February 8, 2019 -Cleaning Up the Temple-John 2:13-25

money changers

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 2:13-25 (ESV)

We like to imagine Jesus as the Good Shepherd (and He is) but it’s a little more difficult to envision Jesus in a rage, wielding a whip, driving the merchants and moneylenders out of the Temple. Yet love – which is part of the Law- demands passion. Love demands respect and boundaries.  If we love the church building, chances are we’re not going to allow livestock sales and usury to go on inside its walls.

In today’s culture the line between the sacred and the profane is more and more blurry than it once was. We tend not to set aside sacred physical spaces anymore- for good or ill, cathedrals are few and far between.  We also are not that great about honoring the sacred in other planes either.  We fail to honor others in our speech and conduct.  We fail to set aside time and space for prayer, study and contemplation of God’s Word (Third Commandment, anyone) and then we wonder where God is.

Commerce is not a negative thing. It has its place. In Lutheran theology we do not consider the world or work or material things to be bad things, just part of the kingdom of the world (the left-hand kingdom if you will.)  We have trouble when we get our dual citizenship mixed up.  The kingdom of God should not be confused with the kingdom of the world.

Jesus was angry that the religious system of his time had become so corrupt that they could not see the real purpose of the Temple. They were more worried about fleecing the flock than feeding it. The Temple and its rituals and sacrifices pointed to Jesus and His ultimate sacrifice. It wasn’t put there so enterprising individuals could get rich off of it.

The real Temple was the Temple of Jesus’ body. Jesus so passionately loved and cared for this world and for the sorry state of lost humanity that He laid down His life to save ours.

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.

 

April 18, 2018- Necessarily Annoying? Acts 4:1-4, Romans 10:17, Luke 12:11-13, Hebrews 12:1-3

annoying.jpg

And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. Acts 4:1-4 (ESV)

There is a saying that “well behaved women don’t make history.” The same can also be said for well behaved men. There is a place for gentle speech, logical argument and parliamentary procedure with all its niceties when relating to and when attempting to convince other human beings of a particular point of view.  However, when one’s speech versus silence is the difference between life and death, it can be necessary to be annoying.

It is necessary for an ambulance driver to run a siren and to take the ambulance through traffic lights- to make it highly audible and highly visible and to some, annoying- when the ambulance is being used to make a way to save a life. Desperate times require desperate measures.

We probably wouldn’t still be talking about the apostles Peter and John two thousand years after they died if they hadn’t made themselves annoying for the cause of Christ. It would have been a lot more polite of them if they hadn’t preached Jesus crucified and risen, at least not in the temple. They could have stayed out of jail for the night too, but then who would have heard their message of salvation? What may have become of the five thousand who came to faith by the apostles’ words- had they not been able to hear?  (Romans 10:17)

The fact that we still read about Peter and John and Paul and all the apostles and saints who have held fast to faith and proclaimed Christ even to martyrdom, says something for the truth of who Jesus is, and for the validity of the Word of God. The same good news that saved the five thousand is still saving millions- perhaps even billions- more, because God gave these men the conviction and the courage to be bold and get the truth out, even though they were considered by some to be obnoxious and annoying, even though it led them to persecution and civil consequences, and led many of them to suffer martyrs’ deaths.

It is not always easy to share our faith, especially in contexts where it could make us annoying, or even get us in trouble. The political and social climate is increasingly hostile to the Gospel message.  Even so, God gives us the ability and the courage to witness for Him especially when it is scary for us, or when we annoy the powers that be when we speak the truth because the truth offends their perceived authority.

We have the Holy Spirit to lean on in this: (Jesus said) : ”And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say,  for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Luke 12:11-13 (ESV)

When we are bold for our faith and we speak the truth of Jesus Christ, we are in good company. Throughout the centuries we are supported by the witness of the apostles as well as by countless martyrs and saints.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. Hebrews 12:1-3 (ESV)

Faith comes from God. The endurance to run the race He has set before us comes from God. We run in HIS strength. We, along with the saints before us, look to Jesus, cling to His Cross, and in Him we can take comfort that the joy that was set before Him is set before us also.

July 18, 2017- Seize the Hope- Hebrews 6:17-20, Matthew 27:50-52

hope jesusIn the same way, when God desired to show even more clearly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it by an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God would prove false, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to seize the hope set before us. We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:17-20 (NRSV)

Carpe Diem. This Latin phrase means, “Seize the day.”  While making the most of every day is a worthy goal, as Jesus followers we are also encouraged to seize the hope.

The writer of Hebrews (who was addressing believers from the Jewish community) refers to Jesus as our high priest, an intermediary on our behalf who makes God available to us. Through Him the boundary that separates us from God is broken. We are “unholy” because we are all tainted by sin, but because of Jesus intervening on our behalf, we can enter the Holy of Holies and enter into the presence of God.

Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. Matthew 27:50-52 (NRSV)

Because of Jesus we can seize the hope. The curtain in the temple separated the Holy of Holies (the place where the Presence of God would come to earth) from the common person.  Only the high priest was ever allowed to go behind the curtain, and then only at certain times to offer sacrifices and prayers.  When the curtain was torn, the Spirit of God was set loose.  Because of Jesus there is no barrier. There is no holding back the Spirit of God. There is nothing holding us back from embracing and receiving the Spirit of God.  We have the hope that can only be found in Jesus- not just for eternal life but for life lived to the fullest, life surrendered to God and dedicated to His purpose for us.

Because of Jesus we can seize the hope- and run with it, and spread it around. Hope in action speaks words of comfort and performs acts of mercy.  The things that would hold us back from living as God’s people are no longer there.

How can we seize- and share- the hope today?

December 20, 2016- Consecrated to God- Exodus 13:1-2, Luke 2:22-24

presentation-in-the-temple

The Lord said to Moses:  Consecrate to me all the firstborn; whatever is the first to open the womb among the Israelites, of human beings and animals, is mine.  Exodus 13:1-2 (NRSV)

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him  (Jesus) up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord  (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”),  and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” Luke 2:22-24 (NRSV)

The theme of giving one’s first fruits to God is not a new one.  Today at times we find it difficult to give back to God what He has first given us, but imagine dedicating your first born to God.  1 Samuel 1 tells the story of Hannah, a woman who prayed for a son , who she named Samuel, and she dedicated him to God.  As soon as he was weaned (at that time Samuel was probably a three or four year old) Hannah left her son at the temple to become a priest of God.

Jesus is God’s Only Child, yet God surrendered Him to a life of service and ultimately sacrifice for the salvation of humanity.

It would be hard to imagine as a parent – and I am the mother of an only son- to simply leave a small child at a tender age to a life of service. What about the child’s choice of vocation?  What about a mother’s longing for her child, who arguably still needs a mother at such a young age?  My son is an adult, and at times I find it hard as a mother to let go and surrender him to the grace and mercy of God just in him living his daily life.  A mother’s instinct is to hang on, to protect, to shield her offspring from pain or hurt.

I can’t imagine the emotions that Hannah and later, Mary, must have felt knowing that their sons were going to be forever dedicated to God’s service, and that they could not keep them from the hardships and sacrifice that a life in service ultimately bring.

Did Mary know the way Jesus’ earthly life would end?

Would that knowledge have changed her mind?