"What Are You Offering?"    John 2:13-22    March 15, 2009

We all have our "pet peeves" -- that "thing" that raises our blood pressure every time. How about people who charge past you in the fast lane on 165, then move over in front of you and immediately slow down? Or, when someone fails to use their turn signal and practically stops traffic before finally making their turn?
 
I remember when I first moved here, I was told that at an intersection, just because their indicator was on didn't mean they were actually going to turn! I have tested this theory and found it to be true.
What sets off your hot buttons?

Is it seeing grumpy adult start to berate and then hit a whiny child in the grocery store?

Is it overhearing a cruel, gossipy conversation aimed at hurting a friend?

What about flagrant disregard for civil law? This is more than a 'pet peeve;' it's a hot button and our temperature rises. 
 
Often we get angry when we feel powerless to affect a change, nevertheless, we are indignant at the injustice we see or hear about. Our society has conditioned us to let the big issues roll off our back, while we spend all our energies sweating the small stuff.
 
Are foreign citizens being massacred in the name of "ethnic cleansing"? Oh well, surely the government will do something about it. However, find your new jacket back from the cleaners minus its buttons –someone might raise the roof… Or, even file a lawsuit.

Jesus took a completely opposite approach. Jesus was a master at keeping the nagging, energy-sapping details of life at bay while he focused on what was genuinely important.
1st illustration: Remember the feeding of the five thousand? Facing this enormous, excited crowd, Jesus gave all his attention to preaching, healing and teaching about the coming kingdom of God. The disciples were the ones fussing about when and where the next meal would come from.

 
2nd illustration: Later, when arrested on trumped up charges and tried by a kangaroo court, Jesus faced tormentors who tried everything to get a rise out of him. They taunted him, they mocked him, spat on him, hit at him, humiliated him -- but they never succeeded in denting his dignity or cracking his composure.
 
Jesus didn't have any hot buttons to go off when it came to protecting himself.
However, today's gospel text demonstrates that Jesus definitely had hot buttons that could be pushed. Confronted with the busy, bustling scene in the temple courtyard, Jesus was struck by the futility of all that activity: the greed, deception, and the manipulation and irreverence of these so-called religious practices.
 
The cleansing of the temple was the public display of Christ's authority and power.

 
"Christ begins his office both of Priest and Prophet."
 
"The Temple Incident in John, who puts it at the beginning of Jesus ministry, marks the beginning of Jesus' public messianic ministry, as well as the beginning of opposition by 'the Jews.' This is a fundamental theme throughout the Fourth Gospel."
 
 

The occasion reflects the deplorable condition of the people and their religious rulers. What a sickening sight, and clamor, for the devoted pilgrims who entered the court of the temple! The coin and animal offerings were to be made by the pilgrims as an act of thanksgiving, worship, or atonement; now they were drowned out and overpowered by the noise of "business as usual" as if the temple were a market place.

 
"The great crowds who came to Jerusalem at this time could not bring victims (animals), as a result, the traffic in oxen, sheep, kids and doves was enormous. (Peoples New Testament)
 
"There was nothing wrong in the merchandise; but to bring it, for their own and others' convenience, into that most sacred place, was a high-handed profanation which the eye of Jesus could not endure." (Commentary on the Whole Bible (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, 1871).
 
One month before the feast of Passover, the moneychangers opened their stalls in the country towns outside of Jerusalem. By the time of the first arrivals of Passover-pilgrims at Jerusalem, the country stalls were closed, and the moneychangers sat in the temple (see Mt.17:24; 21:12; Mk 11:15). (The Synoptic gospels even call it a den of robbers; the people had made God's house (My Father's house) their own)
 
  
It would have been proper enough if it had been conducted at stockyards, but the priests made a monopoly of it and installed it right in the temple. All of this took place in the court of the Gentiles, which was to be "a house of prayer for all nations." (Mark 11:15-19) Instead, it was filled with cattle "noise and stench," and the din of traffic." The only temple space the Gentiles had to gain any kind of access to God, had been made into a marketplace. Gentiles were not welcome. This, too, angered Jesus.

Jesus' righteous anger was stirred at those who saw the temple as a place to transact a business, not to remember God's holy works and feel God's holy presence. He wanted to bring the divine presence back into his Father's house.
 
