Jerusalem Temple

 

It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem.  

Passover is the number one festival of the year for Jesus and the Jewish people. Anyone who could afford it would travel to Jerusalem and celebrate there. Why Jerusalem? This is where the Temple is located. The Temple is the center of worship and music, politics and government, the center of the nation’s economy, the center of the nation’s animals, the center of everything.

We have no modern equivalent. It would be like the Temple would be all of our national symbols wrapped up into one. The White House, Capital Building and Supreme Court, throw in Wall Street and Nashville and Hollywood, mix in animals from all the ranches and farms around the nation, and  put them all together with the nation’s largest cathedrals and churches, and we still wouldn’t compare. Why? The Temple is where God promised to live in the midst of his people. The Temple represents the nation. The intersection between where God dwells, heaven, and where his people dwell, earth. The Temple is everything to the Jewish people.

But, the prophet’s of the Old Testament warned this absolute “Temple is the center of everything” could be a problem. If you aren’t following God.

For instance, listen to Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 7

“Do you really think you can steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, and burn incense to Baal and all those other new gods of yours, and then come here and stand before me in my Temple

and chant,“We are safe!”—only to go right back to all those evils again? Don’t you yourselves admit that this Temple, which bears my name, has become a den of thieves? Surely I see all the evil going on there.

I, the LORD, have spoken!”

Oh, Oh…

Temple steps from court

Temple steps from court

 

In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. 

It’s Passover. The greatest celebration of the greatest event in the life of God’s people. God frees his people from slavery and brings them to the Promise Land. They remember this every year as if it is happening all over again. The highlight is to sacrifice sheep like they sacrifice at the original Passover where the blood of the sheep on the door frame is a sign that  God’s people live here and the angel of death passes over this house.

Now, the Passover is big business. Estimates are that as many as 250,000 sheep are sacrificed at Passover in Jerusalem. But, you didn’t bring your own sheep. It is too difficult to travel and sheep could be stolen or attacked by wild animals along the way. Or the sheep could get feisty. Like this.

So, sheep are sold at the Temple for the sacrifice. You can’t use Roman money, however. It is considered unclean so you have to exchange for Temple money. For a fee, of course. If you are poor you could also borrow money to purchase doves which were cheaper. Still as much as 40 day’s wages!

This looks like Jeremiah’s prophecy coming true.

Jesus has seen enough.

 

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Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. 

Here we are told Jesus made a whip from rope. In the Bible language the word is, pfragellion. This would be a whip that had stones and bone tied in it to make it extra nasty. Same root word like a “frag” grenade. Let’s just say Jesus is up for the task. Here is an example you can buy on eBay. Don’t know who wants this, but…

So, Jesus chases the bankers and all the animals out of the Temple court. Like flipping over a craps table in Vegas, that would be a bit confusing. Whose money is whose? Basically Jesus just stopped the whole Temple sacrifice system, for a short time. A disaster. And a message.

What is Jesus getting at? Well, it appears the Temple is no longer the intersection between heaven and earth.

Slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero is pictured in an undated file photo. Oscar Arnulfo Romero was born in Ciudad Barrios, El Salvador, in 1917. He was assassinated March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass in the chapel of San Salvador's Hospital of Divine Providence. He was a vigorous defender of the powerless and the poor and a critic of unjust military and government actions during a time of civil unrest in his country. (CNS file photo) (March 7, 2003)

Slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero

 

Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” 

Jesus goes right to core. This sacrifice system is corrupt. It is not about remembering God saves his people. It is the whole Temple and the people who keep the system going and all it represents,  using the Temple, not as a sign of freedom and not as the place of God’s presence, but instead a place of burden and hardship.

 

Now, it’s too easy to simply say well isn’t that what is happening today? Not as much religion, but politics. Washington and the politicians are taking away our freedom. Or politicians are bringing burden and hardship onto the poor. We hear words and phrases being thrown around like “social justice”, as opposed to what, just plain justice? Islamophobia, homophobia. Gender this and gender that. “Hate” seems to be what binds people together.

It’s time to stop and listen. Those on the left, on the right, at the center….Listen. I like the way

Archbishop Oscar Romero said it years ago.

How  easy it is to denounce structural injustice, institutionalized violence, social sin. And it is true, this sin  is everywhere, but where are the roots of this social sin? In the heart of every human being. Present-day society is a sort of anonymous world in which no one is willing to admit guilt and everyone is responsible.

