Exodus 20:1-17; John 2:13-22

I know the other Scout law better, but former Girl Scouts, you can probably keep up with me here:

I will do my best to be
honest and fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong, and
responsible for what I say and do,
and to
respect myself and others,
respect authority,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place, and
be a sister to every Girl Scout.

We’ll all use this as an affirmation of faith after this meditation. This is one of those things that gets drilled in at every meeting, so even when you’re past reciting it, you know it on a deep level.

Bear with my segue here, to Christian attitudes toward the Old Testament law. Through the Christian tradition, we’ve often tried to be like “graduated” Girl Scouts who may not have any time for the law anymore, but it was hard to work that out in practice. Many of us settled on seeing a difference between the “ritual law” and the “ethical law” and said you can ignore the one, but you have to keep the other.

Commentator Elizabeth Webb suggests that we might rethink our separation of the “religious” from the “ethical” law. She says that our relationship with God is born out in our relationships with others. For instance, you could say that the command to have no other God than God is about remembering where you and everyone else came from; if you remember this, you’ll also be inclined to honor your parents and not murder. When we refuse to worship images, we don’t pretend that something other than relational loyalty truly satisfies, which could lead us away from adultery and stealing. When God says not to take the divine Name for evil purposes, he also says not to accuse each other falsely, because the divine qualities of goodness and truth are fundamentally important. Sabbath and coveting? Well, wishing for things we don’t have tends to take away our rest, even when we stop doing things, doesn’t it?

I made that a little simplistic, but I think you can see where a person’s deepest loyalties are by how they deal with lesser things. For instance, I’m thoroughly convinced that you can tell a lot about a person by how they treat their waiter. Who we are shines through what we do.

That brings us to the uncomfortable story of Jesus running people out of the Temple. Jesus is angry on two levels: one, because he came upon a scene where our actions don’t line up with what we say our deepest values are (but that’s a vibe that’s more specific to the synoptic gospels). The Temple system was making profit from seeming to control people’s access to God.

The second level, which is more specific to John, is because Jesus is about something different than what the Temple’s logic had become (which was precisely that it controlled people’s access to God). He pointed out that God is not confined to this place. Solomon had gotten that right at the dedication of the first Temple (1 Kings 8:27), but we have this tendency to keep God inside the stained-glass box. Jesus, however, is a different kind of sanctuary: flesh and blood bearing out God’s way in the world. You can (and have to) rebuild that sanctuary again and again.

That’s a huge piece of why we worship and seek to internalize our faith every week – not because God is only, or even especially, here – but so we can take God with us into the world and continue shining through with God’s ways.

Here’s a fair question: how well do we do at this? That is, what would people say our deepest commitments are, based on how we live our daily life? Do we live as though we and others are children of a loving and generous God? Do we set right relationships with others as our highest good? Do we demonstrate truth and integrity in what we do? Or how would we rate ourselves in terms of the Girl Scout law, which commends essentially the same values?

Not perfectly, I’m sure, and except that we should be aware of that for the sake of being honest and fair, I don’t want to dwell on it. The point is, we need to keep leaning on the deepest strength of our selves, our community, and our God to make it happen.

The Girl Scout slogan boils it down to taking one day at time: “to do a good turn daily.” Do even just one “good turn.” Not yesterday’s good turn or tomorrow’s, just today’s. If you keep doing that, it becomes a habit. The law grows within you.

Starting fresh every day is a Christian habit. We start fresh every week here in worship: we put away what happened – or didn’t – and commit to living again. That’s something this community offers: we have support and accountability, because serving others is hard work, and so we can gather again to re-orient around these principles and celebrate where it happens.

I do want to celebrate. We know the Gospel, and we know God’s ways are real in the world. What if we shared pictures of ourselves doing this in real life – or of catching someone else do it? It would be like God sightings, but more as an offertory. Not just moments of beauty and joy, although those are great, but also scenes of service, sharing, and hope. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to bring these in. To name them when they happen. To post them to our Facebook page, email them to the office, or simply thank God for ways that love can be real in our world.

We’ll go out with this commitment, framed in the words of the Girl Scout promise and law, because these are words of faith.