Tag Archives: follow Jesus

Follow Jesus in Devotion

“Follow Jesus in Devotion”

John 2-16 Jesus-Cleanses-the-Temple

John 2:13-22 (2:17) – March 4, 2018

A few people are really devoted to their house. You know the people I mean. Ones who are extremely meticulous about every little thing, inside and out. And, heaven forbid if someone makes a mess, either in the living room, downstairs in the finished basement, or outside on the patio. Everything has to be “just so,” a real showplace. These folks simply go overboard.

A few people feel like this about their house of worship. Meticulous about the upkeep, they won’t hear a word against the place! And, what goes on inside the building does not mean too much. Everything about the building, the landscaping, and the furnishings is super-important. Talk about going overboard!

This reminds me of the First Commandment, where the Lord tells us not to put anyone or anything first, ahead of God. It seems that some folks might be doing that with their houses or churches or other houses of worship.

Our Scripture reading shows us a situation early on in Jesus’s ministry. where Jesus and several disciples go up to Jerusalem to worship. They make the pilgrimage to worship at the Temple, and—Jesus finds a number of people in and around the Temple who are not focused on God, at all. Instead, some of these people are focused on making money for themselves, and definitely not serving God. Buying and selling of animals for Temple sacrifices, and exchanging regular money for special “Temple money,” the only kind of money suitable for offering to God.

Is it any wonder that Jesus got so upset when He came onto the Temple premises and found this three-ring circus going on in a place that was supposed to be a house of prayer? How could Jesus not get upset? Even, downright angry? Of course He would throw out those people—and their animals and money-changing supplies—who did not belong inside the Temple.

Let’s back up a bit. I want to explain more clearly what the money-changers were doing. Suppose we needed a special kind of money to buy food from the grocery store. Our regular American money—like this—did not work. We all had to go to a special money-changer who was outside of the store to change the regular money for special grocery-store-money. I forgot to tell you. For every ten dollars each of us would give to the money changers, they would keep one dollar, or maybe two, and only give us eight or nine dollars in return. Just imagine how much money they would be making at the end of a single day, not to mention one week, or one month.

Amazing profits! Profits for the money-changers, and I suspect the grocery store would take their cut, too. Except in the case of our Gospel reading today, it was the keepers of the Temple who were taking their cut. And, the money-changers and vendors selling animals and birds would be making a great deal of money, too.

Let’s listen again to what Jesus did: “15 So Jesus made a whip from cords and drove all the animals out of the Temple, both the sheep and the cattle; He overturned the tables of the money-changers and scattered their coins; 16 and He ordered those who sold the pigeons, “Take them out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that the scripture says, “My devotion to your house, O God, burns in me like a fire.”

I know “cleansing of the temple” is the common title for this Gospel reading; that is not really what is going on here. “’Cleansing’ implies something has been cleaned up or changed or reformed. But, in John’s version of the story, Jesus doesn’t appear interested in cleaning up the market system that operated at the Temple, but in doing away with its idolatrous economic infrastructure altogether.” [1]

I will say it plainly. Graft! Corruption! The whole Temple offering and finance operation was crooked and corrupt. Jesus put a stop to it! He really tried to do away with all the idolatrous economic infrastructure—but, I suspect, all the corrupt buying and selling and economic practices all came back eventually, despite Jesus and His anger and devotion to God.

I would like to stress that Jesus did not just get angry for no reason. No! Jesus did not just “lose it” and act out in way he would later regret.  He knew exactly what He was doing and He knew that it would make powerful people very, very angry with Him. However, Jesus still did it. Can we understand Jesus’ actions not so much as wildly angry and out of control, but brave and courageous? [2]

When I choose hymns for the worship services here, I almost always go for hymns with some relation to the Scripture passages or the topic of the morning service. I chose our opening hymn to illustrate this part of the Gospel reading. When we sing the words “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,” this was exactly what I was thinking of. We can ask God for wisdom, courage and bravery to rise up against systems and structures that are not right, not Godly, and not moral.

We can see that our Lord Jesus was devoted to the house of God. Jesus got angry and threw the offending people and all their stuff out of the Temple. Let us call this perverse attitude what it is. Idolatry. For some few or some group of people to put crass profit before the holiness and worship in God’s house is Idolatry, which is the same thing that the First Commandment explicitly tells us about.  Don’t do it!

