March 7th, March 14th,

Sunday 21st March 2021

Link to David’s Sunday 21st March video sermon address:

https://youtu.be/nXHEMDBXQSU

Sunday Reflection - 21st March (5th Sunday in lent)

The Time Has Come: 

**ticking as background noise to title -

Image of clocktower (black and white version) overlaid by title**

 

WELCOME -

 

Read text...

John 12:20-33

 

Before I went into nurse training in the mid 90’s,

 and later still ministerial preparation,

 

= I worked for a few years in an old MH asylum in Northampton called ST CRISPINS,

 as a Groundsman 

 

The old institution was slowly being run down,

...as care in the community gathered pace 

 

But those huge old Victorian gothic buildings,

..While experiencing decay and neglect,

 

Had lost none of their imposing and rather forbidding aspect,

 

It certainly attracted the attention of the Dr Who producers who used it as a set in the 1970’s,

 for a creepy and sinister Victorian backdrop.  

 

Over this sprawling Behemoth of a building,

..,,rose its most distinctive feature -

……, the old clock tower

 

**show image**

 

It seemed to draw the eye and demand attention-

...as though ruling over all beneath it. 

 

I started work their as a 17 year old -

 and found myself somewhat entranced by that old clock -

 

Although the estate covered 360 acres,

 you could see it from practically everywhere

 

Whether felling a tree in the woods,

digging a ditch on the perimeter 

……or mowing the cricket pitch on the sports fields,

 

I was always under the gaze of that old clock

 

Always in earshot as it faithfully struck the half and full hour with its solemn strike. 

 

I know I have a bit of a fanciful imagination -

 

But To me -

Every time I heard it,

 

….it didn’t sound like it was simply TELLING the time,

……but rather ANNOUNCING something REALLY IMPORTANT and MOMENTOUS!

 

The kind of timepiece, PERHAPS -

with the necessary GRAVITAS to accompany Jesus’ words today:

 

PART 1 - .”now my hour has come”

 

We are of course approaching the end of Jesus’ ministry -

 

It’s the Passover and Jerusalem,

has swelled to over 2.5 million in population,

…...as folks (both foreign Jews AND gentile believers),

………come along on this ANNUAL PASSOVER PILGRIMAGE

 

WE MEET Some of these foreigners (GREEKS) -

they had heard about JESUS - his miracles and teachings were spreading)

…..and they asked to see him.

 

Maybe they asked PHILIP,

because he was the only disciple with a GREEK NAME

 

BUT - It seems that PHILIP wasn’t sure what was best to do

(perhaps JESUS had been SWAMPED that day? -

….Maybe he was exhausted?

……..what should he do for the best??)

 

Clearly unsure,

….he consults ANDREW.

 

Andrew DID -

….what we ALWAYS see ANDREW doing in the GOSPELS -

…….he goes to JESUS so he can arrange a meeting

 

CONNECTING people with Jesus - is ANDREWS ‘THING’

 

We don’t get to witness this meeting

 (which doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen)

 

but - being told that some GREEKS had come to talk to him,

 

…….SEEMED TO PROMPT HIM TO REVEAL SOMETHING IMPORTANT

…..WAS LIKE A BIG CELESTIAL CLOCKTOWER  STRIKING the HOUR

 

It triggered this momentous statement:

“The hour has come that the son of man should be glorified”

 

THIS IS SIGNIFICANT (and it must have struck the disciples as such)

….because up until this point he had constantly told them -

…….it’s NOT TIME YET

 

At CANA wedding, and 1st miracle  - “my hour has not yet come”

In JOHN 7 he refused to go up to JERUSALEM for an earlier passover,

…..because: “my hour has not yet come”

 

And when JOHN writes about opposition INCREASING AGAINST HIM in John 8,

….we read “no man laid hands on him to arrest him because his hour had not yet come”

 

And now -,

...in response to the message that a group of GREEK STRANGERS had come to see him

 

He is VISIBLY MOVED,

……..and AMAZES HIS DISCIPLES by suddenly declaring,

…………. “Now my hour has come. The time has come for me to be glorified”

 

Even now - DESPITE ALL HIS EXPLANATIONS OF WHAT IS TO COME,

the disciples don’t understand his meaning of the word GLORIFIED

 

They PROBABLY had mental images of:

  • Military conquest

  • Angel armies

 

As did all those screaming/praising folks who had lined the road to Jerusalem,

…..now known as PALM DAY

 

The only MENTAL IMAGE Jesus had,

…..was of a common Cross.

