Thursday, March 1, 2018

Cleaning House

Realizing that I haven't updated this blog with a new post in many weeks, it occurred to me that it is rather easy to be distracted by a felt need to be respond to everything at the expense of focusing on the One thing. If for nothing else, the last several days have provided an opportunity to reflect and take stock of a period of time that, even in hindsight, is a blur with incidents and other happenings that have limited my ability to be proactive. This is not a complaint, but rather an observation.

Ideally, Lent is meant to afford us with this opportunity of pausing to inventory our lives, to engage in a spiritual housecleaning of our hearts and minds. To this end, I frequently advocate for postponing meetings of committees and councils, if at all possible, until the season is over -- not just to free up time from these activities, but to create time for matters of primary importance and the intentional nurture of our relationship with God. The vitality of our faith depends on it.

Both in anticipation of the recently completed building project, and in these weeks that have followed it, there have been many occasions for sorting through accumulated clutter of papers and materials from past programs and projects. Not everything is a candidate for the archives! During these moments of house cleaning, bags and boxes of stuff were sent to the recycle bin or piled in the dumpster. Cabinets were organized, closets were excavated, and offices were purged of years of accumulated detritus. It  really is amazing to discover what is worth saving amidst all that we think is so important. This process of cleaning house is clarifying. This same process can be applied to our spiritual lives as well.

In the reading from John's gospel this coming Sunday, we hear an account the so-called "cleansing" of the temple by Jesus. This scene is described in all four of the gospels, but only in John's gospel is it included so early in the ministry of Jesus. Upon entering the temple, Jesus encountered a mass of misplaced priorities, profiteering, and manipulation. All this occurred in a place and within a community that had been distracted by the clutter of self-preservation and self-interest. Jesus became angry. With little of what we would refer to as tact and diplomacy, Jesus overturns the tables and drives out the sheep and the cattle. In John's account, there is no reason to assume that Jesus drove out the money changers. They are left to be confronted with the point blank preaching of Jesus. They have not been dismissed as unworthy of correction, repentance and redemption.

Such a surgical cleansing is more difficult than a hasty clearing. When we engage in self-examination, we can be assured that God desires us to allow our unfaithful and sinful actions and attitudes to be expelled. Yet we need to be reminded that we are not driven out. We get to remain. We  encounter God's will and purpose for our lives as His children.

Christ Cleansing the Temple
El Greco, circa 1600

Third Sunday in Lent
March 4, 2018

Prayer of the Day
Holy God, through your Son you have called us to live faithfully and act courageously. Keep us steadfast in your covenant of grace, and teach us the wisdom that comes only through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Readings and Psalm
Exodus 20:1-17 
Psalm 19 
1 Corinthians 1:18-25 
John 2:13-22