When God Enters the Temple

Biblical Text: John 2:13-22
Full Sermon Draft

We are often pretty good at realizing when something that shouldn’t be at the center of our life is, and when something that should be isn’t. We just aren’t that good at changing. That is part of the message of the Cleansing of the Temple which the evangelist John makes the theme of the ministry of Jesus. We are not good at centering the right things, but Jesus has come to cleanse us and to keep us centered. The Temple was supposed to be at the center of the life of Israel, and of course it was a “true myth” in Lewis’ terms. God really was in the temple at the center of Israel. But we are very good as creating distance and de-centering the things that should be there. Jesus cleansed that temple and pronounced the new one. The temple of the new covenant would not be made of stone, but of living stones. The cornerstone which would be Christ. This sermon thinks through what it means when God comes to the temple – both old and new.

What Are You Seeking?

Biblical Text: John 1:29-42
Full Sermon Text

With the change of the church year and getting out of the festival season we will start to notice the new Gospel reading. Luke is left behind and Matthew and John have the year. It may seem like overkill, but when you’ve read through each enough you can have a epiphany. Each gospel wants to be read on its terms. John’s terms are meditative. They are like an icon through which we see the reality. What this sermon does is attempt to ponder the diptych. The first scene is John the Baptist’s proclamation of the Lamb of God. The second scene is he response of two of his disciples. John the Baptist, the authoritative prophet, gives us the valid answers to Jesus’ question – “what are you seeking?” The sermon examines the uniqueness of that answer. It then looks at the second scene as an image of our response.

Worship note: I left in our opening hymn, an Epiphany season staple, LSB 409, Hail, O Source of Every Blessing.

Remembrance – The Scriptures and the Word


Biblical Text: John 2:13-22
Full Sermon Text

I used the title remembrance because that is the word John uses twice in the text to help explain it. John has yanked an event out of time, an event from Holy Week, and put it at the start of his gospel. He’s done this because the spiritual importance to him, what he wants to get across to us, he’s only seen in remembrance. And his importance is different than that attached to the event by the other gospels.

The event is the cleansing of the temple. To the other gospel writers this event is the action of the returning king, even if it is drenched in irony as in Mark. To John, in remembrance, this is the start of the sacrifice. This is where Jesus starts to clean the temple. But the temple is not one of stones. It is one of flesh. Jesus chases the animals out, because he becomes the offering.

The two pieces of music I’ve left in here pick up on that theme. The choir sings “What Wondrous Love” which is a gorgeous meditation on that sacrifice. And I’ve left in the hymn we sang after the sermon, LSB 431 Not All the Blood of Beasts which contemplates exactly that exchange. “A sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they.”

Spiritual and Religious


Biblical Text: Luke 2:22-40
Full Sermon Draft

The text is the presentation of Jesus and the purification of Mary. It is a text deeply rooted in the religion of Israel. It is also with Simeon and Anna a text populated with the advent of the Holy Spirit. What the sermon does is look at what happens when we treat the Spirit and Religion as either/or instead of both/and. From Anderson Cooper and Gwenyth Paltrow to Anna/Simeon as models for the church.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Leviticus 9:1-24 and Luke 9:18-36

Leviticus 9:1-24
Luke 9:18-36
Two appearances of glory, two acceptances of sacrifice, the gut level effect of pondering the animal sacrifice system

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Exodus 4:19-31 and Mark 15:16-32

Exodus 4:19-31
Mark 15:16-32
“A Bridegroom of Blood”, The passover lamb, our trouble with grace
O Dearest Jesus, What Law Hast Thou Broken – Lutheran Service Book 439

Kids and Ears

Sometimes you stumble across that perfect piece of cultural flotsam. This is one of those pieces. When the history of 1960-20×5 is written this piece will be part of the social history. And it would be easy, and meaningless, to point out the narcissistic and self-indulgent presuppositions about life and marriage that support such a piece and how they got there. Meaningless because they couldn’t bear it, because lack of ears to hear. Instead I’m going to write not criticism but personal experience.

The one piece of criticism I’ll embed at the start, having kids, contra the article’s father, is not a selfish endeavor. Having kids is in the natural order of things if we don’t get in the way with our own egos, and having kids is the penultimate expression of sacrifice not selfishness. The Psalmist prays to be taught to number our days (Psalm 90:12), and to rightly know that our span is but 70 years, 80 if we have the strength (Psalm 90:10). Kids are part of that teaching. And they are rightly given to the young when you still think you will live forever. Having kids becomes an acknowledgement that I came from dust and to dust I will return.

We have three beautiful annoying full of energy kids. David caused many sleepless nights rocking. Ethan still 2 nights out of 5 runs in the middle of the night to climb into bed with mom & dad. And then he progresses to play “the little one” as he spreads out horizontally and digs the feet into Dad’s kidney saying “roll over, I’m squished”. Anna, the first, is perfect. (Oldest kids always are.)

With three money is always tight. With probably 90% of people out there, day care just wouldn’t make sense. You’d spend the second income after tax paying someone else to raise your kids. So we get by on one income. The family vacation is usually a stay-cation, or if we can swing it a trip to family that we can impose the 5 of us on. And the truth of that is staying at home is a relief. Everything is already there. No one whines three miles down the road, “where is my blankie” and if you don’t feel like picking up the toys at dusk, you can leave them overnight. The only frowns are the neighbors who by now are used to it. I try not to think about the college funds, because that just isn’t going to happen in any serious way. (So Anna, Valedictorian or bust). Also while praying for the $10,000 BA revolution to speed up. The 10 year old car I inherited from my brother better last another 5 years. But you do it gladly as part of the sacrifice. And they will do it eventually also. You have a vocation, a calling.

Being on the not too far side of 40 we figured we were done. As the columnist mentions, getting pregnant in the usual way after 40 is akin to “blowing up the death star”. But somehow we had been so blessed. We saw the sonogram at 7 weeks and it was real. A couple of weeks went by. That hope that usually starts building as the baby growth came around. Negotiations for bedroom space were entered into. Do we get a bunk bed set? Yes. Who gets it? The boys. Who gets the top? David, maybe he’ll be too heavy and crash through and take care of a couple of college payments for us went he joke. Followed quickly by a cross and a hug. And then that little child was lost. That child that the three previous ones had taught us well what sacrifices would have to be made. That child that would have been born on the far side of the half-way point of the 80 if we have the strength.

And unlike article father’s final question (what about our health?), I’d have given mine to welcome that child. No child is the “free one”. They all take parts of you. Which is as it should be. The one who loves his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for the gospel’s sake will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul (Mark 8:35-36)? We learn to give it over gladly.

Lord have mercy on this self-indulgent narcissistic lot, including your poor servant.

What we remember – What God remembers

Text: Mark 14:1-11

Jesus will issue the disciples commands like watch! or like love one another. He will also tell us to forget things – like God forgetting our sins. There are only two things that Jesus says remember. We hear the one every communion Sunday – Do this (bread and wine, body & blood) in remembrance of me. This text is the other one – what this woman did will be told in memory of her. What did this woman do? She broke the alabaster jar. She poured everything out without saving a drop. She did it all for Jesus sake. What did Jesus do that we remember in the Lord’s Supper. He poured out his very life blood for our sake. What we do for ourselves lasts as long as we have the strength to keep it there. Even what we do for others, while seemingly good, will not be remembered. Only what is done in Christ is remembered. Only the one that loses their life will find it. For ultimately isn’t that what life is – being remembered by God?