 

  • The 1st century GALLOWS equivalent.

 

He had been walking the length of its shadow these last 3 years -

…. = AND NOW HE HAD REACHED IT’S FOOT (spiritually speaking)

……….and the cosmic clock chimes

 

**tower image - strike sound**

 

When clocks strike -

Be they physically imposing one's like in St Crispin's

..or even a venerable old grandfather clock in a home

 

  • The chime seems to radiate a command - “PAY ATTENTION!”

 

In the same fashion -

JESUS has some MOMENTOUS WORDS,

…… to accompany the metaphorical striking of GOD’s  clock 

 

I love the poetic language of the Old KIng James - VERILY, VERILY - (said Jesus)

………..MY VERSION reads - TRULY TRULY

 

They mean the same thing to US:

‘PAY ATTENTION!’   (this is significant)

 

= ok, we’re listening...

 

But what he is about to say,

...will sound VERY ODD indeed

 

  • VS 24 - LIFE COMES THROUGH DEATH

 

IT doesn’t make a lot of sense at first -

dying to live,

…..death BRINGS life???

 

What kind of a weird paradox is this?

 

And then JESUS (typically) -

uses a perfect illustration to make it a lot clearer.

 

“I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain”

 

THIS life is so precious to us (it feels like it’s all we have)

….to lose it is most people greatest idea of LOSS

 

But if you look at it from the PERSPECTIVE OF ETERNITY - (CHRISTS perspective)

 

= It is only the beginning -

…it’s LITERALLY .the SEED FORM of the NEW CREATION to come.

 

THE CHRISTIAN HOPE is all about the resurrection to come -

 

There is NO resurrection,

….unless there is first a death (CHRISTS)

 

JUST as there is no life giving bread,

….unless the SEED/GRAIN is buried (and dies to that form)

 

JESUS’ DEATH ON THE CROSS -

would take a hope that was currently lodged in the hearts of a small nation,

……and extend it to THE WHOLE WORLD

 

(just as GOD had promised ABRAHAM)

 

His DEATH and RESURRECTION > would result in a worldwide harvest

 

Lets focus down from the GLOBAL to the PERSONAL a moment

= As mere SHADOWS of the life to come -

….we too are seeds

 

Looking at ourselves THAT way,

helps us not to take ourselves TOO seriously now

 

This (point to my body)

….isn’t the BE ALL AND END ALL

 

  • Which goes in opposition to our culture at the moment

            (WORSHIP - physical body AND all things material)

 

Living life as though I’M THE BE ALL AND END ALL

…(is like putting a GRAIN OF WHEAT in a baker's window)

…..and expecting to IMPRESS the PASSERS BY

 

……pretty silly

 

BUT -

Dying to self and living for Christ

...is all about looking beyond the grain > to the loaf of bread itself (THE BIG PICTURE)

 

IN GALATIANS 2:20:

“Life can never be fulfilled unless we die to self so we may live unto God”

 

We can’t GROW and REACH fulfilment,

….unless we die to self

 

And that attitude can alter the way we make every decision -

 

  • How we spend our money

  • What and who we prioritise

  • Whether to self-sacrifice OR self-satisfy

 

**PART 2 - dying to self **

 

During my student pastor days -

I was sent out on one of my COLLEGE PREACHING DAYS to a small church near Swansea

 

My name's-sake DAI was the pastor at the church I visited

 

I finally found it after 20 minutes of driving around this pretty unappealing council estate -

….old cars in front gardens etc

 

It didn’t help that it was a GRAY, LATE NOVEMBER EVENING

 

The CHURCH was less appealing than the estate that surrounded it!

…..Squat, flat roofed - soulless 1960’s concrete,

………whose windows were mostly obscured by protective steel mesh coverings.

 

Looked more like a place of INCARCERATION that a house of WORSHIP!

The congregation was 8 strong.

