Roger's Postings

Saturday, March 14, 2009

John 2:13-22. Nothing in the way of coming to God 15/3/09

(13) When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. {14} In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. {15} 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. {16} To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!" {17} His disciples remembered that it is written: "Zeal for your house will consume me." {18} Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?" {19} Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." {20} The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" {21} But the temple he had spoken of was his body. {22} After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

I can't go church today because ..... . I not going to get involved with that mob because ...... ; and I could name all kind of issues and excuses. This is something we hear all the time, isn’t it? So we can see and hear that there are all kinds of barriers that hinder people from coming to God and in their regular worship of him. Now these barriers, of course, can be both, real or imagined; but they are there and they hinder people from coming to God and allowing him to serve them as he knows they need to be.
Now, here we are reminded, that with the coming of Jesus, none of these barriers should bar or hinder us. His death and resurrection is God’s guarantee that he has the authority and is the reason why we need not allow anything to get in our way of allowing our Lord first place in life; And also why we must not hinder others from being in God’s presence either.

But first of all, let us consider some of these barriers. Some of them are, of course, of our own making. We have had too late a night out the night before; we want to play our sport or have our weekend to ourselves; we do not like the modern or traditional services. And this is just with regard to Sunday morning worship.
But others, by their own lifestyles and priorities, make life very difficult for themselves; or else they have difficulties because they can not accept a God who will not do and act the way they think he should. So like those in the second reading, they are too clever for their own good; and I could go on.
However there are also, like in this reading, other barriers that are put their by people who should know better. In the Temple at Jerusalem, a great business was being done with the buying and selling of birds and animals for the sacrifices. So much so that Jesus could see that it was causing a real problem for people, in their coming to God. The focus was on the buying and selling instead of their God who was present there in the Temple. The central focus should have been on the Passover: God’s miraculous saving of his people and his establishment of them as a nation and of his presence with them.

So also we can hinder others from being in God’s presence. We can do this by allowing things that we do take central place in our worship services, rather than on God and what he his doing for us. Or by our expectation that others should live and act just the same as us; even the new Christian. Or else, by the example that we lead; say, when we don't attend worship regularly, so that others think they can be Christian without going to church. But perhaps more seriously; is when we as Christian give others the impression that it is our goodness that makes us acceptable to God, rather than the forgiveness that he extends to us all. But I am sure that you could mention many others as well.

So there are barriers and hindrances everywhere, holding people back. We need to be aware of them and the terrible affects they can have on people’s lives. That is not just because people are not coming to worship, or being involved in our Church or whatever: But especially, because failure to come to God through Jesus Christ, means eternal damnation. It can be and is that serious. And surely we do not want that for anyone.

A little story to perhaps help us understand how simple, yet terrible, the effect of some of these barriers can have and be. Young Mary and John hated the thought of visiting their uncle and aunt. They feared the idea having to stay with them for the weekend. Why? Because they had heard their dad say what a mean critter their uncle was, and their mum say how fussy and finicky their aunt was. Then when their cousins came over and told them how they had got hiding with the big strap that hung behind the kitchen door, their little minds ran riot.

Now their uncle and aunt were perfectly nice people. It was just that he did not believe in wasting money and she liked to keep the house clean and tidy. Yes, they did not want their children running riot, so when their children disobeyed badly they where disciplined, but not to the extent that their cousins had painted it. So because of the way they had heard others speak, Mary and John became afraid and didn't want to go and stay with their aunt and uncle.

In the same simple way many people fail to come, or are hindered from coming to God; receiving from him; and worshipping him through Jesus Christ. Many have built up thoughts, images and ideas about God and his church that are holding them back. And unfortunately many of these are thereby denied the salvation and peace that is found in Christ. They are left to go on searching for that elusive happiness and sense of belonging that they know should be there, but without finding it. So they are left to go on, burdened by their failures and loneliness, trying to find meaning and purpose wherever they can.

Here in today’s reading we have Jesus driving out some of those outward hindrances that were there for the people of his day. Here he stands as an authority over against any and everyone who claims to have another or better way - some other idea or practice. And as a result of his death and resurrection, he has proved that authority. There he removed the only real barrier, which bars people from coming to God. So, now nothing needs to stand in our way of coming into God presence. It is freely made available to all. God has, does and wants to share what is important with us all.

In the past things had be done properly and in order: the demands of the Law and the rituals of worship had to be adhered to, before anyone can come into the presence of God. But Christ has taken care of all those outward demands; and so we are now freed to do so, willingly and thankfully. Now the only barriers that are there, are of our own doing. Yes, God still desires that all things be done decently and in order, and that we do take seriously what he has to say to us. But he wants people to come to him and receive the precious gifts that he has for us all.
For many it comes back to simple acceptance of Jesus Christ and what he has done for us through his death on the cross: the simple messages that he has given us in Bible. For many this simple message of the cross is something that they cannot accept. Their cleverness and intellect does not allow them to believe it. Their own self-centeredness dictates that they have to do something; and that desire will not allow them to live the way that he wants and says in the Scriptures. For many, they do not want to be hamstrung from living as they please; while others demand signs and wonders to prove that the message of Christ is true; Instead of simply accepting the message of the cross as God's means of extending his love and salvation to us all. They want to see the power of God at work to give them earthly benefits, even if in the longer term it may mean disaster; when in Christ and his Word they have all that they really need: that in his Church he comes to us to help us and reassure us of his love and forgiveness.

So let us always focus on that which is important; and let us push aside all those other barriers that hinder us and others from coming to God and what he has to give and to strengthen them in the worship service. It is as important as eternal salvation or eternity in Hell. So let us not allow anything else, to distract us from trusting in the work of Christ, his death on the cross, and from listening to what he has to say to us.

(1 Cor 1:18-25) For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. {19} For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." {20} Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? {21} For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. {22} Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, {23} but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, {24} but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. {25} For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.
To him again then, be all glory and honour, now and always. AMEN
Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish


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