SPRING CLEANING[1]

JOHN 2:13-19

APRIL 12, 2015

Rev. Dr. Richard C. Meyer

 

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            It seems a little strange to me but, it appears to be something that many people have encoded into their DNA. When the first flowers start to bloom and the first trees start to bud, many households enter into full-fledged spring cleaning mode both inside and outside their homes. 

            I came across an article on spring cleaning this past week prepared by a wife for her husband to help him understand the tools used in spring cleaning. This wife apparently had a husband who was not very good at helping out around the house, so she prepared some definitions for the tools used for cleaning ones house.  Again, this is one womans list, written for her husband, who seldom helped around the house.  His domain was the yard, hers the house, but she needed help one spring so she prepared these definitions for him.  Heres her list of definitions.  And, by the way, she spells out the name of the domestic tool phonetically, so that the husband will know how to pronounce each tool. 

 

            Broom (brum) - a long handled brush used for sweeping (also doubles as a mode of transportation for your mother)

            Vacuum (vak u em) - much like the leaf blower except it sucks in, instead of blowing out. Dont let this alarm you. It isnt broken and doesnt need more torque, speed, RAM or whatever it is you did to the dishwasher last year.

            Dust pan (DUH) - Contrary to popular belief, this is where you sweep the dirt, not under the hallway area rug.

            Dust Cloth (dust kloth) - A cloth designated for removing tiny particles of dirt from every flat surface of the house. Hint: look for your old "lucky shirt".

            Mop - (mop) a bundle of coarse yarn, rags or cloth fastened at the end of a stick. Youll remember this as your dance partner at the New Years Eve party last year.

            Toilet Brush (toi lit brush) - Used for scrubbing the inside of the toilet bowl. I dont care what this looks like, you may NOT use my shower luffa again!

            Oven Cleaner (uv en Klen er) - No, not the teenager. This is an actual product that you buy, spray in the oven and wipe out two hours later. You wont need your welders mask for this task, but if it makes you feel like the job is more dangerous, go ahead.

            Sponge (spunj) - used to gently wash away food particles from dinnerware. It wont be necessary to use your 300psi power wash set. That was given to you in hopes of cleaning the EXTERIOR of the house (hint hint).

 

            With trees budding and flowers blooming its that time of the year once again.  Maybe some of you have already gotten your house, both inside and out, sparkling clean.  Maybe its on the calendar to do this this coming week or this month, but whenever you get around to it, did you know the concept of spring cleaning is quite biblical? In fact, our scripture for today is about a particular spring cleaning.  Jesus performed it.  According to the gospel writer John this event occurred in the very early days of Jesus teaching ministry, during Passover in the spring.

            Jesus had just turned water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana and he and his new disciples went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.  The Passover celebration is an annual event that remembers when the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. Its name comes from the act of protection where each Jewish household was instructed to place the blood of a lamb on the door post of their home and the spirit of God which brought death to the first born of all the people would pass over that house. This spared Jewish lives and motivated Pharaoh to expel the Israelites.

            The Passover was traditionally Israels largest feast and drew families from the far reaches of Israel as well as people from other countries to Jerusalem. Historians estimate that in Jesus day as many as 100,000 to 250,000 people traveled to Jerusalem for that week of celebration. Jerusalems normal population was estimated at 80,000 people. In other words, it would be crazier than being in Lincoln on a football Saturday. That is a massive growth of worshippers coming to the Temple.

            The worshipers that came to Jerusalem were expected to bring an offering of thanks to God for the deliverance of the Jewish people from Egypt. Specifically, you were to bring a lamb with you to the Temple and it would be killed and an offering made to God. You took the meat home or back you where you were staying and made it the main part of your Passover meal.

            But what would happen if you traveled one or several days or perhaps even longer and when you presented your offering the priest found something wrong, some blemish or imperfection? Or what if your animal got hurt or sick on the way? Your offering in the temple had to be perfect. The priests were going to inspect it like you might see at the national dog show, shape, color, age, and health. This is an important sacrifice and it was important that the offering not offend God.

            I wonder how many home raised sheep, however, made it through the process? Can you imagine making the trip and then suddenly being unable to participate in the celebration? It is thought that over the years that people found it more convenient to sell some livestock or produce at home and simply bring the money to buy a proper animal once they arrived. That led to a problem.  Some vendors and some priests took advantage of the situation. There was a market of special vendors that had an inside track on providing a guaranteed acceptable animal.

