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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Today’s Reading | John 2:1–23

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there for a few days.

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 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.

When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. (NRSV)

I’m always struck by how early the account of the cleansing of the temple comes in John’s Gospel. The others have it coming after the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In John, Jesus gets baptized, calls his disciples, helps cater the wedding in Cana, and then he goes to Passover and says, “I’m here to whip moneychangers and chew bubble gum, and I’m all out of bubble gum.”

That’s a loose translation.

So, John is not really concerned with time line. The author of this Gospel, though, is clearly pretty impressed by the significance of the act. Jesus overturns the practice of religion—these people were there because the practice of the Jewish religion mandated certain types of sacrifice and offering, just anything would not do. And if you were traveling, you couldn’t just toss your goat or your ram or your doves into the back of your Prius and drive to Jerusalem. Transporting things was difficult and expensive, so most people had to procure their offerings on-site. People coming from all over had a lot of different currencies that had to be changed into temple currency and broken into smaller denominations. Every transaction resulted in the changer getting a cut. The practice of the faith had become mercantile, a commercial opportunity.

Jesus comes in and turns this on its head. It’s a revolutionary, transformative moment, not only in religious thought but in religious practice. Barriers between the people and God are being destroyed. If you don’t have the local currency, come to God anyway. If your doves are not absolutely perfect, come to God anyway. If you can’t afford a young ram, come to God anyway. God’s temple is not a marketplace; it is a place of communion and it is for everyone.

And then Jesus seals the deal by telling everyone about the great transformation he will undergo—the transformation from life to death to life. Transforming our thought, transforming our practice, transforming our essence. Signs that big, significant stuff is coming.

I think I might try to get that into my story pretty early, too.

Dear Lord, we need transformation as much as the world ever did, a revolutionary change in our hearts, our minds, and our actions. Help us to see that every life matters, that all are equally precious to you, and that all are welcome in your house. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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