Series: It’s All About Jesus!
Sermon: Turning the Tables
Pastor Diane Gordon
Mt Pleasant FUMC
January 29, 2017
Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 NRSV and John 2:13-25 NRSV
Today’s scripture from John tells of Jesus overturning the tables of the money changers in a much different timeframe than Mark, Matthew and Luke. They save this story till near the end of Jesus’ ministry – almost as if it were ‘the last straw’ that threw the Temple authorities over the edge; who then order his capture and death. John, on the other hand, places this event near the beginning of Jesus’ three years of ministry. It’s as if Jesus is coming onto the scene with a splash, getting everyone’s attention after wanting little attention at the wedding in Cana. It was time!
John’s Jesus is ready to take on the establishment, railing against the practice of selling animals for sacrifice and exchanging Roman and Greek money for Jewish coins that contained no graven images, for their offerings. “Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!” In other accounts of this event he calls them to account with the reminder that it was to be a house of prayer, not a place where people bought and sold and exchanged for a profit. His statement speaks volumes as Jesus refers to the Temple as “my father’s house.” He is naming himself the Son of God, in front of thousands of pilgrims who had come to celebrate the Passover. It’s one thing to say it to twelve followers. Now he was saying to the world of his day.
Jesus turned the tables in more ways than one. He took the rules of how to treat one another and turned it on its head. Not only are we to love God and one another. We are to love our enemies as well. We are to love the ones we disagree with. We are to care for those of a different class or status. We are to look out for those most vulnerable, even when there is nothing in it for us.
The wisdom of the world was turned on its head when Jesus was crucified on the cross. Paul wrote to the upwardly mobile people of Corinth “God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.”
To be crucified on a cross was more than just a way to kill someone. It was to shame them before the world – out along the roadside for everyone to see. It was not quick or merciful. It was an excruciatingly slow way to die and passersby hurled slurs and disdain. There was nothing dignified when dying on a Roman cross. God took this event and turned it upside down.
God made foolish the wisdom of the world when Jesus was raised from the dead. The wisdom of the world, the powers of this world, were not and are not in control. God sees light years beyond our human understanding. If we have anything in which to boast, let it be in our risen Lord, “for the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
We have hope because of Jesus, not because of anything we have done or will do. We have hope because of the power of God’s love, not because we seek to be great on the world’s stage. God’s desire for us is love, not hate, not division, not rich against poor, white against black, or any other contrast. God raised Jesus to show the world there is a power beyond all earthly powers and that power is love.
Worshiping that which one cannot see or control is foolishness to those who do not believe. Worshiping, for those who believe, is to connect with the living God in real time. Christ is present with us when we pray, when we sing, and as we serve. We become more Christ-like when we humble ourselves and honor God, letting the light of Christ change how we see.
When I was a girl growing up in Sturgis, I remember bragging about how great our school was, how magnificent our band and orchestra were, and what a great town I came from. There was a measure of pride that I carried with me as I went off to college. That pride was short lived as I began to see other places and travel the world. It’s not that Sturgis wasn’t good. It’s just that my frame of reference changed.
The same is true when we come to believe and know Christ. What we used to think as right and good, is challenged. The old standards don’t fit any more. Jesus calls us into a large context, an eternal one where all souls are beloved and how we live in this much larger community matters. His light shines into our darkness, not to shame us but to offer grace that is greater than our sin. Jesus came to show us there is something much bigger going on than what we can see or hold in our hand. Jesus came to show us God.
Before the throne of God, we are all brought low. We are all beggars in need of the bread of life. None of us has all the answers, correct thinking, wisdom, or knowledge. We are the blind people defining the elephant by which part we happen to touch. None of us will know the entirety until Christ returns and God’s kingdom is complete.
In the meantime, we are to pray in God’s house and continue to bring honor and glory to God; all the while realizing that God is already there offering the grace that we so much need.
I would urge us to keep our eyes on Jesus and not let ourselves be distracted and torn apart. We are warned in scripture that in the end times there will be much division, hatred, wars, and strife. Keep Christ as your light and guide. Love your neighbor with the same regard you have for your own self-interest, even when you know you don’t always agree with them. Let your love of God and neighbor flavor every word you utter or type, every decision you make and every dollar you spend. Be the salt of the earth and a light to your world as you follow Jesus. Amen.