Sunday, March 11, 2012

Jesus calls us to true worship

What is that man doing over there? When you go to a house of worship there are certain things you come to expect: in Jerusalem that would include going up to the Temple Mount and in through the Court of the Gentiles. There you could begin to pray – or you could buy a pigeon or two doves or cattle or sheep – everything you need for a sacrifice. You could change your money. A coin with Caesar’s head on it could not be accepted. For temple offerings you need shekels. So that is what you come to expect: a busy market, a marketplace of prayers… perhaps – a marketplace of souls?

But our souls are not for sale. And neither is God’s grace. The Ten Commandments were sure things – but they were not magic strings. They did not compel God to mercy. They were a way of keeping the covenant, of keeping the promise of the relationship with God. That relationship heated up on Sinai with the words Moses heard from God, words we heard today in the first reading.

“I am the Lord your God” – there is no other; I am the One – “who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

And in the house of prayer which the Temple was meant to be, this liberation from bondage, the end of slavery, was to be remembered and celebrated. So the commandments were to be observed – pointing beyond themselves to a relationship.

Keeping the commandments was a way of acting out the relationship, of showing with your body what you meant with your mind.

But the day would come, the prophets said, when money would no longer change hands in the courtyard, when birds and beasts would not turn the place into the courtyard of a caravanserai, the common yard of an inn – a fairground of the soul.

That is what Jesus was doing, proclaiming by his action the end of business as usual in the Temple.

But they asked him for a sign. Where are your credentials? What gives you the right?

And he replied with a riddle: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

Are you nuts, buddy? No – he is more than a prophet.

Up till now the Jews worshipped at the Temple. But that time is passing.

A new day is dawning, the day when true worshippers will worship in spirit and in truth – when the presence of God is sought not in a place but in a person – the person of Jesus Christ – and when we seek the Lord we will do it by saying we wish to see Jesus.

But where shall we see Jesus now? How shall we seek him out? Seek him where he wills to be found:

Seek him where he wills to be found. Seek him where he reveals himself. Seek him where he said you could see him and serve him. Serve him in the least of these.

Serve him so that when the naked are clothed and the hungry are fed and the sick and in prison are visited and the jubilee year of God is proclaimed, and when we speak up for the captives, saying, FREE THEM, that all will know that God is present in the world, at work through the body of Christ which is his church.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart and the actions of my hands, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. 

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