Sunday 7th March 2021 – Rev Arnold Dixon

Under construction

John 2.13-22

Jesus overturning the tables in the Temple is a shocking act but seems nothing compared to what he says next. The Temple was believed to be a space where heaven touched earth, but Jesus speaks of destroying it and rebuilding it in three days. However, Jesus isn't speaking about the physical Temple, but his body. Jesus signals that his death and resurrection makes the whole world into the Temple of God.

What then, in our context, of the Church? What does it mean to be church, rather than just doing it? If we are the Temple (of the Spirit), what might we need to throw out?

 

Call to worship

We have come into this place to worship God.
Have we come ready to grow?  We have!
Have we come willing to change?  We have!
Are we prepared to put our faith into action,
to worship God in all we do?  We are!

 

Lord make me an instrument:  Sing/ Read /pray /proclaim the words or listen to this version Click on the Link:   https://youtu.be/uUmy9Y9QZS8

 

A gathering prayer

Holy God, as we meet together today,
we ask that you renew our love for you.
Open our eyes to see fresh things,
open our ears to hear with more clarity,
open our minds to recognise new ideas –
that we may be willing to grow and change
and to become more like your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen

 

A prayer of approach

O Lord, clear our hearts and minds of all unrighteous clutter.
As we seek to be your Church in our day,
drive out all that is unworthy of you.
Let us think not of human transactions – our losses and gains –
for we gather under the banner of your love
that demands no price but our love in return.
Help us to sacrifice all that we are to your service,
as Jesus sacrificed everything for us.
Amen

 

A prayer of adoration

Father God, we adore you for your patience with your wayward children; for bearing with us when our understanding is skewed and our behaviour wrong.
Jesus, we adore you for being with us always, your humanity entwined with ours; for showing us the way in your life and through the Word.
Holy Spirit, we adore you for working through us despite our failings; for living in us and enabling us with a strength greater than our own.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are wisdom in our world; you flow through creation and consciousness.
Our attempts to house you in bricks and mortar are foolish. Come to us as we gather here within this church made to honour you, and lift the stones from our hearts, so that we may be your Church in word and in deed.
Amen

 

A prayer of confession and an Assurance of forgiveness

Lord God, our ancestors turned the Temple into a marketplace; where are the marketplaces in our lives, O Lord?

We confess that we are driven by the need to possess. In our greed, we plunder the earth of resources and fail to share the good things you have provided for our needs. We are obsessed with the work of human hands, making idols of our houses – and yours.

Forgive us, and help us to see that your Church is eternally under construction – in us.
Amen

 

Assurance of forgiveness

It's hard, O Lord, when the message hits home;
when we see, in the sins of our forebears, our own;
when getting real has toppled our self-styled crowns
and the weight of guilt drags us down.
But you, dear Lord, always forgive,
when in the Holy Spirit we choose to live.
And so, we lift our heads bare and humbled,
casting aside thinking that was dark and jumbled.
In your forgiveness we find the light
to walk again in the path that is right.
Amen

 

A prayer of praise and thanksgiving

We thank you, Lord, for the times when you have knocked us off our pedestals.
Thinking we are wise, we have trusted in our own understanding rather than yours.
You have bulldozed our ‘castles in the air' to bring us down to earth.
Praise be that, time after time, you have driven our falseness and foolishness away
with cords of truth and righteousness, freeing us to be your Church without walls,
open to all and ever expanding.
Amen

 

Lord make me a mountain:  Sing/ Read /pray /proclaim the words or listen to this version

Click on the Link:  https://youtu.be/JFx_dmKGu-E

 

Reading:  John 2.13-22

 

Jesus Clears the Temple Courts

13  When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  14  In the temple courts he found people 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 courts, 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! Stop turning my Father's house into a market!”  17  His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18  The Jews then responded to him, “What 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  They 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.

 

Let us build a house where love can dwell:  Sing/ Read /pray /proclaim the words or listen to this version Click on the Link:   https://youtu.be/gKJgcv8SdnQ

 

Sermon:  Under construction

Getting rid of old possessions to make room for new acquisitions seems unlikely to bring us true and lasting joy. For Jesus' followers, the grief of losing the Temple, one of the largest and most beautiful sanctuaries in antiquity, was integral to their joy in finding one another as ‘the body of Christ'. So when Jesus said these words they did not immediately understand what he actually meant.

