WELCOME TO THE PARISH OF SKETTY
NEED A SPRING CLEAN?
During the season of Lent, one of the stories about Jesus we think about, is the time when having rode into Jerusalem and been hailed by the crowds as their King, He went into the Temple and caused a stir by driving out the people there whom He found selling goods and changing money. Let’s picture the scene.
The courtyard is described as being filled with livestock which would have been sold for sacrifices. There were merchants, and the tables of the money changers, who changed the standard Greek and Roman money for Jewish and Tyrian shekels.
Jerusalem was packed with Jews who had come for Passover, perhaps numbering 300,000 to 400,000 pilgrims.
Jesus made a whip of cords and He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen.
He poured out the coins of the moneychangers and overturned their tables and He told those who sold the pigeons, "Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade".
In Mark 12: 40 and Luke 20: 47. Jesus accused the Temple authorities of thieving and this time he names poor widows as their victims, going on to provide evidence of this in Mark 12: 42 and Luke 21: 2. Dove sellers were selling doves that were sacrificed by the poor who could not afford grander sacrifices and specifically by women. According to Mark 11: 1-
For my theme this Lent, I thought I would talk to you about other temples which need to be cleansed by Jesus.
Paul says that our bodies are, ‘Temples of The Holy Spirit’, (1 Corinthians 6:9), and I wonder if we are ready to receive Jesus into our lives today? When our Lord and Saviour comes to us, in what state will He find us? Does He need to cause a stir within us because we are not serving God as we should be?
I will develop this idea through the weeks leading up to Easter.
So, let’s begin by considering the state He finds us in today.With the Pandemic we have become very aware on the need for cleanliness. Do we, I wonder, need a Spiritual Spring clean?
When our houses receive a good ‘spring clean’ we sort out the rubbish we have collected, put our cupboards in order, give our paintwork a good clean up and maybe renew or refresh things like curtains and furniture. We do it to make sure our homes are clean, safe and presentable and pleasant places in which to live and to receive visitors.
Do our Spiritual temples need to become better places in which God’s Spirit can live and be able to work more effectively! Do we need to become the sort of Christians others feel comfortable approaching and can feel at ease and feel safe to open up to us?
The beginning of Lent is the time to start sorting out the clutter in our lives, to consider how we appear to those outside the faith and to each other and what needs improving and attending to.
We can make two lists. One list can contain all the positive things from our pasts that have helped us to grow in the faith and our witness to it, and the other can contain all that is stopping us from growing spiritually and blocking the work of The Holy Spirit within us.
We need our spiritual dustbins ready to receive the things we are holding on to from our pasts.
Some of us become spiritual hoarders. We just can’t let things go and rehearse what we would like to say to those who hurt us in the past. We can’t forgive.
Once we have done this, we are ready to decide how we are to proceed.
We may give consideration to what we are going to use to help us and to whom we are going to turn for advice and guidance. In this, let us remember our main sources: our Bibles and a variety of courses and books, the Sacraments and the gifts offered by our churches and the variety of experts in different areas of our faith, that are found among our Christian brothers and sisters.
We then need to refer to the head of us all, Our Saviour Jesus Christ in prayer in order for Him to show us the way to proceed.
So as we begin this work, let us go to Jesus as our chief advisor and ask Him to be with us at all times’ admitting humbly that it is impossible to proceed as we should without Him!
As we use this special time to open the windows and doors of our hearts and minds,
may Your cleansing light flow in.
May we not be afraid of the layers of dusty failings and flaws that Your light exposes
nor of the exposure of scars from past conflicts that flaw our personalities.
Instead may we be glad of the opportunity to clean up our spiritual temples this Lent
so that we can become the places fit for You enter and from where You can reign over
the rest of our lives.
We ask this in the name of Jesus our Lord
Who cleansed the Temple at Jerusalem to make it a true place of prayer.
Once we have ensured that our foundations in the faith are in a good state of repair, it is time to sort out the mess that has accumulated within our lives.
One member of my youth group once described Jesus as being like, ‘a vacuum cleaner who sucks up all our sins and disposes of them’. Perhaps this is a useful way to think about Him as we give ourselves a ‘good clean up’ during this season of Lent!
