Updated: Feb 25
In September 2001 my life changed. It happened soon after the events of September 11th but it was not those tragic events that changed my life. It was from those tragic events that shook the world that I wandered into God’s arms.
For nearly twenty years now, I have kept wandering with God …
and, to tell the truth, I have been loving every minute of that experience.
My life, most certainly, has had its ups and downs, but my faith has grown constantly.
I just dawned on me, after reading and analyzing the readings selections for this third Sunday in Lent, that in late September 2001 I began a wilderness experience that has not ended.
I don’t want it to end; and, it will not end when my soul is released from this flesh it calls home.
I made a commitment to serve God, one can say officially, when in 2003 – penniless and reduced to being a near-fifty-year old man forced to return to living with his elderly mother – I made a vow of poverty. I gave up being a swinging single guy [divorced variety] trying to climb the ladder of success.
I did that because I had been called by God to write about Nostradamus, even if that path led me to financial ruin and destitution.
The Lenten experience is not a trivial time. It is not about giving up one small thing for forty days. Seeing it as that makes it trivial. The season we call Lent is about serious commitment to God. Once entered, it lasts the rest of one’s life.
We recognize Lent each year, just as we recognize Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, and Pentecost yearly; but we see them as new reasons to remember something Jesus did long ago. Each year we take that attitude about something Jesus did without seeing each season as commemorating personal memories we each have – individually – about how we did the same things as Jesus, because we became Jesus years before. When the church calendar's seasons become trivialized, then we fail to honor God … year after year.
My Lenten test that began in 2003, after God and I “dated” for two years, eventually led me to begin writing interpretations of Scripture and also sermons, based on the Episcopal Lectionary schedule of readings. God tested my commitment by asking if I was up to doing that for three years – a complete church cycle (Years A, B, and C). I began that test in June 2013.
That was early into the Year C Ordinary period after Pentecost. In March 2015, I wrote a sermon that was based on the notes I made about these same readings we heard here today.
I went back and read that sermon, simply because I wanted to see where my head was six years ago.
In 2015, I read the same Old Testament reading telling of the Ten Commandments. In 2015, I read the same Psalm 19. In 2015, I read the same Epistle selection from First Corinthians; and, in 2015, I read the same Gospel of John reading.
As I read those in the lectionary this past week, I wondered what thread connecting these four scatterings of divine Word did I see six years ago?
Reading the four selections on the Episcopal Lectionary website is about the same as sitting at a bus stop and listening to the same sets of words be read aloud, all in a short period of time. Without any attempts to delve deeper into what is written (thus spoken), the normal person just has a "I'm lost" smile on his or her face, having no clue why those particular words were chosen to be read on the same day.
It is impossible to grasp everything simply by listening or reading. That's why I wanted to see when my head was six years ago, knowing I had put investigative time into preparing that sermon.
When I read that old sermon, I saw what I see now is different. I see where I was then; but, like I said, my faith has constantly grown. Now, I see more than then.
In my deeper analysis of those words this past week, after having written an estimated fifteen thousand words that explain what four readings mean to me, it becomes impossible to fit all those words into a fifteen minute sermon. Since the busses run every fifteen minutes, anything longer would not be heard by those with places to go and people to see.
I will say this now, about today’s readings, I did not see them the same in 2015. For the first time ever, I read these readings with new eyes that saw hidden truth that – in the vernacular of old hippies – “blew me away, man.”
I saw the Ten Commandments in an entirely new light. I saw Paul’s words about God making foolishness of the wise differently; and, I saw the truth about the quote from Psalm 69 come out, when Jesus was cleansing the temple. It made the hidden love expressed in Psalm 19 show in ways I had missed before.
Last Sunday I asked the bus riders if any were married. I then asked the ladies who were married if they took their husband’s name when that event took place. I did that because, as I explained last Sunday, a theme for Lent had been established, after two Sundays with Old Testament readings about covenants between God and Patriarchs: Noah, then Abram.
Well, guess what?
Today we read about The Covenant, the one brought down from the mountain by Moses.
The theme continues.
So, let me ask the bus riders today the same question as last Sunday: Are any of you married?
I said last Sunday that marriage was a covenant between a husband and a wife. A covenant was an exchange of promises that both parties are committed to uphold.
Without my consciously remembering that I said those words last Sunday, I read the Ten Commandments this week as the wedding vows between God and the Israelites.