 

 DAI and his wife had me over for tea afterwards-  told me about his situation

 

DAI worked at TESCOS (delivery man) - to support his ministry 

(he had no stipend -

…..just a modest occupational pension)

 

He worked hard in the local community -

… -  visiting folks who wanted it

…  - doing odd jobs for people too old, disabled or busy (like the single parent of 5 children)

 

...as well as the usual services such as marrying/burying etc

…….. (no charge for most as they couldn’t afford it)

 

His CHURCH WASN’T GROWING -

the folks he helped > didn’t swell his congregation

(although many did seek spiritual counsel)

 

He often felt tempted to seek a larger CHURCH (chat to Mark Owen)

….nicer/better resourced -    even PAID pastoral work

 

Sometimes he admitted that he felt like he was a bit of a failure - (in his tiny church)

… “my church isn’t growing - perhaps I’m in the wrong place?”

= but whenever he prayed about it,

….he always felt God saying:

 

Stay where I’ve put you -

….your service pleases me

 

The FRUIT couldn’t be counted by BUMS ON PEWS -

But I suspect

…….GOD kept an account of the lives DAI touched

 

(and who knows how many kingdom seeds were planted for future harvest?)

 

That's one eg of DYING TO SELF -

THAT'S the opportunity that GOD gave to DAI - as he followed in his Lord's footsteps -

 

Q - what opportunities has GOD given me?  You?  

(have we - are we - will we = TAKE THEM?

 

Vs 25:

“Whoever loves his life, will lose it, and he whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life”

 

Of course -

some folks go too far…

 

It’s not about purging yourself of every pleasure -

and hating every moment of your life

 

JESUS drank, laughed and enjoyed lots of social events!

 

= rather: .. it’s about priorities -

….living but not grabbing

…….enjoying your plenty but making sure you share

……….stewarding but not hoarding

 

Sometimes SACRIFICING -

when we have the opportunity to put OTHER PEOPLE FIRST

 

Corrie ten boom once said

“I have learned to hold all things loosely, so that God will not have to pry them out of my hands”

 

JESUS loved to chat , raise a glass and recline - as he enjoyed a social gathering

 

JESUS also got down on his knees and cleaned his friends feet

 

JESUS also spent time in the company of people,

…….. nobody else could be bothered with or were repelled by

 

Vs 26

“If anyone serves me, they must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.  If anyone serves me, the father will honor him”

 

Every TRUE FOLLOWER of Jesus faces the same choice -

Take the way of the CROSS -

…..or take our OWN WAY

The clock has chimed - the hour has come  == >> when we must decide     Amen

 

 

Sunday 14th March 2021

Link to David’s Sunday 14th March video sermon address:

https://youtu.be/MzAlSwuTlLo

Sunday Reflection - 14th March (4th Sunday in lent)

FURTIVE NIGHT ENCOUNTER AND A WAKE UP CALL - Nicodemus:

John 3:1-17

(You may want to press pause to read our text - the night time encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus before we move on)

 

PART 1 - Old dogs and new tricks

 

The say we’re never too old to learn something new -

As somebody approaching my 50th year I agree completely!

 

But I wonder if it gets a bit harder,

...as we naturally become a bit set in our ways?

 

Maybe ESPECIALLY challenged -

 when a strongly held  viewpoint or perspective is challenged

 

THIS CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE -

 seniority in either age OR status offers no protection -

…..as we’ll see in our text today

 

But before we travel back in time through the pages of scripture,

…. here’s a modern day account of a senior Church man-

 

and not your common garden REV but a REV DR no less

 

Fulfilling career:

Academic and theological progression

combined with lecturing and pastoral duties

 

Wrote the odd WELL RECEIVED article or two

and was chairman of various worthy community groups and committees

 

But as he approached his middle 60’s -

his ACTIVITIES and DUTIES began to gently wind down as retirement fast approached

 

HE began to delegate away from himself to younger colleagues-

….transitioning from the old to the new

 

BUT He was feeling empty

 

He has always loved leading prayers to large congregations in the Cathedral -

or at important civic events

 

But praying in his study (away from the spotlight)

felt lonely and uninspiring

 

He also had lots of questions to life's difficult mysteries -

….but he always came away from his prayer times perplexed - not answered

 

His wife - IN CONTRAST

would positively come away from her QUIET TIMES -

…….brimming with apparent PEACE and CONTENTMENT

 

Worse still - SHE’D SOMETIMES GLOW

 

WHY?