As we start to sort out the problems, another idea is to think of ourselves as putting all the things that are stopping us from growing spiritually, into big black bags ready to place at the foot of the cross knowing that Jesus has by His death willingly agreed to dispose of them for us.
One person suggested that we should imagine we are putting all that is sinful about us into a big box and then taking it out to sea and dumping it overboard. However, someone else pointed out that things dumped at sea, often come back in to shore again on the tide!
Perhaps we should remember that this a danger of which we all should be aware.
By giving everything over to Jesus, we should be prepared to leave them with Him knowing that only He can truly dispose of them and that left to our own devises, some of the things we have decided to ‘throw out’ will gradually find their way back into our lives.
How many of us have spring cleaned our cupboards only to find that within months, they become just as cluttered as they were before and in some cases, even worse! This is why during this Lent we ought to make sure that we determine to make a continued effort throughout the year ahead, to keep ourselves in better order!
Humbly we have to acknowledge that it is only with the help of that ‘housekeeper’ that God has provided for us that we will ever succeed even in a small part, to do this and we should welcome this person with open arms.
Who then is this person? Well, he is of course, one part of ‘The Holy Spirit’! So as well as coming to dwell within us He is Himself all ready and waiting, right from the start to help us to make ourselves better places for Himself!
CRACKS IN THE FABRIC WORK!
I thought about the foundation on which God’s temple was built and that all temples need maintenance, and we know if work is first needed on the foundations sooner or later the buildings will start to fall down and during the repairs a lot of dust and dirt will accumulate, and we’ll need to start cleaning all over again!
They must be sorted out first and made strong to withstand anything our environments have to throw at them.
The Temple in Jerusalem had Spiritual foundations of the Law and the Prophets. These needed to be cared for but were open to corruption and exploitation. By allowing the chaos that Jesus found in the temple it showed that things needed to be changed and threatened the true nature of God’s law and commandments.
We also have a Spiritual foundation of our faith?
We share a common foundation and that is Jesus. Who He is, everything about Him, all He taught us, and the instructions He has given to all His disciples is the one and only foundation, upon which Christianity is built!
Unless that is properly established, we will have problems holding on to our faith at testing times.
Have we who are ‘Temples of The Holy Spirit’, any warning signs that our foundations are in trouble?
Cracks appearing along the walls of buildings may be a sign that there is something wrong with the foundation sand urgent attention to them is needed.
So it is with us as ‘Temples of The Holy Spirit’. Cracks in the outward appearances that we show to each other and the world may be signs that there is something wrong with the foundations of our faith.
These cracks may appear in the way we treat one another. Are we snapping at people or taking offence at relatively minor things? Are we getting very angry and more aggressive? Do we find ourselves being critical and judgemental? Have we become impatient? Are we finding things generally difficult to cope with and losing the sympathy and understanding we once showed. Are we giving in more easily to the pressures of the world around us and are we more ready to compromise just to fit in and be accepted? These and many others are all signs that there is something wrong with the foundations of our faith and we need to go back and look inside ourselves to find the problem.
Then it is time to return to our clutter accumulated from our pasts and to see if there is anything there that needs putting right or even completely thrown out in order for The Holy Spirit is to be able to work more effectively and strengthen us against the weaknesses we find. This will help us to prioritise our tasks, which we need to undertake this Lent.
Jesus is the foundation on which we are all built. If we are building on anything or anyone else then we need to stop.
The church provides us with ‘experts’ who can look at these problems with us and give us advice on what to do.
How many of us though, I wonder, take gladly to being told we are doing something wrong? Sometimes we find this threatening to our own view of our selves and our worth and go on the defensive. However, if we realise that as brothers and sisters in the faith we should all be able to give warnings and to receive them, and if we really want to be better in our witness and more reflective of Chris in every aspect of our lives, shouldn’t we be willing to listen to each other if we are speaking in Christian love?
Taking the person out of the equation, and seeing what is being said as advice from God’s spokesmen and women, then the threat becomes less.
Discipline and humility are two very necessary characteristics that Christians should seek to cultivate. While then we are getting rid of clutter, these are two ‘items’ to either retain or acquire and will help us to repair the cracks and to shore up any weakness in our foundations.