Sermon for Third Sunday in Lent March 7 2021
Priest-in-Charge The Rev. Mary Bell-Plouffe
Martha was preparing supper when Eli came in from the Temple that night. Eli sat down heavily on the bench, and sighed.
Martha knew her man well enough, after all these years,
to know when something was wrong.
She poured him a cup of water. and Eli drank it down greedily, washing the road dust from his mouth and his throat.
And then Martha gently asked him “How was your day at the Temple dear?”
Eli sat up straight, looked her right in the eye and said “Terrible.
Oh, it started off alright, same as usual.
Then this guy came in.
Never seen him before;
and he took some cords and made a whip
and started driving everyone out.
Turned over the tables of the money changers. Driving everyone out!
You never saw such a mess.
Sheep baaing and running every which way;
cattle running and mooing and lifting their tails
and doing what they always do when they’re panicked. You never saw such a mess!
In the temple!
Then he comes to me and the other dover sellers and he says;
‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!’ The nerve.
I’ve been selling doves here all my life and my father before me.
Well I didn’t leave; I stayed around,
but after that, no-one was interested in sacrificing.
Everyone was just standing around talking about what this guy did and what he said.
Can you imagine?
‘Destroy this temple and in 3 days I will raise it up.’ The Temple!
I left here with 24 perfect doves this morning,
and I’ve come back with all but 6.
|It’s been a terrible day.”
Imagine for a moment, that we’d been there on that day. What would it have meant for us?
For Eli in our story he was hit in the pocketbook —
It meant a bad day for business.
And umbrage as well I think, at being told to leave.
For the Temple authorities, I think the reaction would have been outrage– that someone would dare to behave in such a way, on their watch.
But for most of us I think, if we’d been there, it would have been for us a spectacle:
something to watch, something to talk about,
but nothing that leaves any type of a lasting impression.
I’ve been thinking about this story all week, and one of the things that strikes me,
is how alone Jesus is.
Sure the 12 are with him, but it’s not a story of 13 people rampaging through the temple. Just Jesus.
There’s a large crowd,
but no- one understands Jesus’ actions;
no-one understands his words.
Even John, the writer of this gospel,
says they didn’t understand until after his death and resurrection.
This is something we need to keep in mind.
We need to not be judgmental with those who don’t understand about Jesus;
With those who haven’t experienced the risen lord.
The apostles were with Jesus for 3 years, but they didn’t understand until after his resurrection.
This is a busy story: sheep, cattle, doves; tables; coins.
With the busyness of this story, it’s easy for us
To overlook the fundamental and revolutionary teaching in this passage. Jesus says: ‘ destroy this temple and in 3 days I will raise it up.’
You may remember that when I was preaching about the Transfiguration,
I talked about the importance of theology of place.
I never heard anything about theology of place when I was studying for my M.Div.
But when my husband Daniel and I took that course at St. George’s College in Jerusalem,
our first lecture was on theology of place.
The Jewish religion has a strong theology of place.
The Muslim religion has a strong theolog of place.
But the Christian religion, not so much.
It wasn’t until the 300’s when Constantine’s mother set out
to find the cross on which Jesus was crucified, and then said ‘this is where he was born; this is where he died; this is where he was buried’
that theology of place began to emerge in Christianity.
Our gospel takes place in Jerusalem; and even today
we see the importance of the theology of place there — with Jews, and Muslims and Christians all claiming the same few square kilometres as sacred.
At the time of Jesus, theology of place was unquestionable.
The Temple was the holiest place on earth.
There were lots of synagogues, but only one Temple;
The Temple was the only place that sacrifice could be offered to God.
We call this the cleansing of the temple; but really, if you picture it, what Jesus did was create a mess,
particularly if you know anything about cows. They Temple had been built to worship God, to help people connect with God;
but over the centuries the worship had been corrupted.
the religion had gone off track
Jesus is not just overturning tables, he’s overturning a worldview The Temple is no longer the holiest place on earth.
The Temple is no longer the only place to truly connect with God. No wonder they wanted to kill him.
With Jesus, the risen lord is the new temple.
The temple is no longer a place but a person Jesus, accessible to all of us wherever we are.
Temple worship becomes table worship–the presence of God is found in community.
Mathew, Mark and Luke have 3 predictions of Jesus’ death and resurrection;
we heard the first prediction last Sunday.
There’s only one place in John’s gospel where we have a prediction of the passion, and it’s in this morning’s passage.
‘Destroy this Temple, and in 3 days I will raise it up’.
We’re told at the beginning of this passage that it’s the time of Passover. Passover is the story of the liberation of the Israelities from slavery in Egypt
Our Gospel is a Passover story.
Jesus is the true Passover; the fulfillment of Passover; true meaning of Passover. Jesus is the passover lamb – John has already told this to us:
‘’Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’
Important for us to think about the theology of place.
We’re all looking forward to being together in our churches for in person worship
But we need to remember that the church is the people, not the building.
We become very attached to our buildings.
I was the Incumbent of St. Barnabas in Peterborough, and we amalgamated with St. John’s
After we’d had our last service; after the movers had come; for the next few weeks there were still a few things that needed to be done, to prepare for our new church renters.
But when 2 or 3 of us went over, we found that the place felt different.
It felt so different that we’d walk in and find ourselves saying
‘’ this feels different’ . One time, when I was there with Brad, the Incumbent of St. John’s, and Doug, who’d been the head of our property committee, and we’d commented on this differentness, and Doug said ‘the spirit has left’.
But a couple weeks later we had Messy Church there, –people were there; kids were there, and
it felt like church — the spirit was there.
The church is the people; the true temple is the risen lord.
We need to make sure we don’t make idols of our buildings or of our pews or of our pulpits. We need to remember those words of Jesus, and what they mean ‘’Destroy this temple, and in 3 days I will raise it up.’