Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
12:00pm Fellowship
Pastor Rev. Brooke Newell
Secretary Donna McDonald
315-265-7474

Mr. Clean

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

March 8:

Call:       Exodus 20: 1-17
Reading:    UMH 268 (revised)
Text:       John 2: 13-22
Closing:    1 Corinthians 1:18

                Mr. Clean

How do you picture Jesus?

That is a slightly modified version of the very first question the
    18 adults and several youth were asked
    on the day we began our Lenten Study, "Renegade Gospel"

How do you picture Jesus?
How do you picture Jesus?
How do you picture Jesus?

Think.

I picture Jesus holding his hands together in prayer
    In Gethsemane - like in the window up there.

I picture Jesus holding a lamb in one hand and a crook in the other
    Like in the window in my office upstairs

I picture a seated Jesus holding little children
    Like in the picture in my very first Bible
    And in many Sunday School classrooms

I picture Jesus at the door of a house
    Holding his breath as he waits to see if the ones inside
        Will open the door and let him in.
I picture Jesus in many ways and holding many things

But I do not picture Jesus holding or using a whip.

I picture Indiana Jones holding and using a whip.

I picture an Old West cowboy sauntering into a saloon
    Holding a whip on his belt
    As he prepares to order a beer, a whisky,
Or (if you remember the Cisco Kid) a sarsaparilla.

But the only way that I picture Jesus with a whip
    Is  as the one      being whipped
    As was graphically portrayed in "The Passion of the Christ"

But in our scripture today
    We see an action hero Christ
And We see Jesus with - and using - a whip
        In the Temple of all places.

We know this story
    But we normally associate it with Holy Week
        The last week of Jesus' ministry
        Before crucifixion and resurrection.

Today, however, we hear it from John
who places our story at the very beginning of Jesus' ministry
        Right after the wedding at Cana

In John's presentation,
    Christ has      already been baptized, tempted, and done the wedding miracle;   and
    Christ will     soon do healing and teaching.
But in between
Christ makes a dramatic introduction of himself
By doing what the prophet Malachi
Had said that the Messiah would do. [3: 1-4]:
    "suddenly the Lord whom you are seeking will come to his temple ...
        Who can endure the day of his coming?
        Who can withstand his appearance?

    He is like the refiner's fire or the cleaner's soap

    He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver
    He will purify the Levites ...

    They will belong to the Lord,
        Presenting      a righteous offering"

Malachi said that the Messiah would do that.
John tells us that Jesus did do that.       [John 2: 13-22]

But as dramatic as this was, the inquiring mind still asks, "Why?"

And in a community of scholars and inquiring minds
    We have to ask it too.

Why?    Why did the temple need cleansing ?

Weren't the money changers necessary to convert other money into temple currency?
Yes,    but they had developed ways of fleecing and taking advantage of those they were there to help and serve.

And though my tenure here would end long before June 30
    If I were to allow cattle and sheep and doves
        Into our narthex or our fellowship hall,
In Christ's day there was a need for them as well.

Animal sacrifice was an integral part of their worship.
    The many worshippers who came from a distance,
        could not easily bring their own animals.

So there was a need for someone to sell animals to them in or near the temple.
    But the costs of those animals in the temple were inflated
        And greatly inflated.

Further, those who did bring their own animals
    Had to present them to the inspectors
    To see if they were fit for an offering.
        The standard was that they had to be perfect and unblemished

The inspectors, however, were in cahoots with the animal sellers
consistently rejecting the outside animals
forcing worshippers to buy animals at the inflated prices

But
even if the money changers and animal sellers had not been so unscrupulous;
even if they had been honest and fair
    Jesus still would have had to do his Mr. Clean act.

For Jesus needed to get across what the prophets had been trying to get across for years -  for decades for centuries:
    That animal sacrifice was not a righteous offering.

Time after time after time, those prophets told the people
that these sacrifices were not what God was looking for

No matter how many
bulls or rams   or  cattle or sheep or rivers of oil
were offered, they were inadequate.
What God wants is
    For us to feed the hungry and release the captives
What God wants is
    For us to care for the widows and the orphans
What God wants is
    For us to do justice and love kindness
What God wants is
    For us to behave righteously and humbly
What God wants is
    Our hearts, our love,
our obedience, and our commitment to serve.

That's what God wants.
God wants us to be all in!

The prophets used words
    Powerful words
    Meaningful words
    Words people in their day and people of ours should listen to
But words nevertheless.

Jesus, John tells us right away in his gospel,
    supplemented those words
        With his actions

Jesus, in John's gospel (and in the other three)
    Was going to drive home this lesson
        With his whip
        By scattering coins and overturning tables
    And By demanding that his Father's house
            Be a place of worship
            Not a place of business

And certainly not a place of business
    Where those doing the business
        Ripped off those who needed their service
    and Took advantage of the very people
            Whom the prophets said to they were to help
        The very people
            Whom Jesus came to rescue and set free.

This story is dynamic

Chronologically, it probably does belong in Holy Week

But John's placement at the beginning of his gospel
    Before we become immune to all the wonders of the Christ
    Makes it even more dynamic.

Well, you heard the story.      What are you going to do with it?
I heard and read the story.     What am I going to do with it?

Are we going to dismiss the story as irrelevant to us?
    After all, none of us has brought an animal for slaughtering
    And nobody here makes money by cheating others.

Or are we going to be inspired
    To make the sacrifices that God wants from us?
    To give God the righteous offering that God desires?
And     To be living, breathing, action Christians?

I picture Jesus     with a great deal more hair     than Mr. Clean
and with substantially less well developed muscles

But after reflecting on this story
    I do see somewhat of a resemblance between
         The guy who helps keep our kitchens and bathrooms clean
And      The guy who tries to keep our hearts and our lives clean.

Let's act - not just listen and nod our heads.