“The Passover of the Jews was at hand [think Passover meal, with the lamb without blemish in Exodus 12:1-20], and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the Temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons and the money-changers at their business. And making a whip of cords [Jesus] drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the Temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.’ … ‘Destroy this Temple [they did not understand Jesus was speaking of his own body], and in three days I will raise it up’” (John 2:14-16, 19; emphasis added).
In the Gospel text for this coming weekend (John 2:13-22), we come to see how the “sacrificial system” of the Old Testament, as a way of relating to God, comes to an end. God is no longer available primarily, let alone exclusively, via the Temple. Rather, as St. John makes clear from the very opening verses of his gospel witness, that in the very person of Jesus we are invited to experience God’s “grace upon grace” (John 1:17) through our faith in him.
Given that St. John’s gospel was written well after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans (70 A.D.), his insistence … and especially reassurance … to the early Christian community, that they will find God’s mercy in Christ outside rather than inside the Temple, makes practical as well as theological sense. So it is for us today.
Many of us too often think of church as a destination. It’s a place we go to receive … well, spiritual things. (For example: What do you think of? God’s Word of the forgiveness of sins? God’s Word of hope? Receiving baptism or communion?). But taking a cue from our Gospel text for this weekend (and every day!) I wonder if we’re only seeing part of the picture of the life of worship as well as faith. Worship is a the heart of the Christian faith, it’s foundational, make no mistake; however it’s also a time and place where God then sends us out into the world to bear the good news of salvation that’s been so graciously given to us in the ultimate sacrifice – once and for all in Christ Jesus, by his cross and resurrection (cf. Romans 6:10; Hebrews 10:10; I Peter 3:8).
One way to illustrate this truth is by drawing upon the third book in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia – where the beloved lion, Aslan, tells the children that even after they leave the land of Narnia, they will continue to see him in the needs of others. This is key to what Jesus is teaching us still today, in our text from John 2:13-22: that we come to church, to worship, because in the proclamation of the Gospel and sharing of the sacraments we see God’s forgiveness and grace for us most clearly. But then … we are sent out to look for God and, even more, to partner with God in our various vocations or jobs (cf. Philippians 1:5; Ephesians 3:10) – to bless the people and the world that “God so loves that he even gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16) that we might have “life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Worship and witness, these are the centripetal and centrifugal movements (remember your middle school science class?) of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, what we might call the “physics of faith.”
God’s grace to you this day, and throughout the new week. See you at worship … and … then “Go in peace and serve the Lord.”