Over the last few weeks we have talked a little bit about what the season of Lent means for us. Today’s lessons take us a bit deeper into our Lenten journey as we follow Jesus on the Way toward Jerusalem. In our Gospel lesson this morning we see a rare instance of Jesus losing his temper. There is no question that he is angry with what he finds at the temple. It’s a little confusing really; those that are there selling are performing a service, a much needed service. People are coming long distances to celebrate the Passover at the temple. Many of them need to have the required animals for sacrifice and it would be much easier to purchase them than to travel long distances with them. They are probably grateful that they can purchase what they need. So why is Jesus so angry? Maybe part of the key is found in the Epistle for today. Paul’s letter tells us that preaching Christ crucified is beyond foolish. Worshipping one who is crucified as a criminal makes no sense; being crucified is the ultimate mark of shame and yet it becomes for us the ultimate sign of love and new life in God. God once again shows us what God’s version of the world looks like because of course humans always manage to turn in a different direction; what becomes important to us isn’t what is important to God… God’s foolishness (by that we mean what we see as foolish) is wiser than anything we can come up with. Our supposed wisdom is what is really foolish in God’s eyes. We tend to place worth in external things that can be measured rather than in those risky relationships that cannot be measured in standard wealth-driven ways. So, back to the temple. Some of what is probably going on is extortion. People are probably having to pay top dollar for the things they need for sacrifice. The sellers are making a profit based on another’s hardship. We also have to wonder if Jesus isn’t somehow commenting on the spiritual state of those coming to the temple. Sure, they are coming and they are trying to make sure that they offer the appropriate sacrifice. But does offering the sacrifice change anything? One possibility for Jesus’ anger is that offering the prescribed sacrifice has lost its meaning. People are coming and they are paying attention to only one part of the law; sacrifice is more than mere offerings of animals and other external things. When we look at the law, and the commandments, what do we see? We see that our lives are to be shaped by right actions toward God and toward our neighbor. That’s where the real sacrifice is… it’s in those relationships that can be so difficult to negotiate. Any one can offer God a burnt offering, but it takes real soul work to be in relationship with others and with God. Being so close to others (and especially to God) shows us those places in our lives where maybe we’re not doing so well. When we keep our spiritual life outside ourselves we miss the pain that taking risks brings, but we also miss the joy of right relationship. God created us out of love and God lived in Jesus for the sake of love. God risked and God lost everything to be in relationship with you and with me; and because God risked everything, we are to risk everything to be in relationship with each other. Jesus drives his point home when he is confronted by those who are in charge of the temple. I am certain that his actions caused quite a stir and probably resulted in a huge loss of money for those who were doing the actual selling as well as those who were in charge of the temple. They ask him for a sign. He responds with a prediction of the passion; “Destroy this temple, and in three days, I will raise it up”. Of course, once again, those who are listening are focused on the external world. They think he means the incredible building that surrounds them. The temple represented the center of spiritual life. But here again, Jesus gets personal. He has come to redefine what the temple is and means. He is the new temple; he is the center of the spiritual life, and because he is the new temple, he makes all of us temples as well. When the Spirit comes to rest upon us, we too become temples of God’s Holy Spirit. While our building is wonderful, and helps us in our worship, it is nothing if our worship doesn’t help us to live into deeper relationship with God and with God’s people. So, now what? Well it is Lent, and for us, that means it’s time to slow down and do some interior work… a cleansing of the temple, if you will. When we give something up, or take something on during Lent, the purpose of that discipline is to help us get closer to God, to help us be in a deeper relationship… it is always a risk to allow ourselves to be affected by the holy. If we allow ourselves to get closer to God, something, or perhaps everything changes. Our priorities shift, we do absolutely foolish things, because after all, God’s foolishness is wiser than any human wisdom. Love becomes our driving force rather than wealth or gain. We risk everything, because we know that God who is ultimately everything, will never leave us. We’ve all got those places in our souls that seem empty. We all have those things of the flesh that we put in God’s place in our lives. We all have them; you know what lurks in the darkness of your soul. As we walk with Jesus toward Jerusalem, I pray we can empty ourselves of our false wisdom. I pray that our worship is not simply a set of prescribed prayers and actions that we perform out of some sense of duty. I hope that in our worship and in our prayers we can open ourselves up to be the temple that God asks us to be; a temple ruled by love; radical, life-giving love that brings us closer to God and to each other and helps us to act in the world in love rather than in wisdom defined by the empire. For it is love that risks everything and gives everything. We know that we receive the gift of God’s love. May we be givers of the gift as well.