Instead of the resting place for the OT Shekina glory of God, the temple had become nothing more than a slaughterhouse, a trading-house and a party-house (maybe something like the mall during the holidays). Jesus had to clean house in order to once again make room for God's Spirit. He did this in the Name of God and for the honor of God's house.
 
Sometimes we lose sight of the concept of righteous anger because our NT focus tends to be on God's love, grace and mercy…all of which are true, and right, and just. However, God does have standards. God, Jehovah, the Almighty, the Alpha and the Omega deserves the respect, honor, and worshipful praise of all mortals, both now and then.
 
Even the OT rituals of sacrificial offerings in the Temple, were not to replace personal devotion to God and God's laws. Is there a chance that our rituals have replaced our devotion to God? Do we think more in terms of …what we have to do, than what does God require (inward devotion vs. outward rituals? What are our motives in giving to God?
 
Jesus' anger at the Temple was directed at those who took the sacred, devotional aspect out of giving. At the Presbyterian Stewardship Conference (Kansas City, MO, March 9-11, 2009) we took a close look at the practice and theology of church giving and sacrificial giving. The following notes are the basis for the rest of the sermon.
 
Rev. J. Shannon Webster, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, AL
Evening Worship Message “Thanks and Giving”
Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23; Mark 7: 23-37 (texts for Sept 6, 2009)
Thanks and Giving is the Reformed Theology of Stewardship: “Thanks for what we’ve already received and Giving in response to that.”
God is the actor; God moves first; we respond, “That they be distributed for the benefit of your neighbor” (riches) a quote from John Calvin
 
“Credit may be in short supply but God’s grace is not.”
When rich and poor meet, remember, the Lord God made them both (Proverbs)
We welcome those who God welcomes
It’s not about reciprocity, it’s about Thanksgiving; it’s all a gift of God—all of it
 
Shannon Webster
Evening Worship: Pine Ridge Presbyterian Church, Kansas City, MO
Creativity—being yourself being comfortable in your own skin-not the typical pastor
Message: Puritans & Polar Bears – extinct; secularization of Christian principles by US government, US school system, US economics
Individual vs. the greater good, whereas
 
Christian Stewardship considers the greater good of God's mission on Earth and the church as a vehicle for it.
We have lost the concept of working together—
We feel our possessions are ours—all that we have comes from God
What do we do with the other 90%?
Are we good stewards in all areas of our lives?
 
Plenary 2 – Laura Mendenhall, President, Columbia Theo. Seminary
Tithing as a spiritual discipline
Our life is a sacred trust for God
A costly offering is the gift of our lives
An offering that doesn’t cost us anything is merely giving out of our excess
When you know how much is enough, you always have enough
Give personal testimonies to encourage each other: what God has done in your life
Laura shared her personal offering of her life and her children’s lives as she struggled to let them go to unsafe foreign parts of the world for missionary work. Her point based on Romans 12: 1-2 we are living sacrifices unto God, which is our spiritual/reasonable service of worship unto God
 
 
Plenary I – Debra Mumford, Asst. Prof. Louisville Theological Seminary
Mark 12 Widow’s Mite
"Now is an opportunity to give just a portion of all that God has given you." OT & NT motto (or, should be!)
Give gifts of what is left after money is tight—talents, time, yourself (who you are as a person)
 
Live in a way that leaves us space to help others (time-wise, money-wise). Don’t live to the limit; allow space so you can be a blessing if/when something unexpectedly comes up. If we only live paycheck to paycheck, daily schedule full from dawn to dusk, we will not be free to minister ‘on the spot’ which is usually how God brings things to us, individually and congregations. Schedule open-space time.
 
Can people see the benefit of their giving?
Giving out of our budgets is different from giving sacrificially
Giving has become impersonal
Jesus $ parables were personal – temple sacrifices were to be worshipful and personal
(People need to understand the significance of their offerings)
 
Plenary 4 – Laura Mendenhall, President, Columbia Theological Seminary
She closed with the passage in Habakkuk 3: 17-19 “Though the fig not grow and the olive tree not yield, even though God provides for his people: makes our feet like hinds feet to rise above …. Let us pray:
 
Rosemary Stelz, Pastor
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