St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver, B.C.

Phone: 604-877-1788

E-mail: office@stmarymags.ca


The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene

2950 Laurel Street at West 14th Avenue

Vancouver, BC, V5Z  3T3

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Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada

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Sermon

March 7th Lent 3, 2021    Tasha Carrothers


Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:1-17


Time, time, time…


There are all kinds of time.


A time to get up in the morning, a time to go to bed.


A time to go for a walk, or to run errands, and a time to come home.


There is a time to work and a time to rest. But what is time?


Some people say that time is a line. But I wonder what that would look like? Ah… wait a minute! What is this? Time. Time in a line. This is time in a line. Look as this. Here is the beginning. It is the newest part. It is just being born. It is brand new.


Now look.  Look. It is getting older. The part that was new is now getting old. I wonder how long time goes. Does it go forever? Could there ever be an ending?


It ended. Look at the ending.


The beginning that was so new at the beginning now is old. The ending is the new part now. We have a beginning that is like an ending and an ending that is like a beginning.


Do you know what the church did? They tied the ending that is like a beginning and the beginning that is like an ending together, so we would always remember that for every ending there is a beginning and for every beginning there is an ending.¹


Time. All kinds of time.


The people of St. Mary Magdalene are in a time of ending and beginning. A transition time, a liminal time, having left the familiar and not yet arrived at the new.


And even before this transition time, things were already destabilized, already unfamiliar, because our world is in pandemic time. A colleague described herself as living in a state of high anxiety anxious and extreme boredom. We can’t follow our usual routines, go our normal places, see our friends and family. We can easily lose track of the day of the week. Our lives are at once destabilized and unchanging.


In the church year we are in Lent, a preparation time. An intentional time. We commonly take up practices to remind us of this preparation time, perhaps giving up a habit that doesn’t serve us, or incorporating a new practice into our daily lives, maybe journaling or daily prayer. It might be hard for us to fully enter into this preparation time because of disorienting pandemic time.


The first reading today also talked about time. Sabbath time. Sacred time. Freedom time. God-like time. What God wants for God’s self, God also wants for us.


PAUSE


When we look at the gospel reading from John, the focus is not so much on sacred time as it is on sacred space, on where we find God.


The story takes place in the most sacred of places, the Temple. The Temple was the center of religious practice. Devout people made pilgrimages to the Temple in Jerusalem several times each year for important festivals, in this case, Passover. Animal sellers and money traders in the outer court performed a necessary function: they provided unblemished animals so that people could make offerings and they converted regular money into the half-shekels needed to pay the Temple tax.


Jesus’ actions are shocking, even violent. He makes a whip and drives out the animals. He turns over tables. He orders people to stop making his Father’s house a market house.


Many interpreters suggest that the problem with the traders is that they are not trading fairly but are leveraging their position to overcharge for the animals or give a poor rate of exchange for the shekels. But there is another reading that I find more compelling.


Throwing out the money changers and traders is a reference to the end of the prophetic book of Zechariah. The very last sentence of Zechariah reads: “And there shall no longer be traders in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day.” For Zechariah, “that day” is an apocalyptic time in which all people—both Jew and Gentile—are accepted, and the boundaries between sacred and secular are erased. Every one and every where is included in the universal worship of God. And when sacred space is everywhere, you don’t need traders and money changers to facilitate people’s transition from secular to sacred in order to encounter God. So when he chases the traders out of the Temple, Jesus is declaring that now is the time, now is the time when all are included in God’s love, and all space is sacred space.


Jesus is not interested in reforming the system, in combatting corruption. He is saying that the Temple is no longer necessary.


This would be shocking enough, but Jesus goes even further. He calls the Temple “my Father’s house.” In asking for a sign, the Temple authorities are asking Jesus to give some evidence to back up this outrageous claim. By what authority is he driving out the traders? By what authority is he claiming God as his Father?


Jesus offers them this unsatisfactory reply: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” They don’t understand. Impossible--it took 46 years to build it. But, the text tells us--and we know from the end of the story—Jesus is not talking about the Temple in Jerusalem, he is talking about himself. Because when God became incarnate, sacred space moved from the Temple to Jesus. Where you look for God, where you expect to find God, who and what you imagine God to be, are all up-ended in Jesus. God has left the building and moves among the people.


The Temple authorities do not understand. But the disciples do. They remember and they trust. When Jesus makes this disruptive scene, they remember Psalm 69, “zeal for your house will consume me,” and understand that Jesus’ actions are faithful. And after he was raised from the dead, they remember this moment, that he had told them about the temple of his body. They remembered. And they believed, they trusted the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. They remember and they trust.


Where does this leave us in this unstable time, this transition time, this holy time, this Sabbath time? It leaves me wondering…



I wonder what part of this story is about you, or where you see yourself in this story? Do you see yourself in the traders and money changers? The animals? The Temple authorities? Jesus? The disciples?


I wonder how easy or hard it is for you to trust God-who-created us? To trust God-among-us? To trust God-leading-us?


I wonder when and where you find sacred time and sacred space to remember and to nurture that trust?


 ¹ Jerome Berryman, The Complete Guide to Godly Play, Lesson 1, Circle of the Church Year.