 03-07-21 – 3rd Sunday in Lent – Cycle B
Scriptures -Exodus 20:1-17, Psalm 19, 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, John 2:13-22
Sermon Title: “Resisting the Fruit of the Tree”
It is this knowledge thing. We want to know. It is a human characteristic. Some of us temporarily crawl into our shells and say we don’t want to know what is happening in the world. That usually does not last long. Humans are curious. Even those of us who are introverts are curious about something.
Some of us want to understand nuclear energy. Some of us want to understand how the geese know when to come north to spend the summer, especially this year. The north was not ready for the geese this year. People in the north were ready for the geese, but the geese don’t thrive on ponds of ice. Do you know where they “laid over?” I don’t because I had other knowledge to pursue.
At the present time, my world is the knowledge of ethernet cables and Zoom share-the-screen knowledge. Recording Zoom sessions and sending them to the cloud is the edge of my learning at this time. I think a little bit about when my daffodils and lilies are going to peep through the ground. How do they know to re-energize each year? Knowledge. There is so much to know. Even if we live to be 100 years old, there is more knowledge spread like a tablecloth in front of us, around us, and raining down upon us.
So you say that you have withdrawn and you have no desire to know these things. But I think you ask “What time is it?” several times a day. It is never the same time in the same day because time marches on. “How does it do that?” we ask. We might ask, “Why did God allow so much snow to fall this year?” We might wonder how it happened that Texans and a few neighboring states had such a dreadful experience this winter. What we learn is that humans planned a system that worked for a while but it was not sustainable. We might ask why bad things happen to good people? We might want to know how almost everything we touch becomes political – even a dreadful disease.
You might be wondering why that gorgeous, delicious-looking, perfect-looking apple is on the cover of our bulletin when we are not talking about Adam and Eve today. Well, truth be told it may not have been an apple. “Fruit” may be a better translation of the Hebrew word. And another truth be told, that apple is not just in Eve’s life. We have apples dangling in front of us every day. We don’t even need to leave our houses to have temptation pulling at our minds and stomachs and ears and mouths and “what is that delicious smell coming from the kitchen?” You can be assured that the delicious smell is attached to calories and cholesterol and whatever else is bad for our bodies and shows up in blood tests and on the scale?
What about TV and all the nasty stuff that stains our minds and emotions? You may say that you gain knowledge by watching hour after hour without being discriminating about the content which clings to our minds afterward so deceptively that we don’t even know we are carrying bad baggage.
What was so special about that apple anyway? It is tempting to think that God placed that temptation in the garden as a trick. Well, it symbolized knowledge of good and evil. You would think it would be good to have that knowledge. Yes. But God is not an entirely open book. He does not share all of his knowledge. So instead of welcoming humans to eat of that tree and know the truth, God gave people The Ten Commandments. That is how we know good from evil.
The purpose of these rules is not to show God’s authority and power. These ten rules are wisdom through and through. They work! But they are not necessarily deep. They can be surface rules which is fine because we need some working order. But as we carry these rules through the Old Testament into the New Testament we find the rules attaching themselves to deeper meaning.
Maybe we should be like a three-year-old child who says, “Why?” countless times a day. Why should we worship just one God? Why should I not have idols? Why should I honor my parents? We would be searching for “wisdom.” One definition of wisdom is the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; discernment, experience, insight, common sense..
Surface knowledge is good but using that surface knowledge to understand more deeply is what is expected of us. However, let us not expect to know and understand all of the wisdom that is God. Not even Jesus knew all of the Father’s wisdom. Knowing the layers of the earth to the center is good, especially if our knowledge includes the names of the layers and the year in which they were formed. But understanding the forces that created the layers would be closer to wisdom.
In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul states the case for the wisdom of the cross. It appears to the believers and non-believers that Jesus is losing the battle. Jesus appeared on earth long enough to cause a ruckus and now is being killed, as in gone forever. This whole thing appears to be foolishness.
But let us not kid ourselves! This drama on the cross is the whole point of Christ’s life on earth. It is for us. Jesus is the sacrifice which will separate us from our sins. He took our sins to the cross and left them there, gone forever; past sins, present sins, future sins. That is the wisdom of the cross. My foolishness is my thinking that I understand all of this mystery. What I do understand is that Jesus’ death on the cross was profound for every person on earth – past, present, future! We can choose to accept the mysterious wisdom behind it or we can refuse this gift.
If we are foolish enough to think that our wisdom is anywhere close to God’s wisdom, we need to adjust our thinking and become humble.
When Jesus entered the temple in Jerusalem and displayed rare anger, he was bringing wisdom to unwise practices that had developed through lack of wisdom. Tables are overturned. Money rolls. Animals fly and run! But the most startling example of misunderstood wisdom is Jesus saying that the temple could be torn down but, in three days, Jesus would raise it again. Of course that is ridiculous if we are thinking of the extravagant temple which took years to build. The secret wisdom is that these religious leaders would be destroying Jesus’ body but on the third day Jesus would be resurrected. We are resurrection people. We know the most important thing to know: Jesus is our Savior and Lord!