Turning over Tables (and Temples, too)

Hear a short recap of the Sunday service:

Watch the 11 AM Celebration of the Holy Eucharist

Watch the 6 PM Community Eucharist

The sermon was given by the Rev. J. Douglas Ousley and can be seen in the 11AM and 6PM videos above.  

Thoughts from the Rev. John F. Beddingfield are included here:

Today’s Gospel, with the story of Jesus overturning the tables of the moneychangers in the temple, is in some ways a tale of three temples.

The first temple we hear about is of course the temple building, the one that was standing in Jerusalem, the centerpiece of religion, culture, what NT Wright has described as the “heartbeat of Jerusalem.” The temple was the place where God and people met. It was the place of pilgrimage and procession, of incense and intrigue, it is in the area of this temple that Jesus enters and causes a disruption. The Gospel of John places this cleansing of the temple early in the Gospel, setting the tone for all that follows. John has the disciples recall Jesus’ prophecy: “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”

This brings us to the second temple in today’s Gospel. Jesus speaks of the temple of his body. He speaks of himself as a temple, because it is in him that God meets humanity, in Jesus that God is known and loved and worshipped, through Jesus that God makes possible sacrifice, intercession, forgiveness and life eternal.

Through the cross and resurrection, Jesus restores, purifies and makes holy. And, he is, indeed, raised up on the third day.

And so, we have the first temple in Jerusalem, made of stone. And the second temple, that is the body of Jesus the Christ. But there is a third temple in today’s Gospel. It is the temple of the imagination and perhaps it is just as strong as the one made of stone.

Before the actual temple was built by Solomon, there was a dream and a desire to locate God, to have a place that was special to God, a place set aside and made not only holy, but especially holy. And so after years of waiting and praying, God allowed Solomon to build. The temple  became many things for many people. For some it was source of income—certainly the taxes sustained a lot of people. For some, to be associated with the temple meant prestige and protection. For the Romans, the temple pacified the people to a certain extent—it kept them at worship and out of trouble. As long as they couldn’t see beyond the incense, they would be blind to injustice.

This third temple, this temple of the imagination, had grown into much more than a physical place for meeting God—part symbol, part magic– for many it had replaced God. It was in the way of God. It was in-stead of God. Which brings all this talk of temples home to us.

This Gospel invites us to think about the temples in our lives. Are there things that have become for me like temples, things that get in the way of God’s presence? Are there temples of our own making that need to be cleansed or knocked down?—are there thoughts or opinions or ideas that God would overturn this season? Have we inherited temples from others—have we learned from the church in some way particular habits or attitudes that need to be cleansed or thrown out? What aspect of my life might God be trying to overturn this Lenten season?

As the people of God in THIS place, let us give thanks for our several temples—the beautiful building from which we’re able to pray, the temple of Christ that was raised from the dead,—but let us also be mindful of the need to cleanse, renew, tear down, and rise again, as we follow our Lord and Friend Jesus, who died and rose again, showing us the way forward.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Calvyn du Toit sings a song especially appropriate for today, called “Turning over tables” by the contemporary group called The Brilliance.

About John F. Beddingfield

Rector of The Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal) in New York City on East 88th Street between 1st Ave and 2nd Ave.
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