Messiah Lutheran Church :: Love the Lord's House

Love the Lord's House

Dear Friends in Christ,

            I read an article that was thought provoking.  It was written by a person who asks the question, “Where can a person who likes going to church go to church?”  Many churches these days are designing church for the person who doesn’t like to go to church.  It is true, as Paul says, that we need to “be all things to all people,” but many times in designing church for people who don’t like to go to church ends up diluting or polluting the Word that changes people’s hearts.  They ignore the Biblical principle that the Word changes people’s hearts, not gimmicks.

            For instance, he wrote, that many are designing services:

·         With music similar to what we hear on the radio that’s hitting the Top 40.  He said that he could turn the radio to hear that.   

·         He said many are teaching only about marriage or financial matters or health or parenting advice instead of salvation.  The author said that he could watch Dr. Phil or Oprah or Dr. Oz for that, or he could visit the self-help section at the book store.

·         He wrote that many are addressing the subject of a poor y self-image. I don’t know about other people, but I have always had far too high an opinion of myself and could use someone taking me down a few notches.

·         He wrote that many churches are spending sermon time teaching the spiritual meaning of the latest movies and TV shows. He said he watches movies and TV to be entertained, not to grow spiritually.

Today we get a look at a very intense Lord Jesus who is very concerned about what goes on in his house.  Our Lord would have us to “Love the Lord’s House.” We can see easily 1) There are some wrong reasons; 2) There are also the right reasons. 

            Jesus actually cleansed the temple twice, once at the beginning of his ministry and once during holy week, the same week he would die.  This one occurred during his first year of his three year ministry.  In fact, it occurred not long after he did his first public miracle when he changed water into wine at the wedding in Cana .  After that he headed down to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the great holy days on the Jewish church calendar, the Passover.  When he got there, what he saw was not good. 

            If you remember from Jewish history a little more than 500 years earlier, the Jews had been in captivity for 70 years in the land of Babylon .  When Babylon fell to the Persian armies, the Persian king said the Hebrew nation could return to Jerusalem .  When they returned, they saw their city destroyed; they saw the city walls broken down; they saw the great temple in rubble. How disheartening that must have been. Better than 500 years later, it was déjà vu all over again. 

What Jesus saw going on in the temple wasn’t pleasing at all.  “When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem . In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.”

            The state of Colorado is a state of all kinds of odors.  When we go to see our family in Colorado , we go up I-76 from Denver to Fort Morgan .  Along the way there are huge feed lots a few places on I-76 there are huge feed lots where thousands of cattle are corralled and raised and fed.  Let’s put it this way, you don’t need to be able to see to know what you are passing. 

The temple in Jerusalem wasn’t a pleasant place to be either for the same reason.  John seems to describe it as a cross between a giant barn, filled with livestock, and a mall with a banking center.

            Every good Jew no matter where he lived in the world was supposed to come to Jerusalem three times a year to celebrate the Jewish feasts.  Passover was one of the special ones.  At Passover a lamb was needed for the Passover meal.  Instead of bringing them from Egypt or Rome or Antioch , there were people who tried to accommodate those who had to travel.  They sold them in Jerusalem .  There was nothing wrong with that until they finally made a stockyard of the temple.  They set up pens in the Court of the Gentiles right in the temple proper itself.

            Imagine all the noise, the bleating, the bartering and yelling.  It was more like the floor of the New York Stock Exchange - cha-ching - than church.  Imagine the noise and commotion.  How conducive do you think that was for worship and prayer?  In fact, with all the money that exchanged hands (cha-ching) and commotion, I wonder if anyone cared about worship and prayer that was supposed to take place.

            Then there were the moneychangers. People came from other nations and their currency needed to be changed into the same currency that was used in the temple – cha-ching.  Moneychangers, for a percentage exchanged the money - cha-ching. A temple tax was charged – cha ching.  Historians say there was lots of money floating around.  An armored chariot company could have made a business transporting it to Jerusalem First National.        

            All this irreverence rightly angered Jesus.  Jesus shows some righteous wrath.  “So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”

            I love Thomas Kinkade art.  His use of light in his paintings is so spectacular.  My dear wife was so kind to me at Christmas and bought me one of his paintings called Forest Chapel. He pictures a little church next to a stream at the edge of the forest.  It reminds me of the chapel that is at Callaway Gardens .  Kinkade said about that painting, “The Forest Chapel portrays a daydream I've had many times: often while hiking some wooded trail I've come upon a spectacular flowering meadow and thought, "What a wonderful place to worship God".  So serene and so quiet! So easy to set your mind on the Lord!

