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Jeremiah 7:1-7, from The Message
1 Corinthians 3:16
John 2:13-22, from The Message

        Do you not know that you are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

Do you not know that you are the holy ground on which heaven and earth come together? Do you not know that you are the dwelling place of the Most High—a living, breathing, laughing, crying, yearning piece of God’s heart set loose in the world? Do you not know that you were born with a divine seed planted in your heart, and that all it needs to blossom and grow is a little room, some humble trust, and a lot of awe? Do you not know that you are an instrument of God’s peace, a spark of God’s love, a bundle of holy potential, a beautiful house where the Lord of Love and a broken world sit down together to share a meal?

        Do you not know?

        And if we did know, if we could even begin even to grasp that, how might our lives, how might we, how might the world be changed?

        I wonder if this is what Jesus was getting at when he went up to Jerusalem for Passover, walked into the outer courts of the temple, and began raising holy hell. I mean, it wasn’t as if the people selling sheep and cattle and doves were not offering a public service, providing unblemished sacrifice animals to pilgrims who had traveled long distances. It wasn’t as if the moneychangers were not also sanctioned by the temple authorities, letting the pilgrims exchange their Roman coins for blank ones so they could pay the temple tax.

        Didn’t Jesus know this was how things worked?

        Seeing an apparent madman swinging a whip, sheep running this way and that, tables overturned, and coins flying, the religious authorities looked at Jesus and wanted to know: What was his problem, anyway?

        Jesus was more than willing to tell them. Jesus is more than willing to tell us.

        It’s a problem, Jesus says, when we confuse a building with God. It’s a problem when we confuse religious practice with right living. But perhaps the biggest problem is when we fail to see the living temple: God dwelling in human flesh. His human flesh. Our human flesh.

        Well, we’ll get to that.

        But first, we need to back-track a little bit, because the lectionary has thrown us a curve ball. We’re used to coming across this story near the end of the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. We’re used to hearing this story during Holy Week. That’s when we hear that Jesus “cleansed” the temple soon after he made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We hear that Jesus, like the prophet Jeremiah, is really upset about religious corruption and false worship. In his own time, Jesus is distressed by the temple authorities’ fearful collaboration with the injustices of Rome.

        But here we are in the third Sunday in Lent, hearing what seems like the same story—only it’s not. Thisversion comes near the beginning of the Gospel According to John and, there, at almost the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Here, Jesus is not making a dramatic exit but a powerful entrance.

        In the other gospels, Jesus’ angry raid on the temple is the last straw; it gives authorities a final pretext to arrest him. But here, John has Jesus making a different point: not so much about the temple as about himself. Not so much about religious ritual as about humanity’s holy purpose.

        I am the temple, he says, the place where God and God’s people come together.

        You are the temple. We, as the Body of Christ, a community of God’s Spirit, are a dwelling place for God—not only sanctuary, rock and refuge, but also birthing place, changing place, healing place, and, yes, a place and a community that confronts unjust power, that cares for God’s children, that seeks out the lost and the left-out.

        Which brings us back to the “cleansing” and clearing out part of this story—back to the season of Lent, with all its invitations to give up, let go, and even die to what is not true, all that is not life-giving, all that comes between us and the Holy, all that gets in the way between us and real life, all that stunts our growth and keeps us from being all we were created to be.

        In these times when decluttering has gone from fad to near-religion, it can be helpful to think of ourselves as a house. I am no expert, but from what I can tell, the goal of true decluttering is not to keep everything we have but put it in neater piles. No, the point seems to be to actually clear things out, to throw out the things that get in the way, to get rid of the things that hold us back, to trash the things that don’t give us joy. The goal is not so much to have an uncluttered and clean house as to make room for life to happen there, to make way for peace and harmony and new life.

        And if we think of ourselves as a house, it can be even more helpful to think of ourselves as a temple.

        But make no mistake: Lent is no more about tidying up than Jesus’ rampage through the temple was about cleaning up around the edges. It is about transformation. It is about tearing down the temples we have built to ourselves, it is about throwing out all that comes between us and our creator: the God of Healing, the God of Mercy, the God of the Poor, the God of Justice. It is about getting rid of the thought patterns that prevent us from living into the truth that we are beloved and that we and all God’s children are one. It is about cleaning out the resentment and bitterness that come between us and healing. It is about breaking the habits that harden our hearts and deaden our souls. It is about letting go of all that is not helpful—the fear that binds us, the anger and judgment that separate us, the hostility that hobbles, the self-centeredness that blinds. It is about throwing open the windows of our hearts and letting God’s love in. It is about weeding out the gardens of our lives so that good things can grow. It is about making time and making room for Spirit.

        Do you not know that you are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

        Do you not know that you are the holy ground on which heaven and earth come together? Do you not know that you are the dwelling place of the Most High—a living, breathing, laughing, crying, yearning piece of God’s heart set loose in the world? Do you not know that you were born with a divine seed planted in your heart, and that all it needs to blossom and grow is a little room, some humble trust, and a lot of awe? Do you not know that you are an instrument of God’s peace, a spark of God’s love, a bundle of holy potential, a beautiful house where the Lord of Love and a broken world sit down together to share a meal?

        Be still, and know. Be still, and be known. Be still, and let Love do its holy work within you.