Taking Out the Trash
- Thursday, January 01, 2004
(Scene: "Clean" trash is all over the church and on stage. Two large trash cans are down front for the participatory part of the sermon. Then the preacher walks out in a janitor's uniform — a work shirt and jeans are fine — pushing a broom. Over the sound system the old Rock and Roll song, Yakety Yak, is playing. Let the music play for about thirty seconds while the preacher sweeps trash with an expression of disgust on his face. The music fades.)
Goodness Gracious! What happened here? Don't you people ever clean up anything? This place is a mess. Doesn't this make you mad? It should. Doesn't it upset you that you have to sit here among all this trash? A place of worship, the house of God, God's holy church shouldn't get in this condition — paper on the floor and Coke cans littering the isle. How can you worship in a mess like this? There is trash everywhere. Haven't you ever heard of a trash bag? We need to take out some trash out of this church today.
This place is a mess. But, believe it or not, this is not the worse mess in a church I've have had to clean up. Nope. One other time I had to clean up a mess worse than this in a church. You will never guess who made it. Jesus.
It seems Jesus had been looking forward to going to the temple since the Passover was at hand. That's the holiday when the Jews celebrate when and how their ancestors were delivered from Egypt by Moses. The treatment and cruelty they had experienced in Egypt under the hand of Pharaoh was terrible. So you might think this would be one of the greatest celebrations and worship services ever. Can you imagine what Jesus was expecting to find?
I imagine He was expecting to see a major celebration and a major worship service where people were singing and praying. There was also a very special ritual whereby Jews would bring the best of what they had to be sacrificed as a sin offering for payment of sin committed during the year. This ritual was very important because that is how the Jews knew that they were right with God.
But when Jesus walked in this is not what He found at all. What should have been a spiritually sensitive time had been turned into a place the Pharisees could turn a profit. These religious legalists were selling oxen, sheep, and doves to be sacrificed, and they were selling them at outrageous prices. Can you imagine how much more money these Pharisees would make by telling those who had come to worship, "You are not going to be right with God unless you buy our animals. These animals are better than the ones you brought from home. Your animals are not good enough for God." A good Jew certainly wanted to be right with God. So the profits started rolling in.
There were also money changers there. You see, Jews from far off, especially Jews from Rome, had a different type of money. The Jews from Rome had Roman coins that had the image of Caesar on it. As you can expect, this was not a very popular coin in a Jewish temple. So the money changers would exchange these coins for a Tyrian coin so they could pay the half-shekel temple tax. All this was done for a fee, of course. They had turned God's church into their money-machine. O that day there was some trash that needed taking out of the church.
When Jesus walked in, He witnessed all of this and found the values of the world had become the values of the church. This struck him at his core. It should strike us at our core when the values of the world outside of the church become the values of our worship inside the church. Values where making a buck becomes more important than worshiping our God. Where we trust in our money more than we trust in our God. Where we take advantage of others just because we can. And we do all those things in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. No wonder he's mad.
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