Who Is Destroying The Temple?
You may have read about or seen a video over the past couple of days entitled Kony 2012. It’s put out by a group called Invisible Children. The point of the video is to draw attention to Joseph Kony the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. If you aren’t aware of who Joseph Kony is or why the attention. The man is in short a war criminal who has coerced children into becoming soldiers.
The Internet campaign to draw attention to Mr. Kony is an attempt to exert pressure on world governments to use their resources to attempt to bring Mr. Kony to justice. This is something that only a few years ago would have been impossible on the scale that it is currently happening. Thanks to the use of social media, sites like Facebook and Twitter it is very easy to share a message and to share that message with the entire world. The last time I had read the Kony 2012 video had been watched by over 40 million people. It’s a video that is about two weeks old.
Now there are those who charge that the group Invisible Children may have an agenda, or that their goal is overly simplistic and there is merit to this argument. However, what they are attempting to do is to unite people, people all over the world behind one common goal. To bring a man who is at the top of the International Courts list of war criminals to justice. There is something to be admired in that goal.
I mean I have known about Joseph Kony and the LRA for close to 10 years. And it makes me angry to think of what he has done and continues to do. Enslaving children, turning them into soldiers. He has young boys murder their parents and then makes them dependent on drugs. He turns young females into sexual slaves. Everything that this man does is repugnant.
And yet even though I have known about the atrocities this man has committed I have never done anything about it. In fact most of us have never done anything about this or the many other atrocities that are occurring on our planet, God’s planet right at this time. And it makes me angry. I get angry at myself for my inaction, for my apathy. I am angry that I am part of a society that is more interested in the Kardashians than the plight of thousands of children across the world. I get angry at corporations that put profits before the welfare of people around the world.
In fact I dare say that the release of the iPad 3 this week may have gotten more news coverage than us remembering what Mr. Kony is doing over in Africa. I know that we live in a world with a lot of distractions. As a society we are so distracted that the government had to enact a new law around driving, because people were too busy talking on the phone. Distractions are everywhere.
They occur here and now, and they occurred in Jesus’ day as we witness in our reading from John’s gospel.
We read that Jesus entered the temple near the time of Jewish Passover. Upon entering the temple Jesus finds all sorts of merchants engaging in commerce. And it makes Jesus angry!
In fact he gets so angry that he fashions a whip made out of cords. That’s right, the same Jesus who told Peter to put up the sword made a whip and drove the merchants from the temple courts. “Get these out of here!” he yells “Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”
You can imagine Jesus’ anger as he moved about the temple overturning tables, sending livestock running, spilling money from the tables. All the while casting that whip about! He must have been a fury to behold.
Can you blame him? Let’s consider what he says “Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” Jesus does not say stop turning the temple into a market. He says my Father’s house! Here Jesus is identifying who He is! In as much as it was God’s house, it was Jesus’ and he was displeased with what he saw!
Now, I want you to imagine today that this service transpired differently than it currently has. I want you to imagine that instead of me coming up here and beginning the worship service I behaved very differently. Instead of pronouncing the Call to Worship, imagine instead I marched to the back of the sanctuary and I started flipping tables. Sending all sorts of pamphlets flying and all the while I asked what purpose do they serve?
You would probably think that I should be sent to the psych ward of the local hospital. That I’d lost it, the pressure of my studies having gotten to me. But let’s consider ourselves in light of this text from John’s gospel. Now, I know I’m only here as supply and I don’t know the inner workings of the congregation, but I am familiar enough with how we Presbyterians like to form our committee’s and consider our options before we proceed. So let’s shift the perspective and consider our own lives, our own church in light of this gospel reading. For just as Jesus has a message for the leaders of the temple that day, there is a message here for us too. You probably don’t hear it too often, mainly because preachers don’t want to go there. But Jesus demands that we do this vital self-reflection.
Let me know if you can relate to this story I read from a book entitle This Odd and Wondrous Calling. One of the chapters is entitled the 54th minute by Lilian Daniel. In this chapter Rev. Daniel is in a committee meeting where they are discussing the semi-annual chilli dinner at the local homeless shelter. The chapter gets its title because 54 minutes into the meeting and the group is still debating the recipe for the chilli. I read this story and I thought wow, that sounds like my church. Maybe not about the dinner and maybe not the recipe, the issues might be different. But they were no less trivial.
Two things leaped out at me as I read that chapter. The first was, what do you mean semi-annual? Why is the church only going out to the shelter twice a year! And secondly if we were there every week we wouldn’t need to waste an hour’s time debating a recipe!
It’s really rather humorous when you consider it. It’s also sad, as I imagine most of you can recall a similar event. This is where Jesus comes back into the equation. Imagine Jesus entering the room, not pastoral caring Jesus, but Jesus with a whip and full of righteous fury. As he enters he flips the committee table and cries get out into the world already!
Friends I believe this story as we read it is a call to clean up our acts. To pull up the socks and get to it. To get on with the mission of God’s church!
I know my own congregation and one’s I have served with in the past have gotten stuck on issues of policy. We’ve been too tired, lacking in resources, we didn’t know how to do the task. As I read this passage I think none of that matters. Our greatest resource is our time and the love that we represent in Christ.
Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.
The resurrection of the body. Jesus is setting the scene for us. As we journey towards Easter, as we journey towards the cross. Jesus is asking what is the state of the temple?
We don’t want to be blinded to the truth of this statement as the disciples were. Verse 22 reads “After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.”
The disciples realized the significance after…
Though we journey through Lent to the cross, we stand on the other side of the event. Jesus has died and three days later he rose again. The events have happened. But have we realized the significance of them? Are we able to see clearly what Jesus is asking of us? Or do we allow the busyness of life to get in the way, to clutter things up so that we no longer see Jesus clearly. Are there things in our life that are getting in the way of following Christ?
Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days. The temple he had spoken of was his body. But who destroyed the temple, what temple is being knocked down. We know Christ died on the cross, we know his words were prophetic. But is the temple still being destroyed?
Is the church and I mean all churches doing enough? Or have we allowed ourselves to be silenced by a secular society? Have we allowed ourselves to be marginalized by society? Are we paying attention to what we are doing and how we are doing it? Are we doing Christ’s work in the world or are we talking about doing it? Are we missing the point?
Friends there was a man once who played the violin for all those who passed him by. Some children and young people would stop and listen, but soon enough their parents moved them along. Some people would listen as they waited for their train to come in. Some people even threw money into the open violin case. At the end of his time of playing the man had earned some $32 dollars. But this was no ordinary musician. The man was Joshua Bell, a world renown violinist. Three weeks earlier he had played to a full house in Boston where even the cheapest of seats cost more than the $32 that he collected that day. While playing that morning in the station, unbeknownst to all those distracted people Mr. Bell was playing one of the most difficult and intricate pieces ever composed for the violin and he played it not only with world class skill but on a Stradivarius violin worth $3.5 million.
How often in life do we walk past opportunities and rare moments simply because we are too busy to focus on anything but ourselves? Do we lose sight of the forest for the trees? Do we get so caught up in the details that we end up doing nothing?
Friends when we leave here today, we will be able to walk freely to our next destination. We don’t have to worry about gun fire, an artillery barrage, being kidnapped or persecuted for our faith. The freedom that we enjoy also requires that we use it responsibly.
As we journey with Jesus this Lenten season, he asks us to clean the temple. To remove the distractions from our life and to get on with the mission he charged us all with. The opportunities to do this are unique and varied and they are countless. We’ll never run out of things to do in service to Christ. But they all have one thing in common; they take place out there, beyond our front door. Amen.
Text: John 2:13-22
Kony 2012 Video