Lent III, Year B

In the same way that Jesus’ law of love (love God and your neighbour as
yourself) replaced the Law of Moses and the Ten Commandments, so he also
replaced the Jewish system of temple worship with it’s rituals and crude,
animal sacrifices with spiritual worship.


Jesus’ action in driving the money-changers and animal traders out of the
temple was not only a protest against the commercialisation of religion and
the desecration of the House of God, but he was also passing judgement on
the temple system of worship which had become narrow, nationalistic and
exclusive.


And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,
to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD,
and to be his servants,


every one who keeps the sabbath, and does not profane it,
and holds fast my covenant --
these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer; ….
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples’ (Is. 56:6-7)


These were God’s intention for the Temple, as expressed through his prophet,
Isaiah.


Jesus, acting in the manner of a fiery, Old Testament prophet, sets about
cleansing the Jerusalem Temple of those who sought to turn religion into a
business, benefitting by selling birds and animals for the ritual sacrifices, and
charging them commission to change people’s money into the temple coinage
that they could then pay into the temple treasury to swell it’s coffers.


His actions not only railed against this cynical commercialisation of religion
which turned his Father’s house into a market-place rather than a place of
prayer and worship, but he also condemned the way in which the temple had
become exclusively Jewish, with non-Jews not allowed past the Court of the
Gentiles.


‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever
believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3:16)


Jesus’ words there in John 3:126 are quite clear.
Whoever believes has eternal life.


No distinction is made between one race or people and another.

This image of Jesus with a whip in his hand, angrily turning over the trader’s
tables and scattering their coins and animals around the temple courtyard is
not one that sits easily with our traditional view of ‘gentle Jesus meek and
mild.’


But Jesus’ anger was not on his own account.
It stemmed from his love for his heavenly Father and his love of his neighbour.
Jesus treated everyone who came to him the same, Jew or Gentile.


And likewise, his Father’s house should be a place of prayer and worship open
to all believers, a place where God could be worshipped in spirit and in truth,
not a place of exploitation, ritual slaughter and bloodshed.

Worship is a concept which does not sit easily with many today.
It goes against the modern obsession with the self:
self-expression, self-discovery and so on.


Worship requires our acceptance of our position as God’s creation and, as
such, of His being deserving of our praise and adoration.


Worship is not entertainment, though some do treat it as such, and although it
can sometimes be a very personal experience it is rightly something which is
shared with our fellow believers.


Worship springs from a desire within the believer to express our grateful
thanks to God who is utterly transcendent, whose thoughts are not our
thoughts, whose ways are not our ways, and from whom we have everything
we have and all that we are.

Our worship should be ‘in spirit and in truth’.


God is a spiritual being and so our worship of him is likewise spiritual.
He is truth, and in the same way our worship of him requires us to be honest
and truthful about ourselves and to ourselves.


We should always take time make proper preparation for worship, and we do
this by living according to his commandments - summed up by Jesus as love of
God and love of neighbour - and by accepting our share of the Cross which
comes our way as his followers and disciples.


We must also allow Jesus to cleanse us as he cleansed the temple, ridding us of
all that is unworthy, for we should bear in mind that our bodies are temples of
the Holy Spirit, tabernacles, dwelling-places of the Most High.


Through reflection, self examination and acceptance of ourselves as we truly
are we allow him to rid us of the clutter and rubbish which gets in the way of
our right relationship with him and his Father.

When Jesus’ side was pierced as he hung on the cross, water and blood poured
out, symbols of our baptism in his death and of the once-and-for-all sacrifice
which was offering for all mankind which we commemorate in the holy
Eucharist.


As he gave up his spirit the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to
bottom.


The Temple with it’s outdated animal sacrifices and narrow-minded exclusivity
would no longer be the place where the people sought and found God.

When the risen Lord appeared to ‘doubting’ Thomas the disciple placed his
hand in the wound in Jesus’ side and declared ‘My Lord and my God.’
God had stepped down from heaven, had broken out of the temple sanctuary
and come to dwell amongst his people.


And wherever they were, there too was God.


Lord, make the door of this house wide enough to receive all
who need human love and fellowship,
narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride and strife.


Make it’s threshold smooth enough to be no stumbling-block to children,
nor to straying feet.


Make this house a house of prayer and a gateway to your Kingdom.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.