Because of this, salvation begins with the human person, with human dignity, with saving every person from sin.. Individually there are among us here no two sinners alike. Each one has committed his or her own shameful deeds, and yet we want to cast our guilt on the other and hide our own sin. I must take off my mask; I, too, am one of them, and I need to beg God’s pardon because I have offended God and society. This is the call of Christ.

There is no one who is pure and without sin. Remember Jesus’ words to a crowd screaming for social justice?
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

We don’t need an overhaul of the Temple and the ways of the world. We need forgiveness. We need Jesus.

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But the Jewish leaders demanded, “What are you doing? If God gave you authority to do this, show us a miraculous sign to prove it.” 

“All right,” Jesus replied. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

“What!” they exclaimed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?” But when Jesus said “this temple,” he meant his own body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this, and they believed both the Scriptures and what Jesus had said.

Yes, it’s true. Jesus did it. Jesus did the reality that the Temple is only pointing to. He died and raised from the dead and he is the Temple who forgives all sin for all time. He is the intersection between heaven and earth. And we are too. You and I are the Temple. We are the intersection between heaven and earth as we follow his way.

Jesus is not about hatred. What I see and read today is a lot of hatred by those who think others are haters. Hating haters is hatred. No one is innocent and pure in all of this. This is why seeking the good of other people becomes the way we are a living sacrifice for the living God. As Christians we live in the real world which is God’s world, after all. We have access to the powers of heaven available to us now to be a people of gracious kindness. In this day and age, that is indeed revolutionary.

What is world needs right now more than anything else is you. The living Temple of Jesus.

 

Martha Pfleger shared fascinating history of the first 25 years of the life of our congregation at worship on Sunday as we kicked off the Centennial of LIFEhouse, beginning with the birth of Zelzah Norse Evangelik Luthers Kirke, renamed The Central Lutheran Church of the San Fernando Valley, renamed First Lutheran Church of North Los Angeles, renamed, First Lutheran Church of Northridge. Our worship service was done in the style circa 1917.   Afterwards we ate delicious treats from the period and looked at interesting pictures and artifacts.

The next special worship service and reception will focus on the second 25 years of First Lutheran Church of Northridge (1943-1967). Barbara Lestrange will be our historian speaker!

Thank you to the anniversary planning team and those who helped, Donna McLeod, Peter Borck, Barbara Lestrange, Duane Cirks, Nancy Hanson, Pastor, Carla Kievit, Martha Butler-Borck, Don Lautenschlager, Trish Dallas, Michele Knepp, Rory Knepp, Robin Vega, Martha Pfleger, Mary Beth Heglund, Heidi Christopher and Marie Reed.

Enjoy these photos taken by Marie.

 

stone-manger

Luke 2

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Speaking of the shepherds, how did they know where to find Jesus? The angel tells them, You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

What is a manger? It is a stone feed trough used for animals. We saw real mangers from the time of Jesus when we visited Israel. Since I saw a real manger, I still know wooden mangers are here to stay. But there’s nothing like the original.

Last Christmas I talked about this and my friend from church secretly made me a replica stone feed box manger and gave it to me for my birthday!

Anyway, we picture Jesus in the manger, but where is the manger located?

The Bible doesn’t say, only mentions the feed trough. Animals in Bible times either slept in the home along with people or outside in caves. Caves were convenient and made it possible to keep them safe by penning them off. There is no such thing as wooden stables or barns in first century Israel. But, again I still like wooden stable looking buildings in Christmas manger scenes. But, knowing Jesus is born in a cave is another important contrast God gives us.

ME

Does it matter if we authentically represent things from the Bible like a stone feed trough? How about images of Jesus?

5pm in the sanctuary! There will be no service on Christmas Sunday, but we will be having our annual Christmas feast for those in need at 2pm, Christmas day-to-day in Natterstad Hall

If you would like to help serve, please arrive at 1p Christmas day. Bring clothing and new socks.

We might have additional food needs. See the sign-up board at the Christmas Eve service!

Merry Christmas!


1 Corinthians 14

Let love be your greatest aim.
In our society today, Christmas is just about the last hold out for a glimpse of the world as it could be. People tend to be a bit more gracious and kind. It is as if we are influenced by a spirit of what we know life could be. At its best, Christmas gently reminds us that power comes through something besides wealth or might or popularity. A baby laying in a feed trough in