            So you had a market place atmosphere. People making deals, and like convenience stores of today, there was just a little markup. Some believe that the prices were similar to food one would by at a local movie theater. I imagine the person guarding the animals would say, Do you want to be allowed to offer a proper sacrifice acceptable to the priest?  Well you have got to pay the price! This fine animal was raided by a local Levite who cared for the animal correctly.  So you are buying a blemish free animal raised by one who is perfect under the law. This is top quality here.

            And you say, How much? and he tells you and your eyes bug out, but you pay the price.  After exchanging money, the salesman says, When you get to the inspection station just tell the priest my name and you can go straight to the sacrifice area.

             There was also a mention of money in our passage. The people that came to worship also came to pay the temple tax. According to scripture there was an obligation to support the temple at the rate of ½ shekel per year for each male over 18 years of age. People that made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem were entrusted with money from people back home to bring that tax on behalf of the men that were unable to go.

            Only there was a problem in paying the Temple tax. The Temple had is own official coins. They would not accept coins issued by the Roman government or foreign coins because the coins had images of people and animals stamped on them and were considered to blasphemous or be an idol. So the money changers provided a service to the pilgrims by offering an exchange. They would allow you to change your dirty, idolatrous money for the pure temple coin.

            Of course, a service fee was involved. If you do international travel you are aware of exchange rates, and when you travel you look for a location in the country where you are going that offers a good exchange rate.  This would not have been one of this places.  Again it is thought that the fees were outrageous because of the exclusive relationship.

            Seeing this Jesus becomes as mad as we ever see him in the Gospels.  Hes livid and he fashions a whip, overturns tables and drives the sacrificial animal sales force and the money changers out of the Temple.

            Interestingly, when Jesus entered the temple that day it was probably not the first time he had witnessed the convenience store set up to help the worshipers. It was probably not the first time that he had heard the haggling and sales pitches being shouted and promises of value and acceptability being made to shoppers. It was not the first time he witnessed people being over charged for an animal or a bird or even in the conversion of cash. It was, however, the first time since he had started his teaching ministry and he used it as a teaching moment for his "green behind the ears" disciples.

            So, Jesus performs a spring cleaning of his Fathers house.  Now what does this mean for us today?  Does it mean we need to get read of bake sales and auctions in the church?  Does it mean we need to get rid of the announcement in the bulletin about pens for sale?  Not a all.  It means we should never take advantage of people, charging outlandish prices for services.  So we can continue our bake sales and pen sales and cook book sales as long as we do not use them to take advantage of people.

            But there is another meaning here.  It has to do with the Temple.  Of course, as modern day followers of Jesus we do not turn to the Temple in our relationship with God.  No, that temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. just as Jesus predicted.  No, as Christians we have another Temple, a Temple Jesus loves and is very much concerned about.  Let me remind you of the Apostle Pauls words in his first letter to the Corinthians.  He writes,

 

            Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body. (I Corinthians 6:19-20)

 

            Our temple is our body, our very selves, and through Mothers Day, we are going to do some spring cleaning on ourselves.  We are going to work on cleaning up four areas of our lives. We are going to get rid of stinking thinking.  Well talk about that next Sunday.  Then we are going to clean out bad habits that constantly betray us.  Well clean that up on April 26th.  Then we will clear out those careless commitments that constantly drain us.  Well do that on May 3, and then on Mothers Day, we'll clean up some of our relationships that need some sprucing up.   

            So thats the personal spring cleaning we will be doing over the next four Sundays.  What do we need to do in preparation?  Let me suggest three things.  One, admit we may need some cleaning up. Two, pray every day this week, asking God what needs to be freshened up in our lives.  When we get ready for the spring cleaning here at the church, the building committee, or Alva, makes a list of what needs to be done and prioritizes the list.  Then we tackle the things at the top of the list. So let's ask God every day this week to make a list for us. Then third, simply commit to come to worship the next four Sundays. No need to bring brooms or mops or sponges or vacuums.  Just bring ourselves and the Holy Spirit will do the bulk of the work.  Amen.



[1] Bulk of this message from Spring Cleaning a sermon by Thomas Brown found on sermoncentral.com