Lent 3, Year B Rev. Katie Holicky, St. Paul’s Assistant Rector
Recently, I was on Zoom when a colleague texted me and noted my rainbow organized bookshelf behind me. Now, I identify as being a rather fastidious person so you can imagine this feedback was a total delight for me. If you have seen their book, or show on Netflix, you might know I got this idea from “The Home Edit”. The Home Edit is a style or process of organizing based upon four principles… edit, categorize, contain, maintain.
As I watch these organizational professionals clear out spaces for folks and find systems that work for each individual or family, I feel a full ray of emotions. I feel a deep discomfort when they pull all of the stuff out in a total disarray as they begin to take stock of what is before them and discern what should actually remain. I feel a bit of relief as they get rid of what is no longer needed and begin to organize into helpful categories of what is to remain. I feel energy to take action and look around my own home as they talk about creating a system that you can actually maintain. Yes, things are neatly put back in place in their right order, here is where I feel a deep sense of peace, yet there is always the work of maintenance to do. They often say… it only works if you find a system that you can maintain.
Here in John, we have just left the Wedding in Cana where Jesus performed his first miracle, or sign in this Gospel. He has just turned water into wine stepping fully into who he is and the ministry he is to have. It is important to note that this is the only Gospel where this moment of clearing the Temple happens at the start of his ministry. Setting up the tension between Jesus and the religious leaders from the very start (TBC, 341). Remember that in John, Jesus finds his way to Jerusalem a few times. But this moment… the clearing of the Temple, is Jesus’ “inaugural public appearance” (JANT, 161).
We find Jesus and his disciples in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast, just as he would have been during the last week of his life (SP, 76). We note that “The feast was a combination of earlier feasts linked with the Exodus that “became not only a powerful symbol of hope and redemption but also a central religious experience in the life of Israel” (SP, 76). This feast they are preparing to celebrate holds a clear connection to liberation, salvation (JANT, 161).
This early story in John also points to the crucifixion and resurrection, and is one of many times that those around Jesus do not understand what he is trying to tell them (TBC, 341). In fact, one of the things I appreciate about this text is that the narrator knows how confusing it is, and so they name the bit about how the disciples later understood this moment and what Jesus was saying (SP, 79).
One theologian notes his activity in this moment held next to his lack of speech, “Jesus does not speak, but every verb in vv 14-15 has Jesus as its subject” (SP, 77). When looking at paintings of this story we are given countless images that are active, forceful, and swift. These are perhaps the most kinetic images I have seen of Jesus. Even as I see him on the cross I am offered a sense of stillness.
I recall a family favorite. The rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. At this moment in the musical he arrives at the Temple to see people selling all sorts of goods. As he moves to action he starts with a coat rack full of clothes flipping it over, sleeves and pant legs flying every which way through the air as it crashes to the ground. Then, he moves from table to table flipping them over. At one point he even smashes items before flipping the tables.
Y’all, this is my Jesus; not just speaking but also acting. My wild Jesus demanding justice. And yet, I stand here before you wrestling deeply with this Jesus that I have always found so dear. My very own cry for social justice in the world. Some of my favorite internet memes are the ones that say something like, “When people ask you what would Jesus do, remind them that flipping over tables and driving people out with a whip is within the realm of possibilities”.
However, I find myself struggling because in the face of such a divided world, a world where it seems so many people find themselves in their opinion wanting to drive out the opinion of another. I am sure to the delight of the real money changes… We see each other as the money changers. This is hard for me because with each passing day I hear the loundening of God’s voice calling us to love one another. To show one another the way forward to kin-dom in love. Is this even possible?
Jesus draws me deeper into conflict when he challenges the religious leaders saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” While those around Jesus miss what he is saying, we who know how the story ends have certainty in Jesus naming his own body as the Temple. So I wonder… What does this mean for my body as a Temple? Might Jesus turn the tables of my heart?
I imagine both the act of clearing the Temple…… and the act of cleaning the Temple after it has been wrecked. Active, jarring, surprising, and perhaps even painful. Both require a lot of work and ask us to be willing to destroy and build up. While I might not be rebuilding in three days, I do wonder what it would be like to really invite Jesus in, to flip the tables of my heart that need flipping, shake me up and clear some parts of me out to make room for more than I ever thought I was meant for. A version of The Home Edit of my holistic being, my soul. What needs to be edited, categorized, contained and how might I maintain my heart and spirit when it is done? Lent seems like the perfect time to discern this process.
And so today this is my prayer. That Jesus will continue to turn the tables of my own heart, making more room, drawing me deeper in ways that open me up to others and to God. To learn more deeply that my righteous anger can move me to loving and powerful action. That in clearing of the Temple I am, I am given the patience and love to have conversations across divides, to find myself moved from opposition to connection. AND… I pray that Jesus turns the tables of your heart…cleansing the Temple that you are and bringing you deeper into relationship with God and ALL of God’s people. So, what will you drive out? How will you invite Jesus to clear the Temple of your heart?
Jewish Annotated New Testament
Theological Bible Commentary
Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of John