Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on how life is not about us so much as ist is about God and this can put things into focus.  Listen to this podcast of his reflection for the Third Sunday of Lent and send us a  comment . Please read John 2:13-22.

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For Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 3/11/2012The 3rd Sunday of Lent.
Please pause this audio and read John 2:13-22.
It’s About God
I was watching political commentary on the Presidential election of 2012, when someone on the panel reminded us of a slogan that was used in the Presidential election of 1996.  It made me think of religion.
Religion kind of reminds me of the motto that the Clinton Campaign used to defeat George Bush in 1996.  In their famous “War Room” they had a sign that had the message on it.  On their buses and in their notes to one another this message was passed around readily.  The message on the sign read, “It’s the economy, Stupid!”  Forgive me for using the word ‘stupid’, but the idea is that they needed to never forget that the economy was the main issue and it was going to get them elected.  And it did.  For us though, I wish we could have signs everywhere we went that read, “It’s about God, Stupid!”  Religion is not about what we want.  Religion is about doing whatever it is we do for God’s glory.
     In the Clinton Campaign of that year, he promised to do another thing: focus on the economy “like a laser-beam.”  Although I thought it sounded kind of Science Fiction like and I don’t know if I like my president being into science fiction, the focus was clear.  For us, all that we do must be clear and focused.  By coming here we are religious people.  Our religion says that we are for Christ and his purpose in coming here on earth–nothing more, nothing less.
This passage about Jesus overturning the tables is about a new world and a new reality for the Jews of his day, truly for the entire universe.  This passage of Jesus in righteous anger turning things over is about a world and reality defined and judged by who Jesus the Christ is.  It is about a new focus of worship.  It is about a new focus of moral living.  It is about a new focus on God.  It is a new focus on how we live our day to day life.  It is about how Jesus turns the tables on us so that our lives do not focus on anything else but him and his will for the universe.
Many people have gone    to great lengths to make this passage about how Jesus was simply protesting the idolatry that was taking place in the Temple.  But this explanation was hard for me to accept this past week as I studied the text.  I wondered if this passage was more than just about Jesus being concerned about idolatry.
     I was confronted with the question, “Why would Jesus overturn the tables of those who sold animals for the sacrifice that the Father in Heaven had asked the Hebrew people to make?”  For all Jews, the Temple was the center of worship.  They came from many miles and traveled primitively.  It was not feasible to bring with you animals from such great distances.  The animal sellers in the Temple gave the people the opportunity to be faithful to God in the offering of their sacrifices.  It didn’t make sense that Jesus would over turn the tables due simply to idolatry in this sense.
Why would Jesus overturn the tables of the money changers when they exchanged the coinage of Rome which proclaimed the Roman Emperor a god for coinage that honored the Lord?  When coinage was required for a temple tax to be paid for the upkeep of their worship, why would Jesus overturn the Tables if the exchange would make the offering more faithful?
What was really at stake here?
     I believe that what is at stake here lies in this passage’s relationship to the passage immediately before it.  Just before this passage Jesus changed water into wine at Cana of Galilee.  Here Jesus is establishing that he alone is the One to be worshiped.  This passage from St. John is saying simply that we must not allow anything to compete with Jesus as the center of our worship, the center of our moral living, the center of our concept of God and at the center of our daily living.
The whole of the Gospel of John can be summarized in the opening prologue.  It reads in John 1.14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  This is nothing but monumental.  In this one verse, John is saying that the incomprehensible God, the one who could not be fathomed, has come in the form of humanity.  Even more than his relationship with Israel, Jesus comes to be a more intimate and more sacrificing God in our lives.  There must be nothing else which competes with this.  Not cows, not sheep, not exchanging money, not the old sacrifices.
     The fact that Jesus is THE monumental act of God breaking into human history coupled with the fact that the turning over of the tables in the Temple is happening at the beginning of his ministry causes me to think that Jesus is saying something really profound here.  He is saying that He is the new focus of worship.  There must be nothing else that will compete with Him and his leading us to the Holy Trinity.
Jesus is overturning the tables of the animal merchants because it is no longer necessary to buy animals for sacrifice.  Jesus IS the eternal sacrifice.
It is no longer necessary to exchange the money for the Temple tax because Jesus is the Emperor of the Universe, whether we want to acknowledge it or not.
