Wednesday, November 09, 2016

You Are God’s Building

“Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh. Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow; their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail. Every month they shall bear fresh fruit, for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary. Their fruit shall serve for food and their leaves for medicine.”  Ezekiel 47:9,12

You are God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But each one must be careful how he builds upon it, for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:9C-11

“What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his Body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.  John 2:18-22

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
( By Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw[i])

Jesus chases the moneylenders and “market-eers” out of the temple in the second chapter of John’s Gospel.  Chapter 2.  Two!  Two.  Two? Already?![ii]

At this early stage in his ministry, Jesus has performed only one sign of his divinity – changing the water into wine at the wedding in Cana.  He hardly has a deep resume among the people.  They are probably right to wonder, “Who is this character with no training and no experience to disrupt our way of life?” On His first trip to Jerusalem in his public ministry, Jesus was afflicting the comfortable and attracting controversial even negative attention to his words and works. 

Just a few paragraphs later, we learn that his ministry is already drawing the attention and curiosity of the Pharisees as Nicodemus – under the cover of darkness – comes to learn about the light that Jesus is bringing into the world.

How are we to put into context God’s intervention into human history in such a confrontational manner from the outset?  This is not unique to John.  In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus turns the world upside down from his first sermon at the temple – retelling and altering the ”Nazareth  Manifesto” that the Jews had known since the days of the prophet Isaiah so much that they try to drive him off a cliff.  Again, this confrontation takes place early in the story before a lot of the healing and other miracles are recounted.  Jesus does not have a wellspring of good will with the people to draw upon.

Not only is this early in his ministry, but also note that Jesus evicts the merchants from the temple on Passover – the same feast during which he will be condemned a few years later. Learning about these cultural contradictions early in the Gospels sets up the conflict that will spill over at the subsequent Passover. 

When Jesus intervenes with individuals lives, he often does so in ways that try to open our eyes and ears to new ways of looking at people – through a new light that he shines on humanity.  He converses with the Samaritan woman at a well in the sweltering midday sun.  He heals the royal official’s son when other royal officials will later condemn God’s son.  He cures the man at Bethesda whom others would not even touch. 

Jesus literally throws his body into ministry from the time he is dunked into the Jordan River at Bethany by his cousin.  As we reflect on how the Body of Jesus is a temple, how does the evidence of our faith flow out into action in the world?  The symbolic water in Ezekiel flows from the temple giving life.  Jesus gave his body to the world to bring life to all – Jew and Gentile, Roman and Samaritan, Virginian or Marylander, healthy or ill.

What is he doing in your life?  What are you doing with your life to continue to build the temple?

[i] *This section of a longer prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Card. John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, Bishop Untener included in a reflection book a passage titled "The mystery of the Romero Prayer." The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him.
[ii] According to the notes to the New American Bible, the Synoptic Gospels place the cleansing of the temple in the last days of Jesus’ life (Matthew, on the day Jesus entered Jerusalem; Mark, on the next day). The order of events in the gospel narratives is often determined by theological motives rather than by chronological data.

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