            I wonder how the Lord feels about the churches that have the $60 million budgets, a maze of buildings with the pastors who own Gulfstream jets and live in luxurious mansions and travel in limousines complete with body guards.  I wonder what the Lord thinks about pastors who seem more like rock stars than men called to bring people to the rock of their salvation.  I wonder what the LORD thinks when politicians show up in pulpits to explain their political agenda instead of pastors laying out God’s agenda for all - forgiveness of sins in Christ alone.  I wonder what the LORD thinks when God’s people think that a successful Sunday is making budget instead of having 100% of members in church with the Word of God preached clearly.  I wonder what the LORD thinks when the first thing we do is look at are the financial figures from last week instead of the Old Testament Lesson, the Epistle Lesson and the Gospel lesson from this week.  I wonder what the LORD thinks when we wonder what’s going to be on the fellowship table after the service instead of rejoicing that God’s people were fed with Word and Sacrament.  I wonder what the Lord thinks when people see the gathering of God’s people as an opportunity to network with people more than connecting with the LORD.  These are just a small number of wrong reasons to love the LORD’S house.  What is your reason?   

            When the disciples saw Jesus righteous wrath shown in the overturning of the tables and herding the livestock from the temple, the Bible tells us, “His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” It would appear that Jesus taught the disciples Psalm 69 in which the verse, “Zeal for your house will consume me,” is found.  Psalm 69 is a messianic psalm, a psalm that serves as a prophecy about the Messiah.  One of the marks Messiah would have is zeal for God’s house.  The disciples saw it unfold before their eyes. 

Zeal consumed Jesus.  In the Greek language the word zeal comes from a world that means to boil over. It sure did boil over.   

            This wasn’t the first time nor would it be the last.  Jesus was always there for the festivals.  When he was twelve Jesus was found in the temple when he was left behind questioning the religious leaders and answering questions.  Remember he needed to do that for us who so often are reluctant and try to make excuses why we are not here.  That was part of his perfect obedience on our behalf.   

            Back to the temple!  The people who were tossed from the temple were angry.  That happens when people’s income is affected, no matter how displeasing to God that income might be.  “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”  What gives you the right, Mr. Jesus, to tell us what we can or cannot do?  Jesus said something very obscure to them and to all who were around – even his disciples; “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” 

            We know what Jesus means.  Many would find out two and a half years later.  The temple is his body.   The apostle Paul once wrote, “For we are the temple of the living God,” and “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you

            Humanly speaking, Jesus really went out on the limb.  The day was coming when after three days in the grave he would arise from the dead.  Only one can say it and do it, the LORD himself.  Who gave him the authority to chase those people out?  Actually, no one!  He had the authority because of who he is – the LORD.

            The LORD and the LORD alone has the authority to say what is to go on in his house.  We have the privilege to praise him who proved who he said he is.  He is the Lord who died and was raised three days later. 

            Well over three hundred verses are concerned with the subject of Jesus' resurrection in the New Testament.  While we have a few weeks before Easter, let’s get a preview of what it means.  It serves as the guarantee that Jesus' teachings are true and that he is the very core of what we teach and believe.  The resurrection and preaching it establishes the purpose of the church. As Jesus’ resurrection is the proof that sins have been paid for, proclaiming that is what we do.  It is the key reason for the Christian to live.  The resurrection addresses the fear of death because we know because he lives so will we.  Because Jesus rose we haven’t seen the last of him.  He is coming back to get us so we can be where he is. 

            That’s the reason we love his house.  Here we honor him as he deserves. Here we learn about him which we really need.  Here we sing hymns to praise him and encourage each other.  Here a pastor reads Scripture, lots of Scripture out loud and a pastor who studied it all week tells is what it means and applies to us.  Here we read only Scripture, not Readers’ Digest, not someone’s political agenda.  Hear we listen to the Gospel, the good news that Christ died for you sins and was raised for our justification. Here we receive the Lord’s body and blood conveying us the promise of forgiveness.  Here we are reminded of our Baptism that declares us God’s children.  Those are pretty good reasons to love God’s house.

 

Amen

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