March 3, 2024, The Third Sunday in Lent. Sermon Preached By Rev. Katie Holicky

3.3.24 Lent 3     The Rev. Katie Holicky, Assistant Rector

Friends, I was so excited to read the very first sentence of the Gospel story today. Did you notice that the Temple had sort of a store going?! I thought, well, maybe we should have a store. Hold on, I’ll be right back. (Hang sign “St. Paul’s Saintly Wares” and get cart “church store” with different wares). 

Like it’s fun to go shopping, right?! So maybe we have this St. Paul’s Saintly Wares store and we could sell things like T-Shirts (hold up Hall and Oats shirt), or yarn for all of those knitters out there (hold up yarn), Hmm… maybe not churchy enough for you. Ok well how about this Presiding Bishop Micahel Curry bobblehead (hold up bobblehead) and mugs (hold up Jesus “OMG you guys that’s not what I said” mug), . It could be cool! We could sell it all! Really turn a pretty penny! 

What do you think? Do you think Jesus would be pleased or happy with that? Wait, what?! He wouldn’t?! Hmmm, you know what… (get Gospel book from altar) as I keep reading I think you are right. (pack store away off to the side) Ok, it is with this that I officially and forever close St. Paul’s Saintly Wares. So, let’s remember this church store idea because we are going to come back to it in a bit, and now let’s turn to the rest of the story. 

So, Jesus has just started his ministry. He has just left the wedding at Cana where he performed the miracle of turning water into wine. (show picture) This is his first big public appearance. In the book of John, Jesus goes to Jerusalem a few times unlike other Gospels where Jesus’ ministry builds up to the last week of his life in Jerusalem. He, like many, many others, is there for, “Passover, the week-long spring festival celebrating the Exodus from Egypt and the barley harvest…closely associated with liberation from oppression and divine salvation, past and future” (JANT, 161). 

This moment in the Temple sets up the tension or big feelings between Jesus and the Temple Authorities/ Jewish Leaders from the start. Here is an important justice note for us: In the book of John we always want to keep an eye out for language that might make it seem like all ancient Jewish folks were “against” Jesus. For example, in verse eighteen when we hear the phrase “the Jews”, we should more accurately hear that as Temple Authorities (JANT, 161). 

I wonder, have you ever arrived somewhere and it was not what you expected? What did that feel like? Maybe you felt surprised or anxious. (wait for answers) Well, that happened to Jesus in this story. And when he saw what was happening in the Temple, people selling goods and cheating each other in the place where people were supposed to have sacred worship of and with God, he got some BIG feelings! This was a place meant to be in right relationship with God and the people were not doing things that helped them to be in right relationship with God. 

Do you remember what he did? Yes, he grabbed a whip and drove the animals and people out of the Temple while he also turned over tables and poured all of the money on the floor. (show picture) He was upset and he made a BIG mess! Can you remember a time where you had big feelings? What did your body feel like? (wait for answers) So, maybe we can see how Jesus found himself doing these things. 

Jesus had big feelings too. Here we see the way Jesus was a full and complete human. He acted from those big feelings to clear the Temple and remind folks what that sacred place was truly for, to build and be in right relationship with God. And in that we see that Jesus is also divine. One of the things about this though is that Jesus’ big feelings brought him to actions that were considered violent and dangerous under Roman Law, which was the law the people in Jerusalem had to follow. And so, as we mentioned before early in the Gospel of John Jesus is at odds with the Temple Authorities. 

Remember my rather short lived church store? Well since we aren’t doing that, I wonder…what IS our space meant for? What are we supposed to be doing here? Possible answers: Worship, doing the work of justice, welcoming the stranger, being in community, sharing our space with those who might need to use it for education etc. To be a church family who loves and supports one another no matter what. To trust in the process and work of conflict; that it can help us grow and is part of healthy and functioning community and rejoice at the goodness that comes on the other side. To be a place where we live into the fullness of our humanity, using our big feelings to lead us to right actions that confront empire and build God’s loving and justice kin-dom. 

At the end of this story the storyteller, or narrator, reminds us of what we are spending the season of Lent preparing for, Easter, The Resurrection. We take this time to notice what distracts us from God and spend time growing our relationships with God. May we do so while also keeping in mind what this place is for, who we are, what we are called to do here. And may this season of transition bring us to rejoice in the gift of Resurrection in a new way. May it be so.