Perhaps, it is harder to see The Covenant as a marriage to God because Moses took down the Law and a multitude of Israelites had to agree with the terms that made them the chosen people of God. Because there were so many of them, it is harder to see the Ten Commandments as if it was some mass Moonie wedding.
The key for me to see it as marriage vows to be exchanged was finding the word “elohim” written, which is the plural form of “el,” meaning “gods.”
For human beings to marry, the call is for two of the same species to join in agreement [as perverted as limiting the gender of the species has become in this “adulterous and sinful generation.”- To repeat a quote from the second Sunday in Lent.] But, to see God marry human beings is harder to find the equality of the same species.
That is removed when one sees the Ten Commandments were for the “gods to speak” in agreement to the One God. [Verse 1 of Exodus 20 begins “waydabber elohim” or “and the gods spoke.”] That is important to know, but it is not presented in the translation read aloud today.
Raise your hand if you believe you have a soul.
<look for raised hands>
I believe I have a soul. I believe my soul is what controls my body. While my brain acts as a circuit board that controls what signals go where in the body, I physically am not pecking in codes to send to my brain. When I sleep, especially from being in an unconscious state of being, it is my soul that keeps my heart beating, sends antibodies to repair wounds, and keeps my lungs operating. All of that ability is not human, but godly.
When one believes in souls, it becomes important to believe also that souls are eternal. That is what makes souls unlike bodies of flesh and bones. Flesh and bones eventually die, being mortal. In fact, flesh and bones, being made of matter, are dead without the life given to them by a soul. When one sees that eternal quality a soul possesses, then a soul is an “el.” All of our souls amount to “elohim.”
This means the Ten Commandments were not etched in stone for human bodies of flesh to agree with. Instead, they were-are the marriage covenant between God and souls who would-will become his wives.
Now, in the list of agreements that both parties have to agree with, in order for the marriage to be official, the first becomes the most important. In the reading today we heard: “you shall have no other gods before me” as the First Commandment.
In that Commandment one again finds the word “elohim.” This says the First Commandment says to all the “elohim” who will agree to become wedded to Yahweh, none of you “elohim” will be allowed to act as equal to or greater than Yahweh. That being between God and gods becomes an eternal condition of marriage to Yahweh.
A marriage between two human beings is not so one-sided and certainly not so permanent. A husband and wife agree to each accept the other as he or she is, with each holding equal rights: in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse. That equality lasts until death comes a knocking.
And death will come to human beings. In today's wayward times, death comes in the form of divorce. Some people die many times in failed marriages.
That is not the case with God or the “elohim.” They are all eternal. So, a marriage of a soul to God means acceptance and recognition that God is to be, always, the master, with His wives all being His servants, His subservient wives.
Seeing that agreement as stated first can be why so many refuse to say “I do” to God’s proposal to marriage. After all, being an “el” in a body of flesh has its perks, without bringing God into one’s life. In fact, when a soul plays little-g “god” over a body of flesh, that is when all hell breaks loose and sins become a debt that eventually has to be paid, some time, somehow.
That means the First Commandment says God does not want wives that think they are little-g gods, when with Him. To marry God, one has to sacrifice one’s right to act as a god over one’s body of flesh.
That is at the root meaning for Lent.
Last Sunday, in the reading about God’s promise to Abram, we read aloud, “walk before me, and be blameless.” I mentioned how “walk before me” actually says “walk wearing my face,” and all who wore the face of God in the books of the Holy Bible were indeed without sin – “blameless.”
The word translated as “before” is similar to the word translated as “before” today, where we read, “you shall have no other gods before me.” The word actually means “face” as a noun, while either “before” or “behind” as an adverb. Thus, as a noun, the First Commandment says, “you shall have no other gods face but mine.”
A soul must bow down its eternal face before Yahweh the One God in marriage, meaning the soul’s body of flesh then wears the face of God.
Keep in mind, a soul wearing the face of God does not change the way a human face looks. It becomes like Moses after meeting with God “face-to-face” it glows with an invisible radiance.
Artists depict that as a halo over one’s head.
When Jesus said the most important Commandment is to love God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind, that level of love means marriage. That level of love means bowing down one’s soul before God and forevermore wearing His face, out of love. Jesus was then referring to the First Commandment in Exodus 20:3 as such.
When Jesus then said the second most important Commandment was to love your neighbor and from those two all others come, Jesus summed up Exodus 20 as the love of God, paired with recognition that all other souls that are married to God are one’s neighbor wives. All of that says the Ten Commandments is an easy commitment to agree to, as long as one can make the most important sacrifice – giving up self-worth.