 

It wasn’t that she didn’t wrestle with life's questions too -

she may not have had his high PROFILE career (she was the local school mistress)

But he suspected (without ever voicing) - that she was his intellectual superior

 

So her CONTENTMENT and INNER PEACE -

..were not due to a simplistic or unthinking faith…

 

So why DID she glow so much (or more importantly = why DIDN’T he?!)

 

He finally plucked up the courage to bear his soul to her one day

(not easy for a man who hated to feel or look vulnerable)

 

  • I pray - but I never feel satisfied,

  • It’s not as if I go into it unprepared - I always use my opening devotions

  • Sometimes I try and mediate first as I was taught at a church retreat years ago

  • > I even resorted to a spot of HEBREW the other day for Heaven's sake!

 

I’ve devoted my life to MINISTRY and supporting OTHERS -

and yet as I come to the end I find that there's nothing left over for me

 

He didn’t tell her that he felt jealous of her faith (and it’s glow)

but perceptive woman that she was,

……. = she sensed it

 

Gently - almost timidly (because she didn’t want to hurt his feelings)

..she said

“Darling I love you, I’ve always admired you and felt so proud of you

…..so please don’t take this the wrong way

 

= you’ve FORGOTTEN more ABOUT God than I’ll ever Know,

….but I suspect that I’ve come to KNOW God a little better than you”

 

Oooh - low blow,

 or painful wake up call?

 

In a similar fashion -

..CS LEWIS famously said,

that he learnt ABOUT GOD INTELLECTUALLY when he 1st came to faith

 

But his faith only became a TANGIBLE thing -

..a PRECIOUS thing,

…..when he realised that INTELLECTUAL assent wasn’t the same as a RELATIONSHIP

 

I use the experience of these two eminent gentlemen,

...as a way of perhaps acquainting ourselves a little better with NICODEMUS

 

He was a RELIGIOUS EXPERT -

...but it obviously wasn’t enough for him

 

And in the same way that the  REVEREND DR eventually summoned up the courage,

…..to ask his wife what it was that he was missing,

 

= so NICODEMUS finds himself furtively knocking on JESUS’ door one dark night

 

…..perhaps he was MISSING something too?

 

= That intangible ‘EXTRA’ -  that he seemed to sense in JESUS’ teaching and ministry

 

~~~~

He wasn’t exactly coming along to sign up to the JESUS FAN CLUB at this point -

after all he dedicated DECADES to living out faith as HE understood it

 

(neatly packaged religious ideas - all placed in their orderly theological boxes)

 

BUT - his niggling doubts were perhaps persisting -

AND UNLIKE MANY OF HIS COLLEAGUES

…..his desire for AUTHENTICITY and TRUTH

 

.outweighed his territorial desire,

……… to protect the powerful little kingdom they had built for themselves

 

~~~~~~

I have heard preachers knocking NICODEMUS for coming to Jesus,

….COVERTLY at night

 

Afraid what his peers would think -

afraid that his CAREER would be damaged.

 

= PERSONALLY > I think it’s better that he came at night than not at all!

 

People also knock folks for coming to Church once a year at CHRISTMAS

or only when crisis hits

…..or to please somebody else

…….or the KIDS in JOHNSTONS > who only come on an EASTER SUNDAY > 4 eggs!!

 

SO WHAT! (roll up!!)

I always pray that GOD will not waste these moments -

……perhaps LITTLE SEEDS will be planted each time!

 

No matter what we might think to Nicodemus -

...at least he came

(unlike most of his peers -

…..and they usually approached him in public with the intention of trapping him verbally)

 

Nicodemus had seen the impact that JESUS      was having -

“What if I am missing something here?”

