Revised Common Lectionary: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 62:5-12; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

Narrative Lectionary: Jesus Cleanses the Temple, John 2:15-25 (Psalm 127:1-2)

The prophet Jonah is perhaps the most successful prophet ever, because the people of Nineveh listened to him, and they put on sackcloth and ashes and repented of their wrongdoing. When God sees what the people did to repent, and how they have turned away from the evil ways, God changes their mind. God does not desire punishment, but restoration, and God does not bring destruction to the people.

The psalmist calls out that their soul waits in silence for God in Psalm 62:5-12. Our hope is not to be found in the power of money, for all power belongs to God. In other words, do not seek unjust practices to gain wealth and power, because God is the God of justice, and God repays according to our work.

Paul continues in his letter to the church in Corinth that the ways of this world are passing away. In 1 Corinthians 7:39-31, Paul tells the church they must turn their thinking upside down, mourn when there is nothing to mourn, rejoice when there is nothing to rejoice. They must be counter-cultural to the rest of the world around them.

Jesus calls his first disciples after John the Baptizer was arrested. In Mark 1:14-20, Jesus preaches his first sermon: “The time has come, and the kingdom is near; repent, and believe in the Good News.” He sees Simon and Andrew casting a net into the sea and calls them to follow him. He then sees James and John, mending nets in their boats with their father Zebedee, and calls them to follow. They leave their nets and their father behind to follow Jesus. What was it about Jesus that made them ready to go? Was it what he said, or how he said it? Or was it that James and John were tired of doing the things that sons always do, which is follow in their father’s footsteps? Maybe they were waiting for something new to come, and Jesus was that something new.

The Narrative Lectionary focuses on John’s account of Jesus cleansing the temple. John’s account, unlike the Synoptic Gospels, takes place at the beginning of his ministry, not the end. In John’s account, Jesus not only turns over the tables, but he makes a whip and drives out the moneychangers, along with the sheep and the cattle. Jesus, in John’s account, wants no part of the buying and selling business in order to make sacrifices to God. That is not what worship is about for Jesus. Jesus starts off his ministry as an already notorious troublemaker in this account, already stating that his body is the temple, and though the earthly temple can be destroyed, God will raise up Christ’s body.

Psalm 127:1-2 begins with statements that unless it is God who builds the house, guards the city, and gives us bread, it is all vain. If we are anxious and work hard for worldly things, it is all in vain. For only with God do we have true safety, security, and rest.

The work of God is counter-cultural to mainstream society that continues to uphold injustice and systemic oppression. The work of God calls us away from what we are expected to do to the unexpected. The work of God calls us to justice, which is restorative, not retributive; and yet, restorative justice can be painful, especially for those who are used to privilege. The work of God calls us to be ready for the coming of the reign of God, and to participate, for it is at hand. The work of God might call us to put our own lives on the line and turn over tables. The work of God calls us to repent—turn away from the ways of the world—and believe in the Good News.

Call to Worship
The time is fulfilled, and the reign of God is at hand!
Repent, and believe in the Good News!
Don’t fall into the ways of the world, of power and wealth;
Repent, and believe in the Good News!
Leave the ways of power, wealth, and privilege behind;
Repent, and believe in the Good News!
Follow Christ, who is calling your name, away from the world’s expectations;
Repent, and believe in the Good News!

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Creator God, we confess that we love the world that we have made, and not the earth You gave to us. We love the world that has power and privilege, the world that satisfies our material desires, at the expense of the earth You made and called us to care for. We love the world in which we can have more and more, at the cost of others having less. We love the world in which we care for our family and friends, and yet others go without health care, homes, and food. Forgive us. We have made a world that You did not create. We have equated wealth and worldly power with salvation. We have lied to ourselves. Forgive us, and call us back to You ways of love, justice, and restoration. In the name of Christ, who calls us out of the boat, out of the little world that we are in, we pray. Amen.

God of Awe and Wonder, Your voice called forth light from the depths of the waters. Your voice saved Isaac from the hands of sacrifice. Your voice called peoples to repentance through the prophets. Your voice called forth disciples, students of The Way that You desire for us. Your voice is still calling our name, still speaking to us. Help us to listen. Open our hearts, O God of Awe and Wonder. Open our minds to understanding. Open us, to experience the fullness of Your love and grace and majesty. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.

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