Sermon for Third Sunday in Lent, March 7, 2021
Updated: Mar 22
Read Pastor Julie's sermon as shared on Facebook Live. Visit https://www.facebook.com/saronstrasburg each Sunday at 8:30 a.m. for a brief live service of scripture, prayer, and a sermon by Pastor Julie.
Exodus 20:1–17 | Psalm 19 | 1 Corinthians 1:18–25 | John 2:13–22
I’ve sometimes thought about this passage of Jesus and his temple-rampage like, of course Jesus would do that. Things were getting out of hand at the temple! But this time around, I’m putting myself in the shoes of those who are just doing what they know to do: What they’ve learned and is a deep part of their tradition and culture: Passover in Jerusalem. You would make a pilgrimage here at least once in your life—maybe regularly—and there’s all of these sights, sounds and smells: Cattle, sheep, doves (kind of like the stock show!) AND the clink of money—all wrapped up in feelings of excitement, travel, reunion with friends and family, shared purpose, holiness: This religious holiday, after all, lifts up how God once brought them all out from oppression and bondage. There’s solemnity and thankfulness amidst the celebration: For that same God is HERE, in the temple, continuing to be a source of blessing and saving . . . So, of course people are going to spend some extra money as a part of the experience. What’s the big deal, Jesus?
Of course Jesus isn’t in this moment going to change anything, but his actions serve as a disruption. We usually don’t like disruptions: For one, social order relies on some written and unwritten rules of behavior. Some disruptive things just happen—like traffic jams, snowstorms and pandemics. But if we can help it—we think—then let’s just keep things going the same—because that’s what we know—even if it means there might be something better ahead. For instance, the very freedom from slave-labor that the Israelites are celebrating in the Passover was not always welcome: “At least back in Egypt we had meat, melons, cucumbers, onions, garlic.” We are in this unfamiliar space, and now we feel unsettled, uncomfortable and afraid.
Like the deliverance that leads to wilderness wanderings, this disruption of Jesus at the heart of things opens up space for a conversation about what is going on. It’s like a “pause” button in which there is a chance to reflect and as MIT guy—Otto Scharmer—says is the only way forward as organizations, communities, nations: There needs first to be a time of “co-sensing.” Who are the characters? What’s at stake? Do we even know where we are going and why? We don’t know what we don’t know. And we can only find out together—by what Scharmer describes as “Theory U.”
Opening our minds and getting curious; or closing them and using judgement to keep confirming what we think we already know.
Opening our hearts and responding with compassion; or closing them and responding with cynicism and dislike for the other who is not us.
Opening our wills courageously to new ways of doing things, or letting fear close them and keep doing things the same as before.
Jesus’ disruption of and business as usual in the temple—not to be confused with encouraging violence—is an invitation into this space of curiosity: Which is, strangely, what happens. No one gets angry or throws Jesus out, but they ask, “What sign can you show for doing this?” In other words, what does this mean? Which gives Jesus an opportunity to help them sink even deeper toward what Scharmer calls at the bottom of the “U”: Presencing. Jesus is helping them understand something bigger about the location of God’s Presence: “Destroy this temple (but he means his body, now) and in three days, I will raise it up.” They resist, of course: “It’s taken 46 years to build the temple thus far!” But of course Jesus isn’t done yet.
I think what I find so compelling about Jesus and about this process of following along is that there is ALWAYS more: More to know, more to experience, more to incorporate into my life. Maybe it’s some of what’s going on with the temple that Jesus saw fit to disrupt: this human tendency to settle for less than the real deal; to substitute outward things (which can also push us deeper) for the good stuff.
Strangely enough, what happens when we allow ourselves—together—to open minds, hearts and wills according to Scharmer—is that rules arise. Like, maybe the 10 commandments? These ways of being with God and with one another aren’t arbitrary or separated from faith: They come from a very profound sense of God’s Being and Presence in the Sinai wilderness. Imagine that, Commandments coming out of Presence in the midst of a wandering, unsettled people—and profoundly life-giving.
The purpose of the temple that Jesus disrupts is to know God and be in God’s presence. No wonder the 10 commandments begin: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” This is who I am and because of it, you are free. Don’t have other gods or make idols or you’ll undo all that. There’s a lot of time spent on this—along with the importance of rest before the list of “rules.” Settle into that! God is first. And God frees and says to rest! (In fact, this is a witness that they are connected with God, who also rested in creation.) Freed BY the rescue; but also freed by the way they keep God first and live out love for self and neighbor: Mind, Heart and Will. Thanks be to God. Amen.