This, again, is the root meaning of Lent.
The sacrifice of self-worth means dying of ego. Ego is derived from the Greek word for “I” or “self.” The ego is closely related to a brain, most especially those which I often refer to as “Big Brains.” A brain is a physical organ, one controlled by the soul; but a soul that refuses to sacrifice self-ego in subservience to God is a soul listening to Satan.
The smarter they are, the harder they are to convince to believe in God, much less a soul.
The smarter they are, the more they bow down before the altars of science, philosophy, and wealth – all of which are “elohim” without souls of their own.
Their souls have all been sold to Satan, so the more Satan allows a brain to control a soul, the less willing that soul is to sacrifice self and marry Yahweh.
This becomes the lesson taught by Paul, when he wrote, “The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.” A Big Brain sees a crucifix as an instrument of death; and, as one whose Big Brain says, “live life to the fullest, as if every day is your last,” that is a philosophy that believes in death [perishing], not eternal life.
To Paul, and others like him who were married to Yahweh, that way of thinking was foolishness, not the other way around.
The quote Paul wrote comes from Isaiah 29:14b, which the NIV translates more understandably as saying, “the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”
That says Isaiah had his face bowed down before God, so Yahweh had him say (in essence), “Brains are the source of all intelligence, to which the wise bow down before; and, brains are organs of flesh that die and turn into dust [will perish and vanish].”
The “message of the cross,” to one whose soul has married God, becomes understood as “the divine utterance of a raised stake,” where a “cross” of death transforms into one’s body of flesh. In that scenario, figurative death [by cross] means a soul has been sacrificed to God, so a soul married to God can raise that once sinful bag of bones [the figurative dead body hung on a cross] into an Apostle-Saint.
A Big Brain cannot hear that message of the “cross,” because Satan is the one whose promises they listen to. Satan promises the world to souls, not heaven. He cannot make that promise.
It is this issue of Big Brain versus God Almighty that comes up in the Gospel reading.
Somehow, some one thought it was a good idea to tie up sheep and oxen inside the Temple of Jerusalem. Only a Big Brain can calculate how much easier it would be to tell traveling Jews, “If you can’t bring your own ox or sheep from home, don’t worry. We have all you need, right there at the temple steps. We have doves too! Bring cash!!!”
When one calls some building “a house of the Lord,” it becomes an unwritten Law, like the First Commandment, saying: You shall have no livestock before God, in His House.
When we read how Jesus made “a whip of cords, [driving] all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle,” it is easy to get the impression that Jesus lost it. Rather than become mild-mannered Jesus, the freshman rabbi in Jerusalem, we think with our Big Brains that Jesus became a wildman, whipping farm animals and then pouring out coins onto the paved floor like some crazed zealot.
That is the wrong image to get from this scene.
One should see Jesus as a wife of God, whose soul has bowed down in total subservience to the Lord, so his brain is being controlled by an omnipotent deity.
Jesus is therefore unemotional by having the Christ Mind. He sees clearly how an incorrect situation can be corrected simply:
First, as the vendors sit and allow the buyers to browse freely, without high-pressure sales, Jesus slowly walks from animal to animal and unties the ropes that secure them. After he has untied them all, he takes the last two ropes in each of his hands and begins cracking them like a whip to scare the animals and make them run.
With animals running away from the temple courtyard, the vendors become emotional, seeing their possessions running off. So, in a panic, they all jump up and run after their livestock.
With them away from their seats at the money exchange table, Jesus calmly picks up the baskets of coins and pours them out into fresh piles of ox manure, simply as a statement that says, "You need to pay to have these messes cleaned up."
With the vendors still running around Mount Ophel, trying to catch livestock, Jesus then walked over to where the dove salesmen had their bird cages and told them, calmly, go back to where you used to sell sacrificial birds and stop thinking you can turn holy ground into a marketplace. He did not exclaim that. [The exclamation points have been added by the NRSV, for theatrical purposes.]
One must see Jesus as controlled by God, not an infuriated brain.
Here is then were the translation read aloud makes it seem that some disciple called Jesus a zealot, by hollering out a half-line from Psalm 69. That was not the case, as Jesus was not attending the Passover with any disciples that first year in ministry.
