A celebration to commemorate the dedication of a church building, can have little meaning unless it is commemorating the dedication of the living church, the place where God dwells. We can find many scripture passages referring to God’s dwelling being in and among the people.
Today’s Gospel reading taken from the second chapter of the Gospel of John, describes the scene where Jesus entered the temple and drove out those who used the sacred space of worship for their own commercial profit. This episode, which the synoptic writers place near the end of their narratives, is placed in this Gospel close to the beginning of Jesus’ public life. It follows close on the miracle of the wine at the wedding feast of Cana, which was designated the ‘first of Jesus’ signs and a manifestation of his glory.’
If what happened in Cana was a manifestation of the glory of Jesus, what happened soon after in the temple must surely have been a manifestation of his authority. Referring to himself as a temple, Jesus is well aware of God’s dwelling within him. He knows from where his drive to clean the temple and the authority to do so come. They come from no other source than the God who lives within him.
Jesus caused quite an upheaval in the temple. There, business and profit had blurred the purpose. When we visit the temple of our lives, what might we find cluttering the entrance, deflecting the purpose? In the image of Jesus cleaning the temple, there is not an invitation to leave, nor is it suggested that their type of business was not appropriate there. No, there is a forceful expulsion, a casting out and a turning over of what was there. It was the only way to clean it up.
One wonders about the sellers and the money changers. What was their next step? Did they understand the message, or wait until the storm died down and then put their stuff back together again? It is a tendency within us, to want to put things back together. But Jesus’ actions in the temple make it clear enough that the temples of our lives need such a forceful cleansing and upheaval to make the space for encountering God’s dwelling.
The whole of creation is the dwelling place of God, and we have cluttered it with so much greed and commerce, that we have marred God’s living image here. Today’s message gives us the challenge to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and do some cleaning up, so that our whole creation reflects the glory of God, and we can encounter the living presence of the Holy One in the universal temple.
Elizabeth Ferguson, OP