APC 7th March 2021 “Rightness and resurrection”
Welcome and Introduction
Good morning everyone and welcome to our Sunday morning worship. Today we will be looking at one of the most exciting and controversial incidents in the life of our Lord. And it happened in church as well!
But first, let’s remind ourselves of why we’ve tuned in again today as Sharon and Elaine lead us in the song, “To be in your presence”.
(End Part 1)
Opening Song “To be in your presence”
Thanks again Elaine and Sharon. Let’s take a moment now to be in God’s presence. Let’s pray…
God of truth, you know us better than we know ourselves. You search our hearts and minds, seeing us as we really are, and confronting us with our true selves. Teach us to face the truth, for the truth will set us free.
Forgive us that all too often we shy away from what is hard to accept, refusing to countenance anything which contradicts the image we have of ourselves. We find it so hard to be honest, closing our ears to truths we would rather not hear. We avoid those who challenge and disturb us, preferring those who soothe and flatter our egos. Teach us to face the truth, for the truth will set us free.
God of truth, we thank you today for all those with the rare gift of speaking the truth in love- not spitefully, vindictively or harshly, not from any ulterior motives, but because they genuinely care. Teach us to face the truth, for the truth will set us free.
We thank you for those who are willi8ng to risk our resentment, our misunderstanding or anger, our retaliation or rejection, to help us grow as individuals. Teach us to face the truth, for the truth will set us free.
God of all, give us true humility and meekness of spirit, so that we may be ready to listen and examine ourselves, ready to ask searching questions about who we are and to change where necessary. Teach us to face the truth, for the truth will set us free.
Join with me now as we say the Lord’s Prayer thoughtfully and sincerely together…
Our Father, which 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, AMEN.
Introduction to Kids Video
We come now to the art of our service that’s especially for he younger members of our church family. So if your kids aren’t beside you right now, why not pause the recording, and call them in to watch a sheep and a puppet tell us about the day Jesus told a group of people to get out of church! And at the end of this video I’ve a few words to say to the children so don’t let them rush away.
(END Part 2)
Kid’s Video K and K- “Jesus clears the temple”
Kid’s Talk Summary
Hey boys and girls, I hope many of you have had a good week back at school. I hope you enjoyed the video today. I can’t wait until we can all meet together again in church to sing and pray and learn more about God together. That’s what church is for and everyone is welcome there. If you ask your mum or dad they can download and print off a colouring page for you from the church Facebook page to help you remember today’s story. I hope you have a really good week and I hope to see you again next Sunday. Bye for now!
Introduction to Bible Reading
Gentle Jesus meek and mild, that’s not exactly what we find in today’s exciting episode in the life of Jesus. Sit back as our new Clerk of Session Mrs Edna Crammond reads John’s account of this fascinating story for us now…
(End Part 3)
Bible Reading Video John 2 v 13-22 Edna Crammond
Reflection “Rightness and resurrection”
Today I want to begin with a few questions to test your general knowledge. Do you know the name of the world’s most expensive painting? Do you know who painted it? Finally how much is it worth?
Well, it’s a portrait painted around the year 1500 called ‘Salvator Mundi’ which means ‘Saviour of the world’. It is credited to Leonardo da Vinci, although the art world is still divided whether it’s Divinci’s real work or the work of one of his skilled students. It was sold in Christie’s auction in 2017 for the sum of $450 million and was bought by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.
The painting depicts Jesus Christ dressed in a blue and gold tunic with pale skin, fine features, long hair and rouge cheeks. There is both a masculinity and femininity about the image. His right hand is raised with his index and middle fingers crossed and in his left hand he holds a glass orb.
As I looked at that picture recently the question entered my mind – What’s my image of Christ? What’s yours? When we think of Jesus what thoughts and pictures come into our minds?
Today’s gospel reading paints a portrait of Jesus that is as far removed from Davinci’s image as it’s possible to imagine. Here Jesus, the healer, the teacher, the good shepherd, becomes the radical militant, voicing his anger at corporate religious corruption in very public and equally destructive terms.
We read that he goes into the temple and in an angry rage he overturns the benches of the people who are selling pilgrim sacrifices in the area of the temple known as the ‘Court of the Gentiles’. As money scatters, tables thud against the floor and terrified animals noisily scramble to escape, Jesus screams, “It is written, my house will be called a house of prayer but you have made it a den of robbers!”
