Jesus cleanses the Temple – we must cleanse our Earth

Sermon Readings: Exodus 20: 1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14 Anglican Prayer Book 1989) This last verse of today’s psalm 19 is so fitting for today because the psalm praises God’s glory in creation and links God to what we say and believe in our hearts. The law of the Lord is perfect. To know God’s law is to know God. We humans tend to turn to God in distress. We are in distress today, just like in the time of King David when the psalm was written. During stress we must rely on God’s law and trust and obey Him even more.

So where do we find God’s law? We know that God and God’s law – what is right and true – is in our hearts. But that is because thousands of years ago God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai and explained the Ten Commandments and told him to tell the Israelites, as said in our Exodus reading (Exodus 20:1-17 NIV). The Ten Commandments are the foundation of many societies today including South Africa and are similar to codes in all the great world religions. The Ten Commandments are so important that we repeat them every service in Lent at the beginning of the penitence.  Then we ask for forgiveness for our sins.

Yes humans have a stubborn streak and seem to love the expression “rules are meant to be broken.” God sets a high standard but knows we humans are not perfect and that we make mistakes and we all sin. But that is where His Son Jesus Christ comes in – God gave up his only son who died for all humankind in order for us to be forgiven for all our sins and be made clean and pure again, over and over. This is the most incredible gift and the greatest news of being a Christian!!

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1Cor 1:18-25 NIV) he tells them about Christ being the wisdom and power of God.  Paul says those who are not being saved will think this wisdom is foolishness and that only those being saved understand an inkling of this wisdom. But Paul explains that human wisdom will never come close to understanding divine wisdom.

Human and divine wisdom clash when Jesus Cleanses the Temple (John 2:13-22 NIV) in today’s gospel reading. Wow – we see a side to Jesus we never saw before. He is furious – even violent – knocking over tables, making a whip to drive the livestock out of the temple. Now this is no ordinary temple. It is the second Temple – the first Temple had been destroyed centuries earlier. It was massive! I worked out the size of the temple complex – way bigger than FNB stadium or Ellis Park – 25 football fields. Jews had to come from far and wide once a year – at Passover – to pray at the Temple and give the Temple tax in local currency. That is why there were money changers in the Temple. There were so many animals around because people were expected to sacrifice animals and they could not bring them long distances. Over time synagogues were built in communities so that people did not have to travel all the way to the Temple. Also in 70 AD the Romans destroyed the Temple. The only remains today are the western wall, known as the Wailing Wall where people come from all over the world to pray.

Jesus was a lone voice in challenging the thousands of people who were corrupting the sacred space. Where is Jesus in challenging those who are turning our father’s house – planet Earth – into a marketplace and den of robbers?  Human greed is corrupting and poisoning the planet and destroying life. We are breaking many commandments especially thou shalt not kill and thou shalt not worship false idols (like money).

Because we too have been corrupted, how can we find a way to connect to sacred spaces in our hearts, in our homes and in our communities? Because we cannot protect what we do not love, and we cannot love what we do not know, we need to better connect to God’s creation. We will feel God’s presence and be truly inspired. This past week I found myself depressed and exhausted so I worked in my garden, weeding, planting, digging soil with my bare hands, and I listened to the birds, felt the breeze, prayed – and I experienced the most amazing feeling of renewal. So I encourage you to try 3 exercises:

  • Include in your daily prayers, prayers about God’s creation, preferably while you are outside in nature. Listen to God speak to you.
  • Touch and feel nature. Walk bare foot in the grass or on the earth at least once a day, and help children do the same. If you don’t have a garden, go to a park or visit our church garden.
  • Enjoy the outdoors. Reconnect and be renewed!