Let's face it, people don't always understand what we've said. Can you think of times when you thought something was really clear – that you had agreed what you were going to do – but, when it came to it, what happened wasn't what you were expecting? It's often only with hindsight that we truly understand.

It was no different for Jesus and his disciples. That day in the Temple when he cleared everyone and everything out would have been something they wouldn't forget. But what was it all about? How could he possibly talk about destroying and rebuilding the Temple in three days? It had taken nearly 50 years to build.

It had been the same when Jesus had told them he would die: it just didn't make sense.

It was only after his death and resurrection that they put two and two together, and made the connections with other things he had said. Jesus wasn't talking about the building in Jerusalem: he was speaking about his own body. Although early Christians loved meeting in the Temple to pray, they also quickly realised that they didn't need a place to be close to God because Jesus was now the ‘place' where they could make that connection. It was still hard to explain to other people. Paul found this. Jesus' death as a criminal seems really stupid until you understand the whole story.

It can be like that for us too. Do we understand it all? Have we made all the connections? Being a follower of Jesus means recognising that we are on a journey where we need to allow time and God's wisdom, (not necessarily worldly wisdom) to guide us. We are not fully formed. We are growing into the knowledge of God. Even the disciples had to work it out over time, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Recognising that we are not fully formed, that we are under construction, is when we begin to rely on God rather than ourselves. Have we realised that? Do we allow others the space and time to grow and develop?

The educationalist Ken Robinson describes a little girl drawing. Asked, ‘What are you drawing?', she replies, ‘A picture of God.' Told, ‘But nobody knows what God looks like,' she responds, ‘They will in a minute.' That demonstrates a child's confidence in her creativity, something to be nurtured and treasured. But as we smile, we are reminded that all our images of God are at best partial. Even the law, given to Moses, the delight of the psalmist, and always respected by Paul, is incomplete as an account of God's holiness, and must not be used to divide and exclude. This remains a challenge even to what we think are our most elevated insights into the divine.

 

Lord Prepare me, to be a Sanctuary:  Sing/ Read /pray /proclaim the words or listen to this version

Click on the Link:    https://youtu.be/AxB9VH3cCN4

 

Prayers of intercession

Lord of the universe,
we pray for our world broken by persecution, warfare and strife.
We commend to you the Uighur people in China,
the people of Myanmar, the people of Yemen.

You desire harmony within and between nations;
you yearn for everyone to know security and safety.

Lord of the world and the church:
bring healing and peace.

Lord of the poor and the rich,
we pray for those who live and labour in developing countries
paid less than the amount they need to survive.
We commend to your tender love those who are exploited,
children who are paid pennies, those who work in sweatshops.

You desire justice for all people;
you yearn for all people to be treated fairly and equitably.

Lord of the world and the church:
bring healing and peace.

Lord of the doctor and the patient,
we pray for our world at this time of pandemic.
We commend to you those who are suffering as a result of Covid-19;
those who are working to combat the Brazilian mutation;
those who are frightened and stressed out.

You desire wholeness and health for all people;
you yearn for an end to the pandemic.

Lord of the world and the church:
bring healing and peace.

Lord of the chapel and the cathedral,
we pray for all places of worship throughout the world.
We commend to you caretakers and cleaners, treasurers and guides.

You desire holiness in your children
and in the places in which they worship.

Lord of the world and the church:
bring healing and peace.

Lord of all in need,
we bring to you the prayers of our hearts.
We commend to you those about whom we are especially concerned,
praying for…

You desire that your children care for one another.

Lord of the world and the church:
bring healing and peace.

In Jesus' name we pray.
Amen

 

The church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord:  Sing/ Read /pray /proclaim the words or listen to this version Click on the Link:  https://youtu.be/BA-JXeHDRDw

 

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father,

Who art in Heaven

Hallowed be thy name

Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done in earth,

As it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

As we forgive them that trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

The power, and the glory,

For ever and ever.

Amen

 

A sending out prayer

We came together to worship God.
We have read God's Word.
We have prayed and sung songs.
Now we go into God's world:
to be God's people wherever we are called to go.
Let us go in Christ's name.
Amen