Change is always hard. I am sure you have heard the joke…. How many Presbyterians does it take to change a lightbulb? …CHANGE?????? Presbyterians are notorious for not liking change. Well, today’s scriptures deal with the demands that faith put on us and the change that is required within us.
The readings also deal with the difficulty of unbelief and stubbornness. Both Deuteronomy and Hebrews deal with trying to keep the “hardening of hearts” in check, and a holy self-examination of motives.
In John, Jesus cleanses the Temple. It is quite something to see Jesus driving people out of the temple and overturning the moneychangers’ 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 the tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”
This is indeed extraordinary. God’s plan, it turns out, is to bring about change and renewal in people’s daily lives. It is extraordinary because people of the time were expecting a Messiah to be something quite different. They were expecting the Messiah to come and lead them out of the oppression of Rome, not reprimand them and demand better behavior from them.
This is the conundrum of the Lenten journey, and of our Christian faith. It is not all about validating our behavior, but about transforming our behavior to be more Christ-like. Change will be demanded of all of us.
For me the Lenten journey is much more basic in terms of transforming behavior. Many of you know my new position – not as a pastor but now in executive leadership. It requires much more driving and meetings than before….in other words more sitting on my rear! So I have realized I have to be intentional about yoga and running and going to the gym. So that’s the change that is required of me right now.
Jesus’ stark behavior is a warning, and a much deeper call to change. It warns us not to become too complacent in our spiritual practices, but constantly be on the lookout for how God may want us to conform our lives anew. The people of the time saw nothing wrong with the moneychangers. To buy doves and other sacrifices to God at the Temple was simply how things were done. This was the vehicle of grace!
Jesus said no. He was reinterpreting the spiritual trajectory of things. He was demanding we be circumspect about our walks in faith, to make sure our actions match our hearts’ beliefs.
This is quite a task. It will require our whole lives. Body, Mind, Spirit, and Voice. It will require a fair dose of God’s grace as well, as we journey this road our whole lives long.