#Maguire is the reflection for March 8, 2015. Is Jesus only concerned about the “spiritual”? What is the fate of Jesus the Zealot and what does Jerry Maguire have to do with it? Find out what we should be doing during Lent in this podcast. Available on itunes and android. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #ProperFocus, #JerryMaguire #FundamentalUnion
For listener supported MySpiritualAdvisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 3/8/2015 The 3rd Sunday of Lent.
Please pause this audio and read John 2:13-25.
I have placed the opening scene of the movie “Jerry Maguire” above the introductory comments on this podcast because I think it is a great modern example of what happens when one does the right thing, appeals to the proper motives, and feels like they are doing the right thing only to be destroyed. In the clip, Maguire is an agent for professional athletes who dares to put the work over the profits. The movie leads him to lose everything and to have to start over again. He loses his job, his clients, and is left with one singular and very difficult client with whom he needs to rebuild his career.
Unfortunately, the story becomes a romance and we are swept away by the line we all remember which is, “you complete me.” What is more compelling about the story is the person that Maguire becomes and how the story shows him revolutionizing a corrupt industry. Maguire begins by writing a 25 page manifesto that he calls a “mission statement” that says what everyone wants to say but is afraid to say. What happens to Maguire is why no one says it: he pays the price.
I know my personality is predisposed to love the Gospel reading for the Third Sunday of Lent. Jesus is kicking butt and taking names later. He is standing up for what is right and true: a house of worship to God that is only about the worship, not the buying and selling of goods. It makes me think of the churches that have the good intentions of making an entry way welcoming by installing a coffee bar and other types of attractions, but don’t see that by doing so, they have removed some sense of the sacred. On the flip side, the statement might be made that they are making everything sacred. It should at the very least cause us to ask the question.
The context of Jesus overturning the tables in the Temple is something unique to the Gospel of John. This is the first of three Passovers that Jesus will come to Jerusalem to observe. The other Gospels only recount the Passover when Jesus dies. At each Passover in John, Jesus and his disciples make the trek to Jerusalem, like all other Jews. It is important for everyone to make their amends to God as they enter Jerusalem and it would seem crazy to have to bring your own bulls and sheep.
It was approximately 120 miles from Capernaum, Jesus’ home base, to Jerusalem. Couldn’t you see someone in a Temple board meeting saying, “We should really provide a way for people to get the animals necessary for the sacrifices so that they wouldn’t have to bring them from far away. We will get more people to observe the Passover if we make it more convenient”? Can’t you see that happening? I have been in enough church meetings to know that this is the same conversation about providing nurseries, children’s ministries, donuts and coffee after Mass or service. It is all about maximizing participation by providing what other churches don’t. We are the “full service” church.
We don’t really think about the ramifications of what we are doing until we stop and think about things from the perspective of faith. The idea of providing things for people to “get them to come” starts from a point that is not of faith, it is the starting point of convenience. The questions that drive us are pretty common to all of us: “What will give us the higher return? What will bring us the most people? What will make us the biggest enterprise?” Those are the questions that we all know we need to ask, right? Because without making ourselves the biggest, most glamourous, then no one will want to come and we think we our church will die.
In the midst of this mindset, which has been around since Adam, in walks Jerry Maguire. Did you notice in the clip that in order to do things better it meant, “Fewer clients. Less money. More attention and caring for [the client]”? At the end of the clip, as coworkers at his company are applauding him, two of his coworkers exchange that he will only last a week after the publication of his “mission statement”. They were generous.
Everyone can admire, but no one likes, zealots, really. Those that follow them are few. Zealots call attention to what is being done according to conventional wisdom, but is causing us to drift from the original purpose of the organization. Jerry Maguire is a zealot. He will pay the price. We get to see in the story that he will come out in the end as the new wave of reformed athletic agents. After Jerry’s death, there is resurrection.
Jesus, in our Gospel for today, is a zealot. I love the Greek which actually says, “Zeal for your house will devour me.” There is a passion for the Church, the Temple, and not just the “spirituality” of the people. For all the talk of John’s Gospel being the “spiritual Gospel,” we can see that for Jesus Christ, physical realities communicate a spiritual reality that must be dealt with.
One of my colleagues in ministry, the Rev. Taylor Burton Edwards, wrote a fantastic piece on why it is that we should not endorse the distribution of Ashes on street corners for people who are “too busy” to make it to church on Ash Wednesday. It is consumeristically called “ashes to go.” The reason we should not do “ashes to go,” Burton-Edwards says, is because the distribution of ashes is part of a collective mission of those who follow Jesus. Part of the action of ashes is to communicate spiritual truths. Our bodies and souls are as inextricably tied together as are the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ.
There is what is called in the church, an ‘hypostatic union’. ‘Hypostatic’ means ‘fundamental’. There is a ‘fundamental union’ of our soul and body. We cannot remove symbolism from the spiritual reality. The divinity of Jesus cannot be removed from his humanity. The spiritual reality of the action cannot be removed from the optics of it. Simply put: selling anything in the court of the Temple redefines the Temple itself. The Greek here says, “Do not turn my Father’s House into a house of business.”
Yes, we need to attract people to come to our churches. Yes, we can use modern techniques to keep in contact with people and invite them to come, but the Gospel of Salvation is not a transaction. It is not for sale. You cannot earn it. The Gospel of Salvation is something that is offered freely after someone else has paid the price. The best way to invite people to come and worship with us is to ask them. After we have actively done acts of kindness and love for the sake of loving the other person, then, and only then, can we invite them. How we design our church entry ways should represent the spiritual reality that people will be loved by God through this community when they enter. There will be no expectation of a transaction. There will be only the giving of the free gifts of life, love and hospitality.
As Jerry Maguire’s mentor with the great name, “Dicky Fox”, says, “[It] is all about relationships.” Personal relationships define who we are. God is a person. When he wanted to save the world, he sent a person. Do we really think that God would throw us away if we could only offer ourselves? That is what he wants in the first place. Yet, it is troubling to God, as we can see from Jesus’ reaction, when we start to mix up intended purposes of his creation. He doesn’t like it when we begin to think that the church is a business and it is all about preservation of the place for the sake of the place and not the preservation of the relationship.
Lent is a time when we are to renew our thinking about what it is that we do that has lost focus. It is a time when we are supposed to reset for the entire year the actions we are doing which may express the wrong intention. Are we about convenience alone? Are we about focusing on our own needs, our own purchase of a sacrifice to present? Are we living what we say we believe or are we starting to believe in how comfortably we want to live? Think about it and make the change. Amen.
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