Tossing and Turning.
We most often associate those words with sleepless nights. But on Sunday, they belong to Jesus. We step away from Mark’s gospel for a week to dip a toe into John’s, nearly run over by Jesus who is on a mission. (John 2.13-22) The text for Sunday is typically called “Jesus Cleanses the Temple” and is used to indict ancient Jewish worship practice and, in a theological leap inexplicable to me, to prevent fund raisers in churches. I beg to disagree.
The story of Jesus Tossing and Turning requires some context. Jesus has just attended a wedding in Capernaum where he saved the groom’s reputation by turning water into wine. He and his disciples have traveled to Jerusalem, and make a side trip to the temple.
For complex reasons, Jesus pitched a fit when he saw the pilgrims exchanging currency and purchasing animals for the sacrifice. Contrary to what we have always been taught, the money changers were simply doing the work they did every day—making it possible for worshippers to offer their financial offerings in recognizable coins and to purchase sacrificial animals that would have been too difficult to carry with them. There was nothing irreverent or illegal taking place. Except Jesus. Who knew something they did not.
With a whip and a roar, Jesus tossed and turned the tables of the money changers. Coins of many realms clattered to the floor. Lambs fled. Birds flew. Cattle made a mad dash for the door. Jesus yelled at them, “Get out! Stop making my father’s house a marketplace!”
Yikes! No one present had any idea why Jesus had reacted the way he did. Only later, John tells us in aside, will the reason become clear. Only later, when Jesus’ body has been lifted on a cross, making of his own body a temple, will the victims of his vitriol look back and say, “Oh, that’s what that was about. We don’t worship a temple of timbers. We worship the temple that is Jesus.”
Jesus’ concern was that their worship lives had become impossibly entwined with a building, with a tradition, with a law whose letter they knew better than the spirit of the law, which had dissipated.
Tossing and Turning.
I cannot help but apply that image to what the pandemic is doing to all our lives, and to all our structures. Our forced absence from one another, and from the building that we love has forced our church to face issues we had hoped to put off for a decade or so. But the pandemic has burst into our lives as violently as Jesus burst into the temple. And while I don’t think God sent the pandemic to teach us a lesson, I do think God might use this uncomfortable opportunity to toss and turn our traditional way of being “church.” We now ask questions Jesus first raised in Jerusalem:
How does our building support or inhibit our ministry?
Does our worship adequately praise God and equip us?
What does “community” look like?
Is our financial generosity used for God’s purposes?
We ask these questions without the goad of whip and roar, but urged on by the upending of all the structures, patterns and routines we once knew.
Please join us for Worship on Sunday, as we continue to be “church” on many screens. We will also tell you more about our Lent Challenge with Holy Family Ministries.
After worship, we will leave the zoom link open for Coffee Hour—a chance to virtually visit one another.
Though we are now a full year into remote worship and congregational life, it still makes me sad. I miss you more than you can know. I know that we will, one day, be together for worship and congregational life. But it will not be the same. Thank goodness, it will not be the same. We are being tossed and turned for good.
“See” you Sunday,
Pastor JoAnn Post