What on earth is going on here? And what can we learn from it? To understand this passage and what it teaches us about Jesus we need to look at the historical background of this situation.
According to OT law, each year, every male Jew had to pay a Temple Tax of half a shekel. That money was to pay for the running of the temple. That was equivalent to about two day’s pay. One month before the Passover, booths were set up in all towns and villages to give people a chance to pay. However, most people chose to pay it on the day of their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. In Palestine all sorts of currencies were in use but the temple tax could only be paid in Shekels. That meant that money exchangers were needed to help people change their currency into Shekels. This was all part of God’s laws for maintaining the temple. So in principle there was nothing wrong with exchanging money even in the temple courts to facilitate people. What Jesus was so angry about was that in practice, many of these money changers were notorious swindlers. They were charging the pilgrims, many of whom were poor, an exorbitant rate of interest in order to exchange their money.
Then there were people who were selling animals. This too was in one sense a necessity. People could bring their own animals. The problem was any animal brought for sacrifice first had to be inspected by a temple authority to ensure that it was without blemish. The easiest way for people to be certain that their animal would be acceptable was to buy one that had already been inspected and was being sold in one of the temple booths.
Again, the principle of selling ‘ready-to-go’ animals in the temple courts wasn’t the issue here. What Jesus was so angry about wasn’t that things were being sold or money exchanged in the temple, but that the animals that were sold inside the temple were over 10 times the price of those being sold outside! In other words, Jesus wasn’t condemning the holding of a church bazaar or the renting of church premises. What he was condemning was the deliberate exploitation of vulnerable people by others, especially those who claimed to be religious!
Make no mistake about it. If Jesus was here on earth today He would have been outraged and publicly vocal about the abuses that have been perpetrated by the church in his name over the centuries. Some of those abuses are only beginning to come to light. They must be acknowledged, repented of, apology given and restitution made with those who have been affected and lessons learned for the future. We who claim to have Christ’s Spirit within us must speak out about these things just as Christ did.
But the passage today also leaves you and I facing an uncomfortable question… “Are we unfair or discriminatory or do we exploit people in any way?” Our immediate reaction to that question might actually be to feel quite offended. But the older I get, the more I realise that without God’s help and our constant watchfulness there is nothing that any of us are incapable of.
The truth is, without God’s help, it isn’t easy to be fair. We all have our favourites. We can all take advantage of other people or use our own connections for personal gain despite an obvious conflict of interests. We are all tempted to think we are just that bit better than someone else. We are all prone to ignore certain sections of society or leave certain people out of the loop. It’s easy for us to use people to our own advantage no matter what the cost might be to them. We can all overcharge or underpay to suit our own pocket. So let me ask you the question that I’ve asked myself this week, “In all honesty, in what ways do I sometimes discriminate between people? Am I being unfair to anyone or is there someone that I am somehow exploiting? Am I aware of any of these things in work, in church or in society? Do I just turn a blind eye to them or am I willing to be unpopular by speaking up for what is right?
But there’s another reason why Jesus displays such righteous anger in this incident. The part of the temple precincts known as the ‘Court of the Gentiles’ was the only part of the temple into which Gentiles could come. Along with Jewish pilgrims there would have been many Gentile sight-seers just as there are in Israel today. Some of them would also have come with deep longings in their souls to worship and to pray, if happily they might find God. But in the uproar of buying and selling and bargaining and auctioneering, prayer was impossible. Those who sought God’s presence were being debarred from it by the very people of God’s House.
This leaves us with a few more equally searching questions… “How well do we welcome outsiders? Are we doing all we can to invite other people to our church services and events? Are the doors of our church opening wider to our community? Do we want our church to be a place that embraces all types of people no matter how different they are to us or no matter how society perceives them?”