 

Read John 3:2 (Jesus’ words only)

 

Jesus replies John 3:3 (“” - “”)

 

JESUS confirmed that Nicodemus WAS missing something (along with generality of humankind)

 

IN EFFECT:

“Don’t be misled Nicodemus -

Is you think you can get to heaven by your own good works you will surely fail -

….you must be born again”

 

Read John 3:4 - 8 (speaking bits only)

 

Jesus uses a clever play on words -

 

The same word in GREEK (and Hebrew incidentally)

….for WIND and SPIRIT,

……..also signifies the BREATH OF GOD

 

“Nicodemus - you are doing it all in your own strength,

….in your own religiosity,

…….in your own efforts to be good enough for GOD”

 

BUT YOU ARE MERELY HUMAN/IMPERFECT -

you NEED HELP,

……GOD'S POWER,

……..GOD'S BREATH.

 

PART 2 - BORN AGAIN

 

The term BORN AGAIN is often misused and misunderstood now: bit mystical

  • Either ‘extremist, fundamentalist Christian’

  • OR - 1st class Christian > ‘I speak in tongues etc therefore I'm the real deal’

 

Jesus wasn’t being MYSTICAL/ELITIST -

 

JESUS was merely suggesting to Nicodemus,

that REAL FAITH wasn’t a human achievement (intellectual or effort)

…….but a WORK OF GOD,

………..GOD’S SPIRIT

 

Which of course - is a NEW START,

……………… = like being BORN AGAIN 

 

Not EASY for a LEARNED AND ACCOMPLISHED MAN TO HEAR

 

I like Nicodemus -

.he’s floundering a bit,

…..he’s got tons or religious baggage,

………but at least HONEST ENOUGH to engage with JESUS

 

I sometimes struggle to adjust to NEW IDEAS (that challenge my OLD IDEAS)

 

= often I will resist when I first hear them,

….get a bit defensive,

…….and only afterwards think ‘hmmm - perhaps they’re right and I’m wrong’

 

I think it’s to Nicodemus’ credit that he carries on engaging,

….despite how perplexing the conversation is becoming

 

John 3:9 ‘HOW CAN THESE THINGS BE!”  (he almost wails)

 

As I say -

let’s not judge him

(decades of believing that it’s your RELIGIOUS effort that pleases GOD -

….have been turned upside down IN ONE CONVERSATION,

…….I know how I’D react!)

 

Nicodemus has got a lot to take away with him,

…..and think about

 

YOUR BEING EARTHLY-

...IM TALKING ABOUT SPIRITUAL ISSUES

 

This is the basis for our faith

 

John 3:12-17 (READ)

 

SO -

Even more for NICODEMUS TO CHEW OVER

 

JESUS has just put himself at the centre -

…..BELIEVE IN ME - HAVE ETERNAL LIFE

 

There's no way that NICODEMUS can leave this meeting as neutral -

 

He’s now got to decide whether he’s FOR or AGAINST him

 

Believe in him

….or call him a fraud

 

PART 3 - WHAT BECAME OF NICODEMUS?

 

Q - So - what did happen to Nicodemus?

 

After this 1st encounter he went away -

we aren’t given an insight into his thoughts,

…….but if he wasn’t in TURMOIL, then I’m a carrot

 

He must have wrestled with his doubts -

….everything he KNEW had been questioned,

 

Perhaps he lay in bed RELIVING the conversation:

“Born again? - born of the spirit rather than flesh - WHAAAAT?”

 

I have no idea of timescale,

but I think we can answer the question:

……..What did happen to Nicodemus? (what decision did he come to?)

 

2nd appearance:

We see members of Nicodemus’ own party condemning Jesus

 

NICODEMUS (the man who had furtively visited Jesus in the night)

….now stands up for him publicly

 

Read JOHN 7:50-52a

 

And there’s a 3rd appearance

Christ had been deserted by practically all of his inner core of disciples

(THOSE WHO HAD PUBLICLY COMMITTED TO HIM FROM THE EARLIEST POINT)

 

= so perhaps it's ironic,

that now we see 2 admirers who (IN CONTRAST TO DISCIPLES)

……………………….were previously hiding timidly in the shadows -

 

….. = COME FORWARD

At great risk to themselves

 

Read John 19:38-42

 

These 2 formerly secret disciples,

….were making a public statement.

 

I asked - Q what happened to Nicodemus?

 

= I think it’s safe to conclude that after his period of reflection and inner wrestling

….on THAT secret night time conversation with Jesus,

 

………NICODEMUS let go of his past,

…………..and became BORN AGAIN

 

HOW much do you relate to Nicodemus?