Across the Atlantic Ocean in the United Kingdom, these two weeks are called Fairtrade Fortnight. Some churches, other houses of worship, and other nonprofit agencies highlight Fair Trade. Fair Trade means fair pay and working conditions for farmers and producers. Fair Trade products are made in safe and healthy working conditions, where farmers and producers receive a fair price and have a voice in how their workplace is run.

This is from a suggested script for a children’s message for the third Sunday of Lent in the Church of Scotland. “Ask the young people if anyone recognises this picture (hold up the Fairtrade logo)? This symbol is as a result of anger.

“People were angry when they realised that the tea and coffee that they were drinking had not been bought at a fair price. That means the farmer who grew the tea, or the workers who picked and sold the coffee beans had been short-changed, and had not been paid enough money to send their children to school or to get enough for their familes to have a good life. And this anger made them take action. Christian Aid and Traidcraft, amongst many others, set up the Fairtrade foundation to ensure that the buying and selling of goods could be done in a different and more just way. Even to this day there are supermarkets who are still trying to short-change hard working communities and farmers.” [3]

I think we are doing what Jesus would do when we support Fair Trade practices, and stop graft, corruption and immoral practices. I think Jesus would want us to keep on taking action to make sure that everyone has enough to flourish and to glorify God by being fully alive.

What an important thing for all of us to strive to do: follow Jesus in devotion. Stop graft and corruption, and encourage everyone to flourish and to glorify God. Amen!

[1] http://jubileejusticeeconomics.blogspot.com/2015/03/jesus-and-international-exchange.html

“Jesus and the International Currency Exchange Traders in the Temple,” Stan Duncan, 2015.

[2] https://worshipingwithchildren.blogspot.com/2015/02/year-b-third-sunday-in-lent-march-8-2015_7.html

Worshiping with Children, Lent 3B, Including children in the congregation’s worship, using the Revised Common Lectionary, Carolyn C. Brown, 2015.

[3]   http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/47661/4_March_Wendy_Young_3_in_Lent_formatted.pdf  The Mission and Discipleship Council would like to thank Wendy Young, of Christian Aid, for her thoughts on the third Sunday in Lent.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my regular blog for 2018: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and my other blog,  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!)

Feb 25 Lent 2 Sermon: “Follow, Carry the Cross “ Mark 8:34 @StLukesChurch2 #pastorpreacherprayer  https://wp.me/p5Nfg4-lv

 

Looking for Peace, the Olympic Way

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, August 20, 2016

olympic-peace

Looking for Peace, the Olympic Way

As I finished up with the personal definitions of PEACE I receiving from the good people in the Englewood neighborhood, I couldn’t help but think of current events. Yes, the south side of the city of Chicago does have crime, and shooting, and even killing. Similar to parts of Rio do Janeiro, where the Summer Olympics are being held right now.

The history of the modern Olympic movement is something I learned about when I was in elementary school.) It must have been in the early grades, because my memories of this material go really far back.)  The Olympic movement is based on the vision of Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games. He promoted certain values. These values continue to inspire what is known as the Olympic tradition.

The Olympic values of de Coubertin—the ideals of respect, fair balance, pursuit of excellence, joy in effort, and balance between mind, body and will—these are all important. To be reached for by all Olympic participants.

Just as these values were (and are) all important for Olympic competitors, so is the goal of peace. De Coubertin wanted to “build a more peaceful world by educating the young in a spirit of understanding.”

The Olympic Games will end tomorrow. Another four years to contemplate these wonderful values and ideals.

Each four years, at each Olympic Games, those ideals and values are stressed again. Plus, those ideas and values match so closely with Jesus and His values and ideas. May we follow Jesus and the values and ideals that please God, not people. May we follow God’s will and God’s way. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

Disciple of Christ? Present and Accounted For

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, July 6, 2015

LOVE love God love people

Disciple of Christ? Present and Accounted For

I can learn about a figure from history all I want. Even, delve into the books, when it comes to that. However, there is the difference between night and day when it comes to merely finding out information versus becoming a true disciple.

Want to talk further about discipleship? What about reading about it? The book Praying the New Testament as Psalms lifts up several excellent passages from the New Testament where discipleship is spoken of, explained, and prayed over.

