Wednesday, March 14, 2012

AFTER..... Sermon for Year B Lent 3


I tried to find a song for Lent 3.
After all, we had THE RAINBOW CONNECTION for Lent 1

But I couldn’t find a song about overturning tables or making a whip of cords.
I thought about WHO LET THE DOGS OUT
or Bruce Springsteen’s THE WRECKING BALL.
I didn’t find THE perfect song
until after I realized that this gospel is not so much
about the table overturning
as it is about what happens AFTER the table turning over.
So my song for Lent 3 has to be Johnny Nash’s
More about that in a few minutes.

Back to the Temple.

This is no meek and mild Jesus.
Jesus is angry.
He didn’t just send an email saying could you not do these things--
using the temple for making a profit--
he didn’t calmly show up and enter into negotiations.
Jesus shows up mad!
He is furious.
He uses a whip to drive people out!!
This is some serious Jesus!

This story appears in all four of the Gospels--
which indicates that this really happened.
That this story is not just metaphor.

But what has happened here?

When Jesus enters the temple
he finds men selling cattle and sheep and doves.
They are selling these to those
who have made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Pilgrims were obligated to make a sacrifice.

They needed to exchange their Roman currency into Jewish money
in order to pay the temple tax---also mandatory.

Those who sold the animals and those who changed the money
were not honest business men.
Far from it.
They traded at an exorbitant profit.

It’s a little bit like buying a bottle of water at the airport.
You could buy it for 59 cents at Ingles,
but because of security regulations,
you can’t bring any liquids in (I understand that!)--
but he shops inside airport security,
will gladly sell you this 12 oz. bottle of water
for only $ 2.99.

Nothing one can do about it--if you want a bottle of water.
Or if you need some Roman currency
or an animal for sacrifice,
you pay the price.

But that doesn’t make it right.

Jesus is angry because of the exploitation and greed.
Jesus, as usual, is on the side of the ones who have little--
little in resources and little choice about the matter.

When asked to justify his actions with a sign to the authorities,
Jesus does not perform a sign.
He is not there to perform or to please.
Jesus talks about the temple being destroyed
and rebuilt in three days.

This must have been confusing--even to his disciples--
the building of the temple had begun over 50 years earlier--
and was not completed yet.
In fact it would not be finished for at least 20 more years.
But then there is a twist to the story:
gospel is very specific and says---
He [Jesus] was speaking of the temple of his body.

As we move farther into Lent,
closer and closer to Holy Week,
the gospel text becomes more and more prophetic about what is ahead.

Often when I read a passage of scripture
I try to listen for a word or a phrase that is “illuminated.”
The word or phrase that really strikes me, that stands out,
causes me to think.

This week it is the final verse of our gospel. Verse 22:

After he was raised from the dead,
his disciples remembered that he had said this;
and they believed the scripture
and the word that Jesus had spoken.

The illuminated word for me in this verse is the word AFTER.

How often do we figure things out, understand things,
realize the value of something or someone
AFTER the fact?

Listen to this wisdom story by Anthony DeMello:

Once upon a time, a miser hid his gold at the foot of a tree in his garden.

Every week he would dig it up and look at it for hours.
Only one day, a thief dug up the gold
and made off with it.

When the miser next came to gaze upon his treasure,
all he found was an empty hole.

The man began to howl and wail with grief,
so his neighbors came running to find out what the trouble was.

When they found out, one of them asked,
“Did you ever use any of the gold?”

“No,” said the miser. “I only looked at it every week.”

“Well then,” said the neighbor,
“for all the good the gold did you,
you might as well come every week and gaze upon the hole.”

[Source: Anthony de Mello, S.J.;]

Sometimes we only understand the value
AFTER something or someone we love is gone,
AFTER we are left gazing at the empty hole that remains in our life.

How difficult it is to really understand, to be present
to the people, to the events, to the meaning behind the words
when we are in the midst of them.

This has always bothered me.
I want to be fully present to the moment.
I want to be alert and aware right now.
Somehow there is a sense of failure
to not get it-- until later.

Only this week,
as I studied this gospel,
I made friends with that word “AFTER.”
I thought,
You know, AFTER is okay.

God is not the White Rabbit of Alice in Wonderland fame,
pulling out a pocket watch
and chiding, You’re late! You’re late! You’re late!

God is not a journalist--
God is not trying to get down the who-what-when-where-how or why
of the story as it is happening.
God is always waiting for us in the AFTER.

God doesn’t care WHEN we get the meaning of the message--
God is incredibly patient.
It seems God has more of a “better late than never” mindset

God is so patient.
God waits patiently and faithfully
until we make our way to understanding.

AFTER is an interesting word,
but REMEMBER is a beautiful word.

When we remember something,
we put the event, the person, the actions
back together again.
We re-member.

We take all the parts and pieces
and put them together and make them whole.
We take all our parts and pieces
and realize that we too have been made whole in the process
of re-membering.

Remembering is an enormous part
of whom we are as Christians.

We began Lent on Ash Wednesday with remembering---
Remember that you are dust....

We celebrate the Eucharist each week--
We remember his death....
Do this for the remembrance of me.

The disciples were only transformed AFTER they remembered.
Then they understood.
Then they got it and knew what Jesus meant
and what he was calling them to do.

God gives us this gift-- of re-membering.
We re-build what once was.
We rebuild the temple.

And sometimes we have to tear down,
to empty out the old
to make room for the new and all that is holy.

God never considers us overdue or past tense or expired.
The time is never too late.

Because amazing things can happen AFTER...
I can see clearly now...finally...AFTER...

AFTER he was raised from the dead,
his disciples remembered that he had said this;
and they believed the scripture
and the word that Jesus had spoken.

I can see clearly now.

1 comment:

Tom E said...

Great sermon Jeanne. Thanks!