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  • Writer's pictureMinister Jamie Seales

The Inside Matters More

Excerpt from Minister Jamie's sermon on March 3, based on John 2:13-22...

Over the past few months, we have primarily been in the Gospel of Mark, except for the one Sunday we had our Gospel reading from John. That passage from John and our text for today has a joyous occasion that joins the two. Jesus attends a wedding and performs his first miracle, turning the water into wine. Let's turn to the Greek to see how appropriate this miracle turns out that the Greek word for pearl is Margarita. Let's just say, Jimmy Buffett might have been a prophet. I digress.

That miracle does precede our text for today. Jesus goes from this joyous occasion to this encounter in the temple. Before we get to the heart of our text today, have you seen the movie Remember the Titans? This movie told the true story of the struggle to integrate in the state of Virginia. In this fantastic movie, we see several themes that demonstrate the pure heart of the film. Coach Herman Boone was a tough guy. In one scene, Coach Boone enters the gym and the players are laughing and having a good old time. Coach Boone walks in and immediately whips the smiles off of the players faces. He tells them just how much fun things are going to be over the coming weeks. He lays down some guidelines and then drives them from the gymnasium to this area filled with hills where they ran until they couldn't run any more, and performed team drills where they had to rely upon the help of another to make it through. To some this seemed like random punishment. But Coach knew that if this team was going to make it, they would have to push through a lot to reach their goals... especially in a time when many folks in Virginia opposed integration. They pushed through in the face of prejudice. The rest has become history.

The story in our reading today is told in all of the gospels. However, there is something very important about John's account. In Mark, Matthew, and Luke, the account of Jesus overturning tables and clearing out the temples happens towards the end of Jesus' ministry. In Mark, it s in Chapter 11. But for John it is in the very beginning. Why? There are many who maintain that Jesus cleared out the temple on more than one occasion. What I do know is that John doesn't tell it twice.

It has been suggested that there were groups of people who believed that Jesus was the Christ in the temple; that it was because of their beliefs about Jesus they were driven out of the temple. Notice in our text that Jesus makes a whip and rives the livestock out of the temple. Jesus often refers to his followers as sheep (I don't know how I feel about that, but that is a sermon for another day). Jesus drives the sheep and cattle out. The sheep here are literal. But the sheep were in danger. This could very well have a symbolic element as well, those who are in the temple who know Jesus' voice, who come to see him as Lord, as Savior, as our bread, our water, our way, our life, need to get the heck out of places that would rather us not be there. Jesus was protecting those animals.

Moreover, we have to understand the importance of the temple in the life of Jewish people. We call it the house of God, because most believed that God dwelled in the TEMPLE. When the temple is destroyed or splits, what happens to God? Jesus has a very direct way of answering this question. Those who worship must do so in spirit and in truth. Notice, this transcends the building. A person can worship in spirit and in truth and be in any PLACE. Worship isn't about the building, it is about our faith and expressing our faith in a way that is both spirit-filled and truthful.

In Christian thought, the temple is not a building, our bodies are the temple of the holy spirit. It is where God dwells. Jesus is the Word made flesh...the divine Word dwelled in Jesus, not in a temple. In person.

So, what is in the very center of a person? Our heart. We might appear lovely on the outside, but it is lies on the inside that matters the most. What happens if we clutter our hearts with things, with stuff, what room is there for the Spirit? We much search our heart.

We are several weeks deep into Lent. We long to be filled with God's love and joy. However, we must all work to root out the junk that impacts our internal reality in a negative way. Prejudices, biases, ways of doing things that don't reflect God's love for the world. They creep into our hearts and fill God's temple not as a place of worship, but a person to be bought and sold. If we fill our hearts with such things, where will we go when we need to pray? What are some ways that we can stuff into our hearts? Arrogance: there is nothing to learn, no need for growth, no need for change - it is everyone else's job. Envy: somebody has something I don't have. Somebody's life may seem to have been easier than mine. Bitterness: something didn't go the way I hoped for or planned. And prejudice: basing our opinions on, and judging someone' s characteristics that they have absolutely no control over. These things fill our hearts and keeps us from filling God's temple with spirit and truth.

Just like Coach Herman Boone, we need events that shake us up. We need moments that challenge our practices and our attitudes so that we can better reflect and live out God's live and peace in what can be a broken world. Holy T is a wonderful community. March is going to be a tremendous month. May each of us check our hearts so that we can better live into the people God is inviting us to be in the world. We look just fine on the outside. What we need is God's spirit molding us, making us, and keeping us working on the inside.


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