Like, this: “Let me be a servant to others/remembering the example of Jesus,/living His new commandment of love—/the true mark of His disciple.” [1]

Dedicated to Christ—that’s what I strive to be. Committed. Offering my life, myself. Yes, Lord Jesus. Yet, I don’t quite realize the height, the breadth, the depth of what this might possibly mean. At least, I don’t think I fully know.

I am studying Acts chapter 7, in preparation for an upcoming sermon this Sunday. The deacon Stephen? Dying, martyr for the sake of Christ? Now, that is discipleship. That is sacrifice, and love, and forgiveness. That is living life the way that Jesus would. (Would that I could follow Jesus to this extreme extent.)

Which brings me to more words from the Gospel of John, turned into a modern Psalm. “Open my heart to learn from Your Son—/the humble, gentle Jesus,/His yoke is easy and His burden light./I will find rest for my soul.” [2]

Wow. And again I say, wow. Such radical discipleship. May I live out my life in such a way as to be a disciple of Christ. In the way of either of these Psalms, showing two aspects of what Jesus calls each of us to do. To be. God willing, I pray so.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

[1] Praying the New Testament as Psalms, Desmond O’Donnell, OMI, and Maureen Mohen, RSM, (United States of America: ACTA Publications, 2002.), 60.

[2] Ibid.

I’m Called. I’m Summoned. I Pray, Too.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – January 31, 2015

calling you have received Eph 4-1

I’m Called. I’m Summoned. I Pray, Too.

Calling? A calling can be one’s position in life. More than a work-a-day job, more than merely earning wages. A true calling can give my life deep, heartfelt meaning. My calling can be like the needle on a compass—pointing toward my life’s purpose and true substance.

Summoned? This word has several meanings, but one of the most common is commanded, or sent a message, to come. Johnny on the spot. Front and center. Hurry up! There is some urgency in this call.

Jesus gets in on the action. At the beginning of His ministry, He is walking by the Sea of Galilee, and sees four fisherman. Two sets of brothers. He says, “Come, follow Me!” Lo and behold, the four men do. Leaving their fishing equipment, in the middle of things, they follow Jesus.

Jesus called, they followed. Jesus summoned, they answered the call.

I heard this narrative from the Gospels a number of times. I felt the call of Jesus deeply. I prepared myself, going to bible college here in Illinois. Becoming trained in a number of areas. Fitting myself to be a caring, capable bible teacher, youth leader, church musician. I prayed, too. And was a regular jack-of-all-trades, as far as the church is concerned. (Or, is that a Jill-of-all-trades?)

I cried out to God as I saw my friends and acquaintances around me go off to far-flung places. Some in professional ministry, others as nurses, teachers, business people. I had skills. I had drive and desire to serve. Other than the occasional little, short-term jobs,  no professional openings for me, anywhere, either secular or sacred.  Still, I found places in churches to minister as a lay leader, while waiting. And waiting for years. Getting more training, and further preparation. And, praying, too.

Does this sound familiar? Pounding the pavement, and some interest. A few interviews, but no job offers. Sending out resumes and making calls, and some interest. Again, a few interviews, but no positions available. For years and years. I can well relate to people nowadays who have been unemployed for the long term. It’s disheartening and depressing. Makes you feel awful, about yourself, your skills, your chances, life in general.

But—Jesus. Jesus calling. Jesus giving the summons.

Is that You, Lord? Can You mean me, Lord? Finally?

It’s three decades since I graduated from bible college, and I have had quite a ride. Never a straight line, never a clear path, but always a fascinating one. Rev. Howell has “calling” as his last topic, for the last day of his lessons on prayer. He riffs on some of these same things I’ve covered, and mentions that God’s “calling” ultimately weaves each of us into the fabric of community. I appreciate Rev. Howell’s assistance in leading me through this study guide on prayer. I would like to close in the brief prayer which he uses to close this chapter.

So let us pray together: “O Lord, help me know to what you are calling me. Open my eyes and ears. Help me read the signs in my soul. Create a willing spirit in me, for I know you may be calling me to something very different in my work, or in the way I do my work, or with the rest of my life, or even this afternoon, in the next minute. O Lord, teach us to pray, and to follow. Amen.” [1]

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blog, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.

[1] James C. Howell, The Beautiful Work of Learning to Pray, (Nashville, TN, Abingdon Press: 2003), 96-97.