Reflection: "Clearing Out"
Our story this week (from the Gospel of John) is not simply a story about Jesus getting angry.
I occasionally get angry and I’m sure that you do at times.
It’s a human trait to get angry.
But that misses the point.
There’s more to this story than just that.
And I don’t think it’s about the animals, or the moneychangers, being in the temple, either.
Jesus must have known they were there, because he grew up as a faithful Jew, going regularly to the temple.
I think Jesus went to the temple that day for one purpose;
to throw out and overturn “business as usual”.
Have you ever pushed your “auto-pilot” button and let your life become mechanical, just following a routine - “business as usual”?
Sometimes, we just go through the motions, showing up, but not really being there.
But that’s just the symptom - not really the problem, in the same way that the animals and moneychangers in the temple are not the problem, but the symptom of something deeper going on.
Perhaps we can interpret what’s happening in the temple as what’s going on in our human hearts.
There are times when we need the tables of our life overturned, and to clear out the rubbish.
So, what gives rise to our “business as usual” attitude?
Sometimes it’s because of fear – maybe of what’s happening in our life, or the uncertainty of the future, and we want some sort of security and predictability – so we just keep on doing the same old routine, hoping that nothing will change.
Business as usual is predictable and steady, but it only creates the illusion of security.
Business as usual can be a symptom of our grief and sorrow – such as when we’ve lost something, or someone.
We can’t get back the life we want, so we cling to business as usual because it’s familiar and we want some stability.
This can keep us functioning for a while, but we need to work through the issues and heal and find a ‘new’ life without whatever, or whoever, we’ve lost.
At other times we’re so busy and worn out making a living, that life turns into one task after another, one appointment after another, a never ending to do list – and, then, it’s back to business as usual again.
There are thousands of reasons and ways in which we fall into business as usual.
Business as usual is born of forgetfulness; when we forget that we are actually the temple of God’s presence.
We forget that creation is God’s residence and, whatever direction we turn, the face of God is gazing upon us.
As soon as we forget those things about ourselves, each other, or the world, life returns to business as usual.
Maybe that’s what happened in the temple in our story.
They didn’t see themselves, or one another, as the true temple of God.
It was all about the human built temple, the animals, and the coins for their sacrifices.
They’d forgotten that God was more interested in them, than in their festivals, and that God wanted them, more than their offerings.
When we forget that we are the temple of God, life can easily become a series of transactions.
Relationships and intimacy are lost, priorities get rearranged and making a living replaces living a life.
Life becomes a marketplace rather than a place for meeting the holy in ourselves and one another.
That’s exactly what Jesus is overturning and driving out of the temple.
Throughout the New Testament bible stories Jesus was interrupting, disrupting, overturning and clearing out business as usual, because it destroys our ability see, understand and participate in the holy that is already present in and among us.
The Word (Jesus) became flesh so that we humans might understand that God is actually with us (“The Christ in you and the Christ in me”) and that we are the temple in which God lives.
Jesus continues to overturn and throw out business as usual because the truth is, there are still Samaritan women waiting at the well in our world today, looking to find the “living water”.
There are still lame people, grounded by business as usual - unable to get up and walk.
Empty and hungry people are still a reality in our world and there are dead-feeling people, waiting to be made alive.
Maybe for you today this isn’t about other people - maybe you are the woman at the well.
Maybe you know what it’s like to be grounded and paralysed.
Maybe you are empty and hungry today.
Maybe you need to be called to life.
Maybe business as usual needs to be interrupted in your life – cleared out.
This story about the Jewish temple can also speak of the temple which is our body.
Regardless of who we are, what we’ve done or left undone, or how we see or judge our life, we are the temple of God, and Jesus is there with us, pointing out which parts of our lives also need clearing out.
So, I ask you, what parts in the temple of your life need changing today?
What tables in your life need to be overturned and what animals driven out?
I’m not asking about what needs to happen so that you can become holy or become the temple, but just so you can see that you already are the temple, and you need to claim what is already yours.
Jesus doesn’t want to make us into something we’re not, instead, he calls us back to who we’ve always been – Children of God, living in his great creation.
During this period of Lent, we need to examine ourselves more closely – looking at the “everyday” things we’re doing.
If we think that they are things that are not pleasing to God we need to stop, rethink, turn around and take a new path – in other words “repent”.
That’s what Lent is all about – clearing out the clutter and getting back to God.
We know that Jesus died for us at Easter and washed away our sins.
Now we need to stop doing those sins over and over and, instead, ask for God’s forgiveness, trying our best to take a new path – one that leads to righteousness in God’s Kingdom here on earth.
I pray that you can find that path, through prayer and perseverance.
Stay strong……………Pastor Rick