 

In team building days there's a TRUST BUILDING EXERCISE

….where you fall into partners hands and you TRUST them to catch you.

 

Your SELF/SAFETY completely out of YOUR HANDS and into THEIRS

 

In effect -

this is what NICODEMUS eventually did

 

Letting go of YOUR OWN SELF,

….and saying ‘ok Jesus - LET your will be completely done in my life’

 

= is the equivalent of falling backwards

….it’s being BORN AGAIN 

 

If you DO relate to NICODEMUS -

 

**have you got off the fence and chosen to trust in Jesus?

 

**or do you relate to the Nicodemus of that first encounter -

Tentative, holding back, but interested?

 

If that’s you then why not speak to him now -

 

Be honest about your doubts. 

Speak of your desire to get more from life

….. more from your faith. 

 

= that inner peace that only Jesus can bring

 

BECAUSE, like Nicodemus,

…. SOONER OR LATER YOU'LL HAVE TO DECIDE

………are you FOR JESUS or AGAINST him?

 

Amen

 
 

Sunday 7th March 2021

Link to David’s Sunday 7th March video sermon address:

https://youtu.be/E_l4rrpZxis

Sunday Reflection - 7th March

When Love gets really, really angry’ 

John 2: 13-22

 

INTRODUCTION 

 

-Read text -

 

In our text today  You can almost HEAR the noise of the coins clinking on the stones,

….the tables crashing,

……..the corded whip cracking in the air

 

Jesus is royally hacked off,

 as he rampages furiously around the temple courtyard. 

 

How do you feel about this Jesus?

 are you surprised?

 

If Jesus is Love personified (as I believe) -

 then how can his behaviour be reconciled to his character?

 

Part - 1: ‘The Big Rip Off’

 

Emma and I went into a rather ancient Church in LEICESTER -

(a church famous for its colourful medieval history/and central to Leicester's history)

when 1st courting -

 

…..offered a guide book  (leaflet) by a ‘welcomer’

 

Yes please = HOW MUCH!

(I quickly handed it back)

 

To his disapproving scowl,

= i muttered defensively: ‘we’re only students’ (which seemed to make him scowl all the more!)

 

It ranks as the LEAST welcoming welcome I have ever received in a Church!

 

And WELCOME - or lack of it,

...is one of the major themes in this text

 

The ‘MARKET’ is in the court of the GENTILES -

the only place the gentile’s (us non-Jews),

………ARE ALLOWED TO GO

 

Except -

….rather than a place of worship,

……..and an opportunity to meet with their God -

 

= a GENTILE POPPING THEIR HEAD IN -

……would find that they have been largely displaced…

 

And if they do STEEL THEMSELVES to handle the noise and the bustle -

….they’ll get fleeced for their troubles!

 

Like the time as a kid my family and I visited Venice -

…a kindly seeming café owner noticed that my mum looked tired and offered us seats in his open air café. 

 

‘How nice’ - until we discovered that we had to pay through our noses  for the privilege of just sitting down!

 

THIS IS THE PASSOVER - the tills are ringing -

……the punters come pouring into the court of the Gentiles!

 

EVERY ADULT MALE JEW’S from a 15 mile radius,

……...is required to make this pilgrimage

 

1000’s come pouring in from all the surrounding areas:

 

PASSOVER of course,

….is the yearly memorial festival when the JEWS remember God,

………saving them from EGYPTIAN CAPTIVITY,

…………..millennia before

 

It’s not just an independence celebration -

it’s a REMINDER that God can be trusted for today,

…. because of what he did yesterday. 

 

Well - it SHOULD, be a spiritually MEANINGFUL AND SIGNIFICANT time

And when Moses 1st instituted it, it was -

 

………but In reality it had become a RIGGED ECCLESIASTICAL BUSINESS OPERATION

 

EVERY Jew (over 19) had to pay their temple tax - half shekel,

….. = 2 day’s wages

 

(that isn’t the corrupt bit -

….the temple has to be maintained in someway -

………just as we take up a collection every Sunday)

 

But the coins they brought (roman currency)

…..were considered TOO UNCLEAN (as they were foreign) by the priests -

 

SO - they had to be exchanged for a temple coin FROM THE MONEY CHANGERS

….(which they could then hand over)

 

AND HERE’S WHERE WE GET INTO THE DODGY STUFF

 (and see some serious money being made!)

