Why Reverence Is Relevant

Text: Luke 19:41-48

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

We are familiar with two kinds of pictures of Jesus.  We are familiar with the picture of Jesus on the cross – Jesus suffering and showing sorrow.  And we are also familiar with Jesus next to children and lambs – Jesus showing compassion and love.  Yes, we are familiar and comfortable with two types of pictures of Jesus – Jesus suffering and Jesus showing compassion. 

On the other hand, we are not familiar with Jesus being violent. Yes, a violent and angry Jesus is something that we are not used to seeing.  In fact, I think it is safe to say that we are not comfortable with this kind of picture of Jesus at all.  A Jesus with a whip and a scrunched up face? Jesus with eyes beaming and a tightened jaw?  This does not sit well with us, which means that we might be caught off guard with our Gospel reading from Luke this morning.   

In our Gospel reading, Jesus is violent and most likely very angry.  But what would make Jesus so angry and violent?  Well, it certainly was not His sin for Jesus was sinless.  So, it must have been something else. 

That something else was that the people had made the Temple and courts in Jerusalem into a den of robbers.  That is to say; the Temple and courts were originally built to be a place of forgiveness of sins, worship, prayer, and the singing of the Psalms.  However, the people of Jesus’ time departed from the Lord and made the Temple into a common marketplace. 

As a common marketplace, people exchanged currency, haggled over the prices of goods, bought and sold things, talked with friends, played games, and some resorted to evil business practices. 

Now, please keep in mind that business is not bad in itself.  It is good, right, and salutary to put in an honest day’s work, get paid, and buy goods and services to support oneself and other family members.  It is necessary to do business – exchange goods and services with money.  However, it is not appropriate to make the Lord’s house into Wall Street.  The Lord’s house is not Walmart or Menards or Dakota Square Mall.  Furthermore, it is not good to allow peddlers to do bad business and to do that bad business inside the Lord’s house. 

So, is this why Jesus was so angry and became violent – driving the people out of the Temple? 

Yes, partly.  However, there is more to it than just this.  There is a greater sin that is going on beneath the common marketplace, and that is this, in the hearts of the people, they no longer held God’s house as a sacred place for His Word to dwell.  They did not hold the Temple as a reverent place where the forgiveness of sins, worship, prayer, and the singing of the Psalms occurred.  By treating the Temple as a common marketplace, they were desecrating everything that God was about.  They were trashing the reverence of the Temple.  They were making that which was sacred, common and blasphemous.

And so, Jesus got rightly angry.  He cleared the temple.  And this was not the first time that He had to clear the Temple.  Two years before this incident, He did the same thing.  The people’s unashamed and rude disrespect for the Temple was met with Jesus’ blowback.  However, the people did not learn.  They did not see their errors. 

But was Jesus being a little too legalistic?  I mean, did Jesus have to be that intense?  Couldn’t Jesus have understood that the times were changing?  Reverence and sacredness – aren’t they irrelevant and stuffy things that grandpa and grandma used to do?  Isn’t God doing a new thing – keeping things casual?

Dear friends, a lack of reverence and a disrespect for the sacred was at the root of the problem for the people that day when Jesus cleared the Temple.  And that same problem of irreverence and disrespect of the sacred is found in our hearts too.  And here is why that is, our hearts get uncomfortable with reverence and the sacred.  We like to make things casual because when things are casual, they are not as serious and not above us.  And when things are not as serious and over us, well… we do not have to take them seriously and can do whatever we want because we can be in control.  Reverence cramps our sinful styles.  The sacred makes our old Adam uncomfortable. 

Indeed, our hearts too easily lack fear, love, and trust in God.  And so, we treat the Lord’s house as a casual place, rather than a holy place of life and death.  We strip the sacredness out of God’s Word.  And then God’s Word becomes nothing more than the casual words of a God that we don’t have to take seriously. And so, we end up writing God’s Word off.   

For example, one does not have to travel far to find whole churches doing the same thing as the sellers in Temple – polluting the sacred with the common marketplace. Rather than churches being holy and sacred places of life and death, they have become circuses of showbiz and games.  Rather than churches being places where heaven meets earth, they have become places where the blood-bought-Saints meet Hollywood movies and Billboard’s Top Pop Songs.  Rather than churches being places where shepherds feed sheep, they have become places where clowns entertain goats.

Tragically, in the name of relevance and trying to be hip and cool, churches will bring Harley Davidsons, Horses, Wookiees, fog machines, Marvel Comic Characters, adult coloring books, and lasers into the sanctuary.  However, this is not relevance, for these props typically have nothing to do with death and life, sin and grace, hell and heaven, damnation and eternal life.  Furthermore, as already alluded to, these things bring the marketplace into God’s house, which ends up destroying reverence and sacredness. 

But are movies, music, circuses, and clowns bad?  No, they are not.  Clowns maybe!  No, I am just kidding!  In all seriousness, just like good business not being bad, many of these things are not bad as well.  The key, though, is this, these things are not sacred.  They are common marketplace things.  They belong in the marketplace, not the church.  In fact, when they are brought into the church, they destroy reverence.  And the reason why reverence is so important?  Reverence keeps us sober.  Reverence keeps us alert and aware of why we are in the Lord’s house.  Reverence helps us understand that we are not God and that we need God.  Reverence gives clarity that the Lord’s house is a place for the forgiveness of sins, worship, prayer, singing the Psalms, and the Word of God! 

If you want to learn about the movies, go to a theater.  If you want to learn about Pop Music, listen to the Radio or Pandora.  If you want to learn about horses, go to a rodeo.  If you want to learn about Harley Davidsons, go to a Harley shop. Go and enjoy!  But if you want to receive the sacred reverent Word of God, come to the Lord’s house. 

And so, today, we take notice of Jesus cleansing the Temple of irreverence.  And we beg the Lord to cleanse us of our irreverent hearts as well.  We ask the Lord to grant us forgiveness for the times that we wish to make His house and His sacred Word into a circus show.  We ask that the Lord would grant us reverence, not so that we can be legalistic knick picks or Pharisaical jerks, but so that we can be sober-minded, alert, and aware of why we are here and what the Lord is doing.

And what is the Lord doing in His house?  What is the Lord doing in these Church Services at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church?  The answer, He is forgiving you of all of your sins.  He is teaching you and sustaining you.  He is preparing you for death.  He is doing this through His Holy-Sacred-Reverent Word and Sacraments.  Yes, He is meeting you with His Word and Sacraments to give you complete and total forgiveness, life, and salvation. 

Baptized Saints, the Lord is not interested in entertaining you and me with common movie slogans and popular song lyrics, but gives you eternal peace in the words of absolution – your sins are forgiven!  The Lord is not interested in impressing you with cultural relevance, but gives you an always relevant identity – you are Baptized!  You are marked as the redeemed!  The Lord is not interested in giving feeding cotton candy – fluff – but gives you His Holy, Sacred, and Precious body and blood.  Take and eat; take and drink; this is my body and blood for the forgiveness of all of your sins. 

And this is why we are reverent, dear Baptized Saints.  We are reverent because the Lord meets us here and does the unthinkable – He forgives sinners like you and me. He forgives us, sustains us, and prepares us for death so that someday we will be resurrected from the grave unto everlasting life! 

God be praised.  Thank you, Lord Jesus. 

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

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