July 6, 2018 – Jesus’ Love for His House- John 2:13-22

temple

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore 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.

John 2:13-22 (ESV)

What Jesus would do for the love of God’s house? Was Jesus defending the sanctity of the bricks and mortar of the temple, or was He protesting the perversion of worship and extortion of the people by the ruling authorities?

The temple in Jerusalem where Jesus drove out the moneylenders was the second temple, (the original temple of Solomon was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BC) and it was actually built by Herod. Herod was not so much into worshiping God as he was about making himself look good.  The second temple was magnificent- but it ended up being destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, never to be rebuilt.  The Dome of the Rock- a Muslim mosque- stands on the site today.

Jesus wasn’t really concerned with bricks and mortar. He was concerned about people being taken advantage of in the name of God.  Even today, there are those who make ill-gotten gain in the name of God by promising miracles or giving “prophecies” in exchange for cash.

It is true that the legitimate work of the church of Christ takes financial resources. The work of making disciples- preaching the Gospel, helping the needy, comforting those in need, and providing a healthy and safe place for us to worship and for our children to learn and grow in faith isn’t glamorous.  The resources to truly nurture and provide for God’s people on earth- the Body of Christ- are vital, and we are to give as our consciences compel us (2 Corinthians 9:6-15) and as we are able.  Christian communities shouldn’t operate the way the world does.  Our concern should be that the Gospel is preached, and the sacraments are given, and that as many people as possible would hear the Good News of Jesus (Romans 10:17.)

The temple Jesus spoke of was His own body, His body given freely, destroyed by every human who has or ever will live. That temple was rebuilt in three days!  Not Herod’s temple of bricks and mortar, but a far greater and precious temple.

The house of God is the body of believers-it is not the buildings where Christ’s church meets. While buildings are important for the mission of the church, the community of believers who gather for Word and Sacrament are truly the house to which Jesus was referring, and the house Jesus is passionate about.

We don’t like to picture Jesus as that guy- the one who cracks the whip and takes out His wrath.  Everyone loves the depictions of Jesus as the gentle Shepherd, or Jesus who is patiently knocking on the door, or Jesus praying in the garden.  We don’t want to think of Jesus with the cat o’ nine tails whipping the unholy thunder out of “prophets for profit” or of Jesus delivering sweet ninja moves on various enterprising merchants who are engaged in fleecing the flock.  We get a bit disturbed to know that even Jesus gets angry.  None of us likes to think about the reality of the wrath of God.

Jesus does have righteous anger against practices that take advantage of people and that slander His holy name. Just as a good father would not hesitate to protect his wife and family from an intruder who comes to rob and pillage, Jesus defends His own as well.

It is true that mercy triumphs over judgment. Otherwise there would be no hope for anyone because everyone alive falls short of the glory of God. It is good to know that Jesus loves us and defends us, even though we don’t deserve it, and even if we don’t always see His hand protecting us.

Jesus taught that His kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:33-36)  We know we are living in the paradox world of now, but not yet.  May we always trust in Jesus defending and protecting us from those who would do us harm, and may we be free to love and serve Him.

 

 

June 14, 2017- An Unlikely Teacher- Luke 2:47-52

Jesus at the Temple

And all who heard him (Jesus) were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.  Luke 2:47-52 (NRSV)

Our children are not really our own. In reality, God entrusts us with His children. We have a responsibility to our (God’s…) children to keep them safe, to provide for their bodily health and shelter, to see that they receive a quality education, and to provide a good moral and spiritual example.  Most parents would be terrified beyond belief should their twelve year old be missing for three days, and justifiably so.

Even though our children are not divine, (they might like us to think so at times) they are also not their parents.  Our children will do things that scare us, disappoint us, and even amaze us- but in the end they are the people God created them to be.  We may not understand God’s purpose for our children any better than we understand His purpose for us at times, but God always has a purpose for every one of His children, whether we agree with Him or not.

It is a balancing act for parents, knowing when to assert authority and set strong boundaries, and when to stand back and listen and let our children go. Since we are responsible for keeping our children safe and from harm’s way sometimes we err on the side of being too closed minded and overprotective.  Sometimes we fail to give their thoughts and ambitions the respect they deserve- and in doing so we may hold them back from being the people God created them to be.

Jesus was God when He was on this earth and was only twelve years old, teaching in the temple. Jesus knew His purpose and followed His Father’s desire for Him to be in the temple teaching, which shows remarkable wisdom for a twelve year old boy.   Even though we know Jesus displayed such wisdom even at such a young age, how many of us would be willing to take instructions from a preteen boy?

Do we overlook wisdom because we can’t see past the source?

It’s easy to forget that God doesn’t place the same parameters on wisdom and heroism that our society does. God’s wisdom can come from the very young, the very old, the developmentally disabled, or those who society looks down upon- anyone.  God’s choices aren’t always the obvious ones.

If we were to see with God’s eyes, how would He open our hearts to listen to and follow His wisdom?

If we were to love with God’s heart, how would our view of others and the world around us change?

June 13, 2017 – Jesus Takes a Side Trip- Luke 2:41-46

Jesus temple age12

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover.  And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  Luke 2:41-46 (NRSV)

At one time or another, every parent has known the sheer terror of not being able to find a child. Whether it is only for a split second or for much longer, it is one of the worst feelings a parent can have.  The six o’clock news scenes run through our heads, and then our imaginations turn to the “film at eleven” horror stories. The only thing we can think of is finding the child and getting him or her returned home safe. It would be hard to imagine the experience of losing track of God’s kid- for three whole days!

One has to wonder about Jesus’ earthly parents at times. Sometimes we don’t give them enough credit for having the awe-inspiring task of parenting the only Son of God.  It’s daunting enough to be a parent to “normal” kids, let alone those parents of kids with special needs, or kids who are outside the “normal” box in other ways.  It’s a wonder that God entrusts us with children at all.

Yet even though they lose track of Him, Jesus ends up showing His earthly parents His foundation. They find Him in the temple, in His true Father’s house, sharing and seeking wisdom.

jesus as a boy.jpg

Many times our temporarily missing children are winding their ways into mischief and distraction, and/or they inadvertently stumble into trouble, but there are times in which our children can lead us to greater wisdom as well. In Mary and Joseph’s case, it was the search for their son that led them back to the Father’s house.

Do we have an open mind and heart to seeking Jesus and His wisdom? While obedience and conformity can be the safe route, sometimes we lose sight of Jesus along the beaten path.  Sometimes we need to wake up and take that side trip to really look for Jesus in the places where He will be found more deeply and profoundly.  Where is He leading us?  What wisdom will we find along His way?