Exodus 20.1-17; John 2.13-22
+ I don’t know about you, but I am suffering. I’m suffering from major spring fever. This wonderful weather is making me very happy. And ambitious. I’ve been having a crazy, busy schedule, but these last few nights I have been doing the annual spring cleaning at the rectory.
My mother came over last night to do her inspection of the house. She gave her seal of approval to my work. Though it does shock her that is not one bite of food in the entire house.
But the person I feel most sorry for is my garbage man. Tomorrow morning, he is going to have deal with quite a bit of clutter.
But this is appropriate time to be getting rid of clutter. Lent is a time for us to sort of quiet ourselves to get rid of whatever clutter we might have knocking around inside us or in our lives. Clutter is that stuff in our lives—and “stuff” is the prefect word for it—that just piles up. If you’re anything like me, we sometimes start ignoring our clutter. We sort of do that too with our own spiritual clutter. We don’t give it a second thought, even when we’re tripping over it and stumbling on it. In fact, often we don’t fully realize how much clutter we have until after we’ve disposed of it. When we see that clean, orderly room, we realize only then how clutter sort of made us lose our appreciation for the beauty of the room itself.
In Lent, what we dispose of us is the clutter of our spiritual lives. And we all have spiritual clutter. We have those things that “get in the way.” We have our bad habits. We have those things that we do without even thinking we’re doing them. And oftentimes, they’re not good for it—or at least they don’t enhance our spiritual lives.
Often the clutter in our spiritual lives gets in the way of our prayer life, our spiritual discipline, our all-important relationship with God. The clutter in our spiritual life truly becomes something we find ourselves “tripping” over. The clutter in our spiritual life causes us to stumble occasionally. And when it does, we find our spiritual life less than what it should be. Sometimes it’s just “off.”
During Lent, it is an important time to take a look around us. It is important to actually see the spiritual clutter in our lives and to clear it away in whatever ways we can.
In our Gospel reading for today, we find Jesus going into the temple and clearing out the clutter there. He sweeps the Temple clean, because he knows that the clutter of the merchants who have settled there are not enhancing the beauty of the Temple. They are not helping people in their relationship with God. Rather, these merchants are there for no spiritual reasons at all, ultimately. They are there for their own gain and for nothing else.
In a sense, we need to, like Jesus, clean out the merchants in our lives as well. We need to have the Temple of our bodies cleaned occasionally. We need to sweep it clean and, in doing so, we will find our spirituality a little more finely tuned. We will find our prayer life a more fulfilling. We will find our time at Eucharist more meaningful. We will find our engaging of Scripture to be more edifying. We will find our service to others to be a bit more selfless and purposeful than it was before. We will see things with a clearer spiritual eye—which we need.
It is a matter of simplifying our spiritual lives. It is matter of recognizing that in our relationship with God and one another, we don’t need the clutter—we don’t need those things that get in the way.
We don’t need anything to complicate our spiritual lives. There are enough obstacles out there. There will always be enough “stuff” falling into our pathways, enough ”things” for us to stumble over.
Without the clutter in our lives, it IS easier to keep our spiritual lives clean. Without the clutter in our life, we find things are just…simpler.
So…how do we do this? Well, the answer is really no further than our scripture from the Hebrew Scriptures for today. God lays it on the line for Moses on Mount Sinai. And each commandment that God gives Moses is really a matter of housekeeping. It is a matter of cleaning up the messes in the Israelites’ lives.
Rather than the clutter of the gods you have been worshipped—those gods that are really not at all helpful, but only get in the way of the one true God—simply worship only the One God. Simple.
You shall respect this God by respecting God’s Name. You shall, in a sense, honor, love and worship this One God. Likewise, God cleans up the messes of their relationships with one another. Love God. Love your neighbor. Don’t hate your neighbor. Don’t bear grudges against your neighbor, or lust after your neighbor, or be jealous of your neighbor or steal from your neighbor, because these things only clutter up your life needlessly. Rather, love them and in loving them, you will see all that clutter disappear to some extent. And if you do these things, you will be living the life that was intended for you by God.
In a sense, we are not living the life intended for us when we allow our lives to mucked up. What we need to do occasionally is sweep out the junk, the trivial things, the dust and the dirt that have accumulated in our lives and live in that simplicity that God intends for us.
In our Gospel reading for today, we also find that the Temple Jesus is cleaning out and cleansing serves its purpose for now, but even it will be replaced with something more perfect and something, ultimately, more simple. It will be replaced by something that will not need to cleansed. It will be replaced with something that will not be cluttered. It will be replaced with the Temple of our living God. And it will be here that we will find our true worship.
It is here that will find a true and living Temple of our true and living God. And, in a sense, our own bodies become temples of this living God because of what Jesus did. Our bodies also become the dwelling places of that one, living God.
Which brings us back to Lent. In this season of Lent, we become mindful of this simple fact. Our bodies are the temples of that One, living God. God dwells within us much as God dwells in the Temple. Because God dwells in us, we have this holiness inherent within us. We are holy. Each of us.
Because of this Presence within us, we find ourselves wanting to cleanse the temple. We find our selves examining our selves, looking closely at the things over which we trip and stumble. We find ourselves realizing that the clutter of our lives really does distract us from remembering that God dwells with us and within us. And when we realize that, we really do want to work on ourselves a bit. We work at trying to simplify our lives—our actual, day-to-day lives, as well as our spiritual lives. We want to actually spend time in prayer, in allowing that living God to dwell fully within us and to enlighten us. We fast—emptying our bodies and purifying our selves. We recognize the wrongs we have done to ourselves, to others. We realize that we have allowed this clutter to build up. We realize we have not loved God or our neighbors. Or even ourselves. Or we have loved ourselves too much, and not God and our neighbors enough.
Once we have eliminated the spiritual clutter of our lives, we do truly find our God dwelling with us. We find ourselves worshipping in that Body that cannot be cluttered. We find a certain simplicity and beauty in our lives that comes only through spiritual discipline.
So, as we continue our journey through Lent, let us, like Jesus, take up the cords and go through the temple of our own selves. Let us, like him, clear away the clutter of our lives. Let us cleanse the temple of our own self and make it like the Temple of a place worthy of God. And when that happens, we will find ourselves proclaiming, with Psalm 69, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” For it will.