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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Lent 3, Year B
South Sydney Uniting Church
March 4, 2018

Psalm 19; John 2:13-22

‘At home in our senses and emotions’

Recently, our elders were introduced to a small-group program for spiritual growth, which presented five areas in the life of Jesus – five aspects of Christ-like spirituality (Renovaré). They were encouraged to remember Jesus (1) at prayer, (2) striving against evil/sin, (3) ministering and healing by the power of the Spirit, (4) showing compassion, (5) preaching and teaching on the Scriptures. At first I wondered about today’s Gospel: Is this a picture of angry faith – Jesus getting angry? Might we need a sixth aspect of Christ-like spirituality?

Or is this, perhaps, a slightly shocking five-fold image of Jesus at prayer and striving against evil/sin and ministering and healing (“cleansing” the temple) by the power of the Spirit and showing compassion (for poor animals and poor people exploited by religion) and preaching and teaching on the Scriptures (the prophetic books in particular)? God be with you

In John’s Gospel, the story comes at the very start of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus is angry, we read, because the temple has become a market/shop.

A sanctuary, which ought to be a safe place of welcome and wisdom, has become harmful, expensive, exclusive … Have you ever felt uncomfortable or even unsafe in an expensive store or exclusive place?

The temple, as a special place (like a mosque or church), doesn’t keep/trap God within its walls, but points to God deeply present in every place.

What does this mean?

Firstly, I think it means that houses of worship are places to practise being kind (compassionate), communities in which to practise Christ-like prayer-striving-healing-studying. We practise so we can learn, so we might act differently or more confidently in the future. What do you practise? What do you see people practising at church?

Secondly, we say that the church – this church – is God’s house so we can imagine houses of worship/hospitality more deeply

If, as we read, the body of Jesus is a temple, then all flesh can be God’s house … growing and ageing bodies, clumsy and graceful bodies, animal bodies, even bodies of water, heavenly bodies like the stars and the moon, the bread we break, bless and eat together, the body of believers (friends and strangers in community – ordinary people striving to love one another as Jesus loved the loneliest and most frightened, the “little ones”).

And if the body of Jesus is a temple, then we become that body in the Spirit – dying and rising to life – with all our senses and emotions. We can learn to be “at home” in our senses and emotions, including anger.

Is that good news? I think it is, yes. It means there are good and healthy ways to express anger – we need anger and the world needs anger/protest. It’s actually not healthy or helpful to stop ourselves from feeling or expressing anger.

You might ask yourself, Am I angry? Who or what makes me angry? How do I tend to deal with anger in myself, in others? What if I’m angry with someone I really care about? Can I name that? Can my relationship handle that? Can we make time and space for it, without judgement, without getting personal or abusive? Can I reflect on my anger – do I have someone trustworthy with whom I can reflect? Can I channel anger/protest in a creative way? Can I learn from it?

So many questions! Perhaps there’s something, one thing, you’d like to share about anger/protest … a wisdom you’ve learned from experience or prayer?

There’s a word on which we might conclude: “zeal”. A word meaning passion, dedication, devotion. Enthusiasm for a cause, for God. Zeal often entails anger, of course. Zeal also includes love.

Jesus cites Zechariah’s prophecy about a consuming zeal for God’s house, and expresses his own zeal to reclaim the world as a place where human beings, as “children of God” (1:12), are at home in God’s house, recognising and worshiping the divine presence and power (“glory”) in line with the psalmist who sings: “The genius of God is displayed in [all] creation./ Night and day proclaim the word of God …” Amen.