 

There was an exchange rate -

….so to convert their ‘unclean currency’ into ‘clean money’ -

……they were charged the equivalent of another day's wages!

 

AND IN A POOR SOCIETY -

this often led to significant hardship,

…...in some cases FAMILIES would literally go hungry for a while

 

But those ancient ALAN SUGARS,

….had more more tricks up their sleeves:

 

In the same way that florists UP THE PRICES of flowers,

….on VALENTINES and MOTHERING SUNDAY

 

Those canny priests,

would OUTRAGEOUSLY  inflate the costs of sacrificial meat at the Passover

 

FOLKS HAD TO BUY MEAT THERE FOR OFFERINGS -

(law of Moses said it needed to be unblemished,

and priests would only accept the meat as ‘unblemished’ if it was brought from the temple)

 

So people couldn’t bring their OWN flocks -

or buy it from a reasonably priced retailer

 

  • this WASN’T in law of Moses,

            …but as only the priests could decide on what was or wasn’t unblemished,

            ……people  - ‘had to grin and bear it as they coughed up’

 

A quick historical fact -

when ROMAN GENERAL Crassus captured JERUSALEM in BC54,

…..he grabbed the ancient equivalent of 13 million quid to take back to ROME

 

In his personal diary he wrote,

..”it was all I could carry -

……and it was only a fraction of what those rich priests stored there”

 

Generally speaking the only GET RICH occupations in ancient ISRAEL,

……were TAX COLLECTING and the  SENIOR PRIESTHOOD 

                                (senior priests based in Jerusalem)

 

So - we have a situation where:

The ordinary JEWS WERE ROYALLY FLEECED

..and the GENTILES were excluded -

( because their section was taken over by the priestly entrepreneurs)

 

The TEMPLE (by tradition)

was supposed to ‘consecrate Jerusalem’

…….by its very presence

 

(because it was supposed to get it’s character from God)

 

WHEN JESUS ARRIVED -

there was no evidence of God’s character

………just naked greed,

the rich getting richer/ poor getting poorer/ 

and the outsider getting more and more marginalised

 

JOHNS ABOUT TO REVEAL  -

…… a side to Jesus that was unfamiliar even to those who knew him best

 

Part 2: The Furious Response

 

There are those who have commented that JESUS’ anger seems a bit disproportionate,

….and this text evidence that Jesus wasn’t so perfect and nicely nicely after all….

 

Personally, I feel that’s it’s perfectly proportionate -

(and ‘nicely nicely’ isn’t always the PERFECT RESPONSE to abuse and misuse)

 

JESUS was no outsider gate crashing this ‘festival’

….he was a JEW - required to come like any other Jew

 

A JEW who knew his prophets -

Jeremiah, Isaiah, Malachi and Zechariah

….their cries for FAIRNESS/EQUALITY/JUSTICE (REAL WORSHIP)

 

….he had come to this important festival (important place) to WORSHIP GOD -

……..and instead he encounters incredibly selfish money making at the expense of the poor

 

You can almost  sense the SHAME and ANGER welling up in him,

……… as he strikes out at the whole wretched business

 

“Do not make my father's house a house of merchandise!”

 

The words in the passage are strong:

“He DROVE them all out”  --  “poured out the changers money and overturned the tables”

 

You can almost HEAR the noise of the coins clinking on the stones,

….the tables crashing,

……..the corded whip cracking in the air

 

To the backdrop of awed gasps and jaw dropping shock

 

Here is a fulfilment of the prophecy of Malachi 3:2-3  READ PASSAGE

One historian I read,

…… pointed out that it was surprising that JESUS was not attacked or driven out himself,

………..as he FLEW AROUND THE TEMPLE COURTYARD

 

He goes on to conclude,

…..that MANY JEWS probably shared Jesus’ concerns -

……….share his CONCERN at the corruption

 

There may well have been many there (including some of the untainted priests),

….who had been thinking for some time that a CLEANSING WAS NEEDED,

 