The disciples were those who watched Jesus calmly remove a condition they too saw as unwanted and sacrilegious, but were too timid to ever do anything about something they saw as wrong. As "disciples," John was speaking of them as seekers of holy teachings, who would later sign up as official students in Jesus' school for future rabbis. Thus, it was Jesus whose mouth was controlled by God the Father that said, “ Zeal for your house will consume me.”
In David’s Psalm 69, it was God who was speaking to those whose Big Brains of old. They (as always) continuously rebelled against their commitment to forever serve God. Their house was their bodies of flesh, and it was their zeal to do whatever their desires led them to do [as a stubborn and stiff-necked people] that was a sure way to eat away and destroy their marriage agreement with Yahweh. Thus, God spoke (through Isaiah), telling them, "You are treading on thin ice."
It is so important to see that reference to “zeal for your house” as a misguided love of self, where the temple of the Lord is supposed to be one’s body of flesh; but that condition can only come about by the sacrifice of self-ego.
Once again, that is the root meaning of Lent.
Because the leaders of the Jews were always nearby the temple steps, they watched along with common Jews (some who would later be led by the Holy Spirit to become Jesus’ disciples). The rulers of the common Jews heard Jesus quote Isaiah, and because they all possessed Big Brains, their intellect immediately said, “Listen. This man is quoting Isaiah; and, he is insulting us by inferring that we are zealous because we let vendors make animals easy access to needy Jews. Let’s get into a debate with this newcomer.”
It was from a position of intelligence that they asked Jesus to produce some permit that gave him the authority to untie livestock and set them free. Then, knowing he had no such document, they asked, “How can anyone have the gall to do what you just did?”
When Jesus answered about his authority, he had already stated it in the quote. The authority was the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah had spoke the words of God that said, "Zeal for a building of stone and mortar will destroy any agreement that makes a building the house of the Lord.” Therefore, the authority for the acts of Jesus was God, whose relationship with the rulers of the Jews had been destroyed, thereby leaving them as the ones without any authority in that house.
That was when Jesus changed up on the Big Brains and switched from talking about brick and mortar and went to the real crux of the biscuit, where the “house” meant by Isaiah was not made of lifeless rocks, but lifeless flesh, animated by a soul.
It was relative to answering the Jews who asked how he could do such a thing that Jesus said, ‘Easy. The true temple to the Lord is raised up divinely. Rather than one soul being led by Satan, I am three – Father, Son, merged with the Holy Spirit. You allow things of darkness, of sleep, of death to permeate this building; but I offer the sunlight of truth, from which a better temple unto the Lord will lead millions to be saved as temples of God in the flesh.”
Of course, the Jews had such Big Brains they thought Jesus had said he would personally build a temple like Herod’s Temple in three days. So, they laughed and walked way.
All of this means everything boils down to choosing between a commitment to serve God or a commitment to serve many gods, all of the world.
A message that can be missed in John’s Gospel comes from the last verse, which says, “After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.”
We here at the bus stop exist “after Jesus ascended to heaven” and, if we are Christians, then we must be “his disciples.”
The word that is translated as “remembered” is one that can equally mean “called to mind.” When read that way, John wrote of anyone who was to be one of Jesus “disciples” as being all who would bow down his or her face before God and begin wearing His face. At that time their brains will be “called to mind” as was Jesus, as was Isaiah, as was David, as was Paul … all called by God’s Christ Mind.
It is from that presence of the Christ Mind that Scripture becomes most deeply understood. It is that Mind that opens up Scripture to an Apostle-Saint, so belief becomes raised up to true faith – from personal, firsthand experience of God, of Jesus Christ reborn.
Then, we know what Jesus said. We know what Jesus meant; all because Jesus speaks through our lips, which are parts of the face of God we wear via our souls’ marriage to God.
The lesson of Lent must also be raised, so we are taken away from fearing a test we are not ready for. That means that when a soul has married God, through His Holy Spirit, a test of faith becomes a joy that comes from feeling God’s presence within us.
Like I said at the start, I have been in a personal period of Lent – self-sacrifice, for going on twenty years now, loving every minute. These readings today tell us the prophets were likewise enjoying their tests of faith.
At the marker of the third Sunday in Lent, the church recognizes this is the nineteenth of forty days set aside for this commemorative season. The church does not set one’s date for a soul’s marriage to God. It only sets up a time for everyone to recognize that marriage collectively. Lent is then like a church recognition of one’s personal anniversary, in marriage to God.
As the bus now comes to take you to your planned destination, may that place eventually be the altar, when one’s soul makes the ultimate commitment and puts on the face of God forevermore.