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10th Sunday after Holy Trinity-“God’s people”

August 28, 2011

“When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.

They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken”.

John 2:13-22

The problem with most of the people of Israel was that their faith in God had become a religion, a tradition, a habit, a dead routine. It was boring. Religion no longer fulfilled its purpose.

When Jesus, as the envoy of God, the chosen one, the messiah, came to the temple, he became indignant to those people in front of the temple.

With this display of holy anger, he wanted to show that religion needs to change so that there is a real relationship with God. With this same message, he also comes to our lives today.

The Gospel says that Jesus was so angry because of the love that he had for the things of God. As a result, he took a whip and drove away those people who desecrated the temple.

Jesus had no problem with money being at the church. The issue for Jesus was that people took advantage of the church building to enrich themselves. He felt a strong indignation over the misuse of the church.

He felt the disdain that was shown to the temple or church.

He felt the ignorance that existed regarding the church.

He noted that the church had been transformed into a mere religion.

Perhaps we can answer this question: What is religion?

One definition that best applies to religion is as follows:

‘A personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.’

Unfortunately, faith in God can become merely a ritual and nothing more.

In this sense, Christianity does not want to be a religion. Christianity wants to be a living relationship with God, who is alive and powerful.

Religion cannot save me. That is, the fulfillment of customs is not going to save us. What saves me is a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ; a friendship with God, love of God.

Picture a relationship of friendship with someone. What is it like? Does it resemble our relationship with God and his church?

A study was completed to define how a church that just practiced religion differed from a true church.

A survey of hundreds of pastors has allowed us to compile a preliminary list of measurable quality factors in the life of a congregation in ranking order. The twelve factors are:

1. Bible knowledge. Church members are increasing their grasp of the teachings of the Bible. They can integrate this with a theological system that enables them to apply the Bible’s teachings to their life situation.

2. Personal devotions. Members spend time daily in prayer, Bible reading, meditation, and other personal spiritual exercises.

3. Worship. Members regularly participate in the worship services scheduled by the church.

4. Witnessing. Members regularly attempt to share their faith in Jesus Christ with unbelievers.

5. Lay ministry. The lay people of the church are engaged in such ministries as teaching and discipling. In some cases this happens through consciously discovering, developing, and using their spiritual gifts.

6. Missions. The church actively supports missions, organizing and sustaining a strong program for recruiting, sending, and financing home and foreign missionaries.

7. Giving. Members give an appropriate portion of their income to the local church and/or to other Christian causes.

8. Fellowship. Members are growing in their personal relationships with each other through regular participation in church fellowship groups of one kind or another.

9. Distinctive life-style. Members generally manifest their faith in Christ by living a life-style clearly and noticeably distinct from that of non-Christians in the same community.

10. Attitude toward religion. Church members regard their involvement in the church primarily as a service to God rather than a means to fulfill personal needs.

11. Social service. Members are serving others outside the congregation. This includes direct personal involvement with the poor and needy, or in programs designed to help the needy.

12. Social justice. Either through the congregation as a whole or through specialized Christian agencies, members are striving to make changes in sociopolitical structures that will contribute to a more moral and just society.

This study may help us to orient ourselves a little, to show how a church should be driven on what God wants.

I will tell a funny story, if I may:

Three pastors got together for coffee one day and found all their churches had bat-infestation problems. “I got so mad,” said one, “I took a shotgun and fired at them. It made holes in the ceiling, but did nothing to the bats.” “I tried trapping them alive,” said the second. “Then I drove 50 miles before releasing them, but they beat me back to the church.” “I haven’t had any more problems,” said the third. “What did you do?” asked the others, amazed. “I simply baptized and confirmed them,” he replied. “I haven’t seen them since.”

In this, there is some humor, but also something very serious. If indeed this happens in churches, it is a sign that the church has become more of a religion, an institution, than a place where Christians gather together for a better relationship with God.

Today, God is calling us to leave the religion and have a true friendship with him. That’s what will change our lives into those of true Christians and that is what our church needs to change, perhaps.

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.

With this statement Jesus meant that his words were warranted. His words become truth and power to those who believe. And this warranty was demonstrated in his resurrection. There he showed himself as the Son of God and that his words are true.

The message for this Sunday is simple:

God wants to transform our lives, to change us dramatically. But we must seek him in prayer. We must stop thinking of God as a habit, but think that this place has a powerful presence, much more powerful than any human power that is waiting to come into our lives and change our life for a life of defeat to victory. From a life of sadness to a life of joy; a lifetime of resentment into a life of forgiveness; a life of illness to a life of health; of a life of bitterness to a life of hope; a life of lack to a life of abundance, a life of fear to a life of faith and confidence. God wants salvation for us but also wants us to live here on this earth and that we have a life of joy while we are here. And to have joy, we must trust our life to Him and know that ‘for where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them’ (Mt 18:20) Open your heart to God and entrust your situation to him. God will answer, and you will see that the church is not an institution but the temple inhabited by the living God.

The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen

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