Deliver us from transaction

Text: John 2:13-22

When it was time for the Passover, when everyone flocked to Jerusalem to make their sacrifice at the Temple, Jesus also went to Jerusalem. And there, instead of making his sacrifice, he short-circuited the whole system.  

Despite the whip and the table-overturning action, though, this story is not about Jesus’ anger. He’s not finding fault with the sacrificial system, either, but rather announcing, in dramatic fashion, that it is no longer needed. That there do not have to be transactions and intermediaries within a complicated structure, the kinds of things found in the market place, for people to be in relationship with God.  

In his disruption of the Temple process, he is, like an Old Testament prophet, acting out who he is. He is the man from God interrupting the regularly scheduled program so as to bridge the divide between humanity and divinity. Jesus is God’s interruption of the world as it was before, the divine interrupting earthly life.  

Jesus’s point in this prophetic performance is that HE is now the locus of God among the people. Because God is not a God of a particular location, bound by walls and courts and corridors or a system of rules and observances, but is a living God who is among the people.  

Those of us who have been attending the interfaith dialogue are aware that Judaism itself was changed when the Temple was indeed destroyed in the first century. Judaism moved the focus from a sacrificial system to recenter on gathering in community where people came together to be fed, to learn, to worship together, to be equipped to serve the world as God commands.

So for Jews and for Christians alike, then, the Temple is no more.

The obvious follow up to this, then, is the question, why worship in a building at all?  If the historic and storied Temple has been made obsolete, then what about OUR historic and storied building?  What about OUR system, with its Prayer Books and vested priests? If our salvation is assured, why not just go to the mountains or the beach and read some Thomas Merton or Mother Teresa?

Well, as you know, many people DO go to the mountains or the beach. They say that they are spiritual but not religious.  They commune with God in their own way, without a church to tell them anything.  I understand that. I spent some time being spiritual but not religious myself. It was nice to sleep in on Sundays.

And yet, I came back. I came back because I wanted to be part of something that was way bigger than I was.  I do have a thing for beautiful sacred spaces, but also I wanted to be part of a community. And it was community that actually formed me, that upheld me in my troubles, that prayed for me, and visited me, and brought food to me.  It was in community that I experienced the love that we Christians saythe world will know us by.

I found people who would walk with me, people who would serve as mentors and guides along the way.  I found beauty in sacred spaces and in the music in church. I found classes and groups that fed me spiritually.  I found that the church could be a resource not just for me but for others, all kinds of others.  

I found that it was through being in community that I could discern where God was calling me to go and who God was calling me to be. The building was the place I went to gather with the community but being in community was how I grew.

And so I found I could be be spiritual AND religious. 

Jesus was all about community, and he taught in the synagogues which were already a part of Judaism.   But he didn’t want people to worship the Temple instead of worshipping God. Jesus didn’t want people to feel that they have to make transactions to be in relationship with God, and you know that lots of us still think we need to do that. ("God, I’ll do something good so you’ll love me and save me.")  

Jesus wanted people to encounter a living God in their daily lives.

And so that is our challenge.  We are not here to worship our building, expecting that somehow our salvation comes from church membership or saying the right words or doing a good deed. We are not here to make a transaction with God for our salvation. Our salvation has already come in Jesus.

We come here to be a community that follows Jesus. Congregational life is how we are formed and transformed, and God is among us here, I know absolutely. We derive real sustenance from being part of a church community, and our spiritual growth depends on our prayers together, our considering Scripture together, our working together for the good of the world around us. 

But this is not the only place God is. We don’t just “come to visit God” on Sundays and holidays. 


We, too, can encounter a living God in our daily lives, when we re-orient ourselves to look for God everywhere and not just here.  God interrupts our lives every day.... when we feel some kind of urge to go visit someone who is sick or lonely or welcome a stranger or get involved with a group to alleviate poverty or suffering or hunger.  

God interrupts our preoccupations with getting things right through order and systems and transactions and calls us to follow Jesus and minister out there in the world in his name.

Jesus wants us to live for God and others. To worship God and not the church or the Bible or our services or our prayer book. Jesus wants us to be in community but not to worship the community.  Jesus wants us to be fed and nurtured and guided in community and to follow him out into the world.

That’s why we are here.