I love the way the Presbyterian minister Scott Hoezee puts it. He writes,
“Jesus came into Jerusalem dragging the world...behind him. He'd spent most of his ministry with what the Pharisees regarded as all the wrong people in all the wrong places. He'd befriended women of dubious reputations, touched lepers, dined with tax collectors, done favours for despised Roman soldiers, held up Samaritans as heroes even as he turned Pharisees into villains. When Jesus entered Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday, he had all of these folks in tow. But when he got to the Temple, he found no place for his new friends. So he left. He pondered. He prayed. And he returned…to make room for them…..But Palm Sunday is not just about Jesus’ first entry. We need to wonder what Jesus sees when he enters our church each week and looks around at everything. Will he find that our courtyard is broad and our doors wide open so that those who are at a vastly different place in life can enter and find room?”
Sadly as on many occasions throughout the years, Jesus words and actions fall on deaf ears. Instead of shame and repentance the Jewish leaders turn on him indignantly, “If you’ve got authority to say and do all this, then show us a sign!
“Destroy this temple and I’ll raise it again in 3 days,” he replied.
In a single breath Jesus sums up where their attitude and action will lead and where His would end.
“It took us 46 years to build this temple, you think you’ll build it in 3 days?” they laughed.
But of course as he explained to his disciples then and as we know looking back today, Jesus wasn’t talking about the temple made of stones, but about His body made of flesh. The religious and Roman authorities would put Him to death, but 3 days later God the Father would bring Him back to life. Undeniable proof that he is who He says He was.
Sadly as the world looks at much of what has happened in the past in the name of Christ, it turns away in disbelief. Like the Jewish religious leaders they too cry, “If your Christ is real, then show us a miracle or at least the amazing difference you claim He makes in your lives!”
And so we must cry out to God to fill us with His Holy Spirit so that we might let our lights shine in the hope that some may turn and be attracted.
But even so, even when our light at times is dim, the greatest miracle of all is still on record for those who decide to have eyes to see and ears to hear.
He is not dead, he is risen! Have we the faith to believe and tell?
Introduction to Song
One lesson from this pandemic is that often in life we’re just too busy or too noisy to really be still and to worship God in a way that really makes a lasting difference in our lives. Jesus cleared the temple so that outsiders might be able to do just that. So let’s slow the pace, bow down and worship as we listen to this beautiful acoustic version of the famous hymn “Be still my soul”.
(End Part 4)
Song of Response “Be still my soul”
Prayers for others
Sovereign God, we pray for the weak and vulnerable in our world – those who feel powerless in the face of the massive problems that confront them. Help of the helpless, reach out to strengthen and support.
We pray for the poor, the hungry, the diseased, the dying. Help of the helpless, reach out to strengthen and support.
We pray for the oppressed, the exploited, the abused, the tortured. Help of the helpless, reach out to strengthen and support.
We pray for the frightened the lonely the hurt the depressed.
Help of the helpless, reach out to strengthen and support.
We pray for those who live in lands racked by tension, those who face famine and starvation, those who are unemployed, those who are homeless. Help of the helpless, reach out to strengthen and support.
Sovereign God, you have expressed special concern for the bruised, the needy and the weak of our world. May that concern bring strength to all in such need, and may it inspire people everywhere to work for a more just society, standing up for the needy, and working for that tie when there will be an end to suffering, mourning and pain; that time when your Kingdom will come and your will be done. Help of the helpless, reach out to strengthen and support.
Take a moment now to pray for one or two people you know who need God’s help at this time….
All this we ask in the name of the one who came to heal the sick and comfort those who mourn. Amen.
It’s been a joy and privilege to share with you again today. Thanks again for logging on. I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s reflection. Please do spend some time in quiet over the next couple of days reflecting on what God wants you to learn from the story of Jesus clearing the temple…
One piece of exciting news that I’ve known for some time but wanted to wait until now to share with you…no I’m not pregnant! is that we will be leading worship on the RTE Sunday morning service on 28th of March, that’s Palm Sunday. That gives us all something to look forward to!
Please do keep me in your prayers because I’m just as human as you and at times it can be quite isolating spending every day ion the office and as one person who wrote a weekly column for a newspaper once said, “A blank page every week is not for the faint hearted!”
But above all the greatest encouragement you can give me is to keep tuning in and stay close to God during these difficult days.
But for now, let me lead you in a Benediction after which I invite you as always, to say the grace together…
Lord just as you cleared the temple, clear our lives of everything that would distract us from prayer and clear our hearts from attitudes of greed, unfairness, and mistreatment of others. And
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and for evermore, Amen.”
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.