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1 Sunday, March 11, 2012 3rd Sunday of Lent Pastor Dena Williams Denver, Colorado Exodus 20:17 Psalm

19 I Corinthians 1:1825 John 2:1322 The Holy Gospel according to the Community of St. John in the 2nd Chapter 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 money changers 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 money changers 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 marketplace!" 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;

2 and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. The Gospel of Our Lord Thanks be to God Transforming Sacred Space Well, my goodness, Jesus, whats going on here? Ive heard that conflict can and ought to be used creatively in order to call people to righteousness. The creative use of conflict is often one of a pastors tasks, but, a whip of cords, shoutin and scoldin, and flingin coins . . . overturnin tables, drivin out animals and people? Isnt this a bit overboard? Arent you worried? After all, Jesus, youre only the interim pastor. Your call on earth is only going to last three years. Do you really want people all that stirred up? Well, yes, I do. I think Jesus would reply. I want people stirred up. Ive only got three years to make a difference, to bring about some sort of transformation. In order to do that, Im going to need to hold people accountable. There will be conflict. There will be change in leadership. There will be hard conversations and high emotions. Didnt you come, Jesus, to bring healing and peace? Yes, yes I did. But there will be no healing unless there is transformation. There will be no peace unless there is change of heart. Then there will be healing and peace.

3 Jesus as interim pastor . . . hmm . . . An interesting image . . . An image I think the writer of the Gospel of John might embrace. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all include this story of Jesus cleansing the temple. The writers of those Gospels, however, tell us that the merchants in the temple were thieves, cheating people out of money. The writer of John says nothing about robbers and stealing. Johns Jesus has a different motive. He is cleaning up his Fathers house, preserving the holiness of the temple. clearing out the sacred space. Johns Jesus brings change that leads to transformation. Now those other writers, the ones who wrote Matthew, Mark, and Luke, those other writers place Jesus temper tantrum in the temple late in their Gospels, near the end of their stories, just before Jesus is arrested. But not John . . . This story of an angry Jesus comes right near the beginning of Johns Gospel. In Johns story, Jesus is baptized, tempted, goes to a wedding, and then, bam! He arrives in the temple, shoutin and fumin and mad as a wet hen! Johns Jesus begins his interim ministry with anger, with a stern call to righteousness, with a demand for change. Johns Jesus begins his ministry with the kind of change that leads to transformation. Change that leads to transformation . . .

Jesus, do you know the risk youre takin? Dont you want to get to know the folks a bit first, build some trust in the community, hear what people have to say? Well, apparently not. Now, Im not suggesting that interim pastors today begin their ministries the way Jesus did . . . after all, look what happened to him at the end of his interim . . . Johns Jesus, of course, knew what was going to happen and so, maybe thought he had nothing to lose. I, on the other hand, think that getting to know folks, building some trust, listening to what people have to say is a helpful way to begin an interim. Its also less likely to lead to my demise . . . and thats important to me. Ive noticed something about congregations, however, something that I think Johns Jesus knew congregations often say that they want transformation. They know they need an overhaul, sometimes a major overhaul, sometimes a minor one, but in general, people are able to say that transformation would be a good and useful event in the life of their congregation. People say they want transformation, the puzzling part is that what they often mean, is they want transformation, but they want it without any change! They want healing and peace and new energy and more people and better resources

5 and a new vision and a renewed Spirit . . . but they dont want to change. The light bulb is out, or at least dim, and they dont want that meddling pastor sending someone up the ladder to screw in a new bulb! We say we want light, the kind of light John describes earlier in his Gospel, the kind of light that shines in the darkness, the kind of light the darkness cannot overcome. We want the true light that enlightens everyone, the light that comes into the world. Then when the transforming light comes, we cover our eyes, we run away, we hide, too bright we say, too revealing, too challenging, it hurts! The light of the world comes, and we run for the cover of darkness. What are we running from? We are running from Gods transforming light. We are running from the revealing light of Gods love. It doesnt make sense does it? It doesnt make sense to flee from the light of Gods love. Its foolish to run from love. But thats what we do.

6 We do it when we see a friend or family member or stranger in need and look the other way. We look away from the light of Gods love, love that reveals, love that transforms. We do it when we ourselves are hurting, we hide our wounds, refuse to ask for or accept the help of others. We look away from the light of Gods love, love that reveals, love that transforms. We do it when we know there is injustice around us, laws and policies that oppress, that need reform. We shrug our shoulders and look the other way, we look away from the light of Gods love, love that reveals, love that transforms. We run and hide from the revealing, transforming light of Gods love! What if we stopped running? What if we stopped hiding? What if, instead, we stepped into the light, turned our faces toward the light? Then we would feel the warmth of Gods love for us and for all people. It is foolishness to run. It is the worlds foolishness that tells us to run, to hide from Gods love, to ignore the needs of others, to reject the help of others. The foolishness of the world tells us to run and hide from the light, to run and hide from love.

7 It is Gods wisdom that calls us to stop, to turn around, to run toward the light, to run toward the challenge, the revelation, the transformation. It is Gods wisdom that calls us out of hiding, calls us to run toward and live in the light of Gods love. Wonder if any of those merchants in the temple did that? Wonder if any of them stopped running, turned around, found Jesus, confessed their lack of respect for sacred space, asked forgiveness and changed their ways? Wonder if? If they did, if we do, then there was and is transformation, transformation that comes out of their and our willingness to change, to come out of hiding, to turn our faces and run toward God, to rush head long into the transforming light, to leap into the arms of the one who comes to dispel our darkness, to dispel our darkness with the brilliant light of Gods love. Amen