……..but had just despondently accepted that the STATUS QUO would go unchallenged,

……………THE SYSTEMS TOO POWERFUL

 

WE hear in in Matthew, Mark and elsewhere that people were SURPRISED BY THE 

….AUTHORITY of Jesus’ teaching

…….”where does he get it from? - nobody else is like it’

 

I SUSPECT THIS AUTHORITY IS FULLY UNVEILED TODAY -

 

And alongside it we have a powerful symbol -

The WHIP CRACKING -

….a visual and audible symbol of the CLEANSING a > 

 

system become decadent and corrupt

 

But it’s more than just a ONE OFF protest -

...as many BIBLE COMMENTATORS point out:

 

Not just JESUS LOSING IT AS OTHERS HAVE MISCHIEVOUSLY SUGGESTED!

 

Part 3: The New Order

 

= the WHIP is sweeping out the old,

…..to make way for the new - FOR THE FUTURE

 

  • End to the ANIMAL SACRIFICEs and COMPLEX RELIGIOSITY -

  • End to the need to have a BUILDING to meet God in -

  • Or a bunch of priests to get past to reach God

 

I think this passage is a DRAMATIC SYMBOL,

 of a NEW way of living out faith -

 

START OF A WORSHIP THAT BEGINS HERE

  • Rather than in some posh building in the middle of jerusalem (or elsewhere)

 

THE TEMPLE (being rebuilt by Herod the great no less) - 

EMBODIES THE OLD SYSTEM

And JESUS EMBODIES the NEW SYSTEM -

 

He is the TEMPLE -

….he is the PRIESTHOOD,

…….he is the SACRIFICE…

 

And we meet him HERE (heart)

 

And this new priest is very odd (an upside down priest if u like)

 

  • he courts the outsiders - not the in crowd

  • he comes not to be served - but to serve

  • He comes takes the part of his people - not sponge off them

  • He comes to suffer  -  not live in decedent comfort

  • In humility  --  not arrogance

 

And in one of the most controversial statements -

….he verbally suggests that he will take the place of the TEMPLE,

 

……….he’ll be the MEANS BY WHICH PEOPLE (even foreigners) CAN MEET GOD

 

But at a terrible cost to himself:

“Destroy this temple - and in 3 days I will raise it up”

 

The GREEK word used earlier for temple (in this passage)was HIERON -

= simply meaning ‘sacred enclosure used for worship’

 

But the GREEK word JESUS uses  here for TEMPLE is NAOS

…..meaning = ‘dwelling place of deity’

 

Not everybody could (or chose to) understand what he meant -

For those with ears to hear -

Jesus clearly isn’t talking about just a building -

 

Knock ME down - and I will rise in 3 days

 

This isn’t a challenge -

….it’s a prophecy.

 

Not just a prophecy about Christ rising again -

= but a prophecy showing how his sacrifice -

…….will be the FINAL SACRIFICE GOD WANTS FOR HIS PEOPLE

 

ONCE risen -

the NEW temple (Christ)

……will replace the OLD Temple

 

Remember how the TEMPLE CURTAIN is ripped in 2 at the moment Jesus died?

(that is the beginning of the end for the old covenant)

 

The the end of us having to religiously trying to EARN GOD’S APPROVAL)

…..CHRIST has earned that approval on OUR BEHALF

 

(a gift handed on the grace-plate: 

…..for those who choose to accept it)

 

CONCLUSION AND CHALLENGE

 

I began by talking about WELCOMES -

 

Just as Emma and I were made to feel pretty unwelcome,

…… by that snotty church warden in Leicester -

………...so were the GENTILES made to feel unwelcome at the TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM.

 

Well - as far as true faith is concerned,

… = JESUS changed all that.

 

But as the WELCOMED IN -

…..are we emulating JESUS with our WARM WELCOMES

 

  • Do we choose humility over pride (even when swallowing our pride leaves us with sore throats and looking a bit less in the eyes of others?)

  • Do we put others 1st

  • Is serving more important to us than being served?

 

  • (QUIETLY) = do we reserve a welcome for our enemies, as well as for our friends?

 

We pray each Sunday ‘ forgive us as we forgive others’

…...do we welcome as we have been welcomed?

 

AMEN