Call to worship
Who is this who enters the doors of our temple,
who overturns the tables,
strews silver and gold on the floor,
frees the sacrificial doves from gilded cages?
Listen, as they rise, the beating of their wings
is a song of loud hosanna.
It is Jesus of Galilee, the Son of God,
who comes to cleanse the great temple,
to restore its subverted chambers
to a house of hallowed prayer.
Then let us open the doors of our hearts even wider,
so he can cast out the thieves
who would take what is sacred and tender
and turn it hard as gold in a fist.
May the temple within us
be a refuge where doves of peace roost in the rafters.
May it be a garden
that bears the fruits of a generous spirit.
Oh Lord, take what is corrupt and withered
and let it break forth in beauty.
For thine is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever.
Truth be told, Jesus,
There are lots of tables that need overturning
in our lives;
Beneath the veneer of respectability
the tidy rows and neat regulations
hide dark addictions and angry judgements
hungry greeds and heartless rejections
We know the pain—and so do those around us—
of keeping up the facade;
What a relief it would be to have it all
upset, smashed, scattered, destroyed
So, perhaps, Jesus, today you could pay us a visit
and help us to radically rearrange
the furniture of our lives
Let us build a house where love can dwell
And all can safely live
A place where saints and children tell
How hearts learn to forgive
Built of hopes and dreams and visions
Rock of faith and vault of grace
Here the love of Christ shall end divisions
Chorus: All are welcome, all are welcome
All are welcome in this place
Let us build a house where prophets speak
And words are strong and true
Where all God’s children dare to seek
To dream God’s reign anew
Here the cross shall stand as witness
And a symbol of God’s grace
Here as one we claim the faith of Jesus
Let us build a house where love is found
In water, wine and wheat
A banquet hall on holy ground
Where peace and justice meet
Here the love of God, through Jesus
Is revealed in time and space
As we share in Christ the feast that frees us
To the leader. A Psalm of David.
The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,
and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them;
and nothing is hidden from its heat.
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the moneychangers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the moneychangers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
‘After a lecture at a Baptist church a woman in tears spoke up and explained that she was unable to forgive herself, because she had been told so many times how unforgiveable she was. The minister responded, “Maybe for as many times as you’ve been told that, you need to hear that God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and loves you as you are.” And then then he proceeded to forgive her with the words: “…as a called and ordained minister of the church of Christ, and by Christ’s authority, I declare to you the entire forgiveness of all of your sins.” And the people in attendance responded, “Amen.”
But Jesus doesn’t sound like any of those things in the passage from John, chapter 2, does he? “Gracious and merciful?” “Slow to anger?” “Abounding in steadfast love?” Not when he’s cleansing the temple, turning over tables, pouring out coins, driving out the cattle, the sheep, and the doves with a whip and raising his voice.
One thing it’s helpful to know is that in Jesus’ times, it was common for things to be sold in and around the Temple. And, because the celebration of Passover was right around the corner, people from all over the Empire were traveling to Jerusalem to celebrate their holiday. Since it’s difficult to travel with animals and because animal sacrifice was such an important, necessary part of worship at the time, those who came to Jerusalem often had to buy the animals they were expected to sacrifice. This explains why the Temple looked, sounded and probably smelled, if you can use your imagination, a lot like a barn in today’s Gospel story.
Jesus was letting the people of the Temple know they had lost their focus, that Jesus was (and is) the one and only thing on which they should focus their worship and attention. And, even though it’s hard to hear, even though it’s embarrassing to admit, even though it catches us by surprise a lot of the time, Jesus is forever reminding us that he is the one to whom we should direct our attention, also today. Jesus’ cleansing of the temple is about Jesus getting our attention and bringing it back to where it belongs.
Which brings us back to the woman at the Baptist church. she couldn’t forgive herself as, like so many of us, was looking in all the wrong places, in all the wrong ways for her forgiveness. She might as well have been buying and sacrificing cattle, sheep and doves and expecting to earn God’s forgiveness so she could feel better about herself. But consider this: nowhere in the Bible is there talk of or encouragement to forgive ourselves.
In other words, we can’t sacrifice enough cattle, sheep or doves to earn make our forgiveness happen. We can’t pray enough or worship enough or give enough money to justify ourselves. We can’t even feel guilty or remorseful enough to merit our own redemption. So God, in Jesus, comes to say: “Stop trying to do this yourselves. Stop trying to earn this grace. Stop trying to deserve this love. You cannot.”
And he says, quite dramatically in today’s Gospel story, that he has done doing the maths; that he is done with counting coins or cattle or sheep or doves as a way of ensuring God’s forgiveness, mercy and love; and that we should stop that sort of thing, too. And he promises that it must come, this grace and mercy and love and forgiveness – that it will come – that it has come – from God in Jesus Christ.
Our forgiveness comes from the God of our creation. It is complete. It is full. It is more than we can accomplish on our own. And it is enough.
- How should Christians react when they are angered by injustice and persecution?
- Is it right for a Christian to get angry? Read Ephesians 4:26-27.
Show me how to stand for justice
How to work for what is right,
How to challenge false assumptions,
How to walk within the light.
May I learn to share more freely
In a world so full of greed,
Showing your immense compassion
By the life I choose to lead.
Teach my heart to treasure mercy,
Whether given or received
For my need has not diminished
Since the day I first believed.
Let me seek no satisfaction
Boasting of what I have done.
But rejoice that I am pardoned
And accepted in your Son.
Gladly I embrace a lifestyle
Modelled on your living word,
In humility submitting
To the truth that I have heard;
Make me conscious of your presence
Every day in all I do:
By your Spirit’s gracious prompting
May I learn to walk with you.
Creator God, we come before you
asking prayers for those who lead
As you poured out your love in the Word
May we hear your word and follow;
May the words of our mouths
and the meditations of our hearts lead us
Holy One, we come before you –
a people broken into shards of lives
hidden by the limitations of our eyes.
Help us to see as You see
as you poured out your love in the Word.
May we hear your word and follow
May the words of our mouths and
the meditations of our hearts lead us
God of Mercy, we come before you –
seeking to live as you command, but often failing,
and thus we are torn by
cries of despair
lost to foolishness and
despite your love in the Word
Help us to hear your word and follow
May the words of our mouths
and the meditations of our hearts lead us
Gentle God, we come before you
giving thanks for all our blessings
the gift of life
all we care for this day.
Help us to be Your hands.
Incline Your heart, O gracious God, and teach us to love
O Christ, our rock and our Redeemer.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil
For thine is the kingdom
The power, and the glory
For ever and ever.
O Thou Who camest from above,
The pure celestial fire to impart,
Kindle a flame of sacred love
On the mean altar of my heart.
There let it for Thy glory burn
With inextinguishable blaze,
And trembling to its source return,
In humble prayer and fervent praise.
Jesus, confirm my heart’s desire
To work and speak and think for Thee;
Still let me guard the holy fire,
And still stir up Thy gift in me.
Ready for all Thy perfect will,
My acts of faith and love repeat,
‘Til death Thy endless mercies seal,
And make my sacrifice complete.
Go now, with God’s foolishness and weakness
as your only wisdom and strength.
Proclaim Christ crucified,
and seek riches only in the love of God’s Word
and in zeal for God’s house.
And may God’s just demands be your nourishment and delight.
May Christ be the power and wisdom of God to you.
And may the Holy Spirit keep you, thought and word,
in God’s good grace.
We go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
In the name of Christ.