     Jesus is saying in this action in the Temple that he has come to overturn our original assumptions about God and to change the focus of our Worship. He is the New Covenant.  He is the Messiah.  That means there is something new to consider: there is no one but him and we ought not let anything get in the way of that.
Jesus changes the focus of our moral life.  No longer do we follow Torah, the law of Moses, alone.  We now follow the Torah according to Jesus, the one who is the Divine Reasoning of God.
Jesus changes our focus on God.  No longer is it just the incomprehensible God.  It is now the incomprehensible God breaking into history and becoming one of us.  He breaks into our lives.  He suffers what we suffer.  He endures what we endure.  God is no longer just the Spiritual who saves us by mighty acts from the heavens.  God is now the God-man who saves us in a way we could have never conceived.
So, when Jesus overturns the tables in the Temple, he is overturning the tables of the world.  He overturns the tables within us that we thought we had put in neat order, just like the tables of the vendors in the Temple.
     The Lord Jesus, the Christ, calls us to a discipleship which follows him and him alone.  Morally, in worship and in our everyday lives.
I was having my muffler fixed the other day.  As I was sitting there, I was subjected to watching TruTV, which used to be CourtTV.  Not by choice, mind you.  They have about thirty five different versions of the old show “People’s Court.”  In the one that was inflicted upon me, there was a man suing a woman who threw a long island ice tea at him in a bar because he had “cheated on her.”  As the tawdry thing unfolded I began to be overcome with a sense that I am glad that the Lord has protected me from myself.  If he had not claimed my life I could have been inflicted with the pain and sorrow that these two people were expressing as anger in a courtroom.   
I was also struck with the sense that those two folks needed Christ to overturn the tables of pettiness in their lives.  They needed him to overturn the way that they judged other people.  They needed him to overturn their goals and objectives in life.  They needed him to overturn their understanding of what love is and what it means to be in relationship with each other.  They needed the Lord just like I need him everyday to do away with my selfishness and pettiness and rude and rebellious living.
Oh, how I wish that Jesus would overturn the table of what they hold dear!
The whole show reminded me of how we focus so much on what we need and how we are going to get it.  We worry so much about whether we are going to get things the way we want them.  If those two lost souls had only thrown away the notion that they needed to be given what they wanted in favor of trying to please God, they actually would get more of what they wanted in the first place.  In fact, Jesus says it best, “you must give to receive.”
     Jesus comes to tell us that the focus of all things ought to be him because he was willing to take the pains of the world upon his shoulders.  And we can focus on him by reading our Bibles daily, praying daily, taking the Eucharist, at least weekly or as much as possible, and doing all we can to show others that God loves them.  Jesus turns the focus of the Temple from what we can offer God to what he offers us: eternal salvation.  We must not have anything cloud that clear message about Christ and what he did for us.
For example, doing the will of the Lord lead a high society Hungarian girl to work for peace in Calcutta, India amongst the poorest and most reviled peoples there.  We knew her as “Mother Teresa.”  She taught us that even the most vile and the poorest must be loved by us for God.  We cannot escape it.  If Jesus is the focus of who we are, then no one is unclean.  They all are worthy of the love of the Cross.  It is a hard lesson, but when it is lived out, it is a blessing to all.
 
Jesus changes our perspective on many things in life.  Sometimes it is a hard thing to face it.  How do we think that these people felt when they were confronted with the truth about their dealings in the Temple.  Do we think they said, “Oh, Jesus, thank you!  Would you like to go out for a cup of coffee to discuss how you have exposed areas in our lives where we were unfaithful?”  Sometimes the truth is startling and unacceptable.  It disrupts us and overturns tables in our hearts causing a terrible mess.  But there is one hope.  Following Christ will put that life back into order–his order.  When we are in his order, we don’t have to face the order in the TruTV life.  Praise God!
      Let us rejoice today that Jesus overturns the tables in our lives, no matter how painful it is to change our perspective.  Let us rejoice that we have a Savior who calls people to lead a holy life focused on him instead of themselves.
So, this passage isn’t just about idolatry.  It is about a new day and a new age where the focus of all the universe is on Jesus.  What is it that is keeping you from following Christ alone this Lent?  I invite you to come to the ordering Lord, Jesus Christ, who will put your life in order.  As the Clinton motto should have read, “It’s about God, Stupid!” Amen?  Amen.
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