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Third Sunday of Lent (B)

The Word This Week

This week, in our journey through the Old Testament, we reach Covenant Number Three: and this is the big one - the Covenant with Moses at Sinai. The Ten Commandments are (or should be) familiar to us all: they form our side of the agreement with God - if we stick to these rules and commands, then we are truly God’s people, and he is truly our God. If we ignore them, or break them, then we break the Covenant or relationship.  The Temple was, for the people of Israel, the place that guaranteed the permanence of this Covenant - God dwelling with man. Jesus alerts us to the new Temple - himself - since he is the core of the New Covenant, God and Man in perfect unity. Only by the destruction of this new Temple, in his death, will he rise again as an eternal Temple, and the eternal guarantee of the New Covenant which we enjoy.

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Exodus 20:1-17.

When reading a list, it is important to pause between individual items so that your listeners can assimilate them one by one. The list of commandments (whether you use the long or the short form - check with your priest) is no less the case: you should not just read this lest, but solemnly proclaim it. These rules and laws, which governed the People of Israel, govern us still today, and it is important that the congregation have an opportunity to reflect on the Law of God. So speak solemnly, and slowly. Pause after each commandment, almost making sure that your listeners have ‘got it’ before moving on to the next. Be especially careful with the ‘short ones’: “You shall not kill” and so on. These must be read, if anything, more carefully than the others.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 22-25.

There is a sense of “topsy-turvy” in this reading – Paul is not preaching to please people, or telling them want they want to hear, but almost exaggerating the “foolishness” of his preaching to emphasise that it does not come from him, but from God. For this reason, you must emphasise the word “crucified” – and realise that this is the “obstacle” or the “madness”: just preaching Christ would be fine, but a crucified Christ? This is a nice balanced reading, which you should be able to read powerfully without too much effort. It’s only two sentences (though the first is a bit long, so would merit some “out loud” practice). The reading can be neatly chopped up into the shorter phrases – just make sure you keep a sense of connection between them. Same something for the lovely paradox of the last sentence – it’s a remarkable statement: imagine for yourself examples of “human wisdom” and “human strength”, and think of what “God’s foolishness” must be like!