March 7, 2021 At St. Peter the Apostle Church in Naples, FL
Exodus 20, 1-17 + Psalm 19 + 1 Corinthians 1, 22-25 + John 2, 13-25
John’s description of this scene provides so much detail that we are easily distracted or captivated by the whole commotion. The whip, the overturned tables, the chaos of frightened animals suddenly set free, and the money changers running for cover wondering what they had done wrong since their role was necessary for keeping the Temple rules about money with images. With all that going on, it is likely that we give little attention to the message so easily misunderstood: “Destroy this temple and I will raise it up again in three days.” For generations this scene has fueled all kinds of discussion and motivated all kinds of protests over corruption and commercialism all the while giving no though to what Jesus said.
At the time, his opposition went into a rage over the suggestion that he was talking about that building. They even used it as testimony against him at his trial. Meanwhile what was really being proclaimed was never heard. He was talking about the Temple of his Body which was way beyond their imagination, a thought that their faithless thinking could never comprehend.
This is a dramatic and powerful proclamation that strikes at the very core of their belief that the Temple was God’s dwelling place. Of course, believing that put them in control over where God was to be found and how God was to be honored and respected. The challenge of this Gospel is that we have not quite gotten over that kind of thinking. It is so easy to imagine God confined to a church and tabernacle that the implications of what Jesus is saying still gets lost.
The whole wonder of the Incarnation is that God’s dwelling place is first of all, and perhaps best of all found, honored, and respected in human life. Genuine humanity offers an experience of the real presence of God just as truly as any Temple, building, or man-made object. When God argued with the King of Israel over building Temple, and the King tried to bribe God by suggesting that a tent was not worthy of God. Yet God resisted the proposal, but Israel went on with its plan anyway. God had a better plan at the beginning.
When Genesis tells us that God created us in God’s own image and likeness, we ought to get the point that humanity is God’s first choice for a dwelling place. That old Temple was a place of concentrated power that served the privileged, took advantage of the poor, condemned and excluded others. This Gospel invites and challenges us today to examine just how we decide what is sacred and profane. Isn’t it odd that it is a felony to deface a church, and people get in an uproar every time one is vandalized? Yet, there is hardly a whisper of concern when one of God’s people dies of hunger or is homeless living in a car or a tent.
My friends, the very rock of our foundation in faith is the Incarnation, God’s desire to live, to love, and to be revealed in human flesh and blood. God speaks to us with the very human voice of Jesus Christ when we are here together. We must listen and learn. Often, we must repent and change how we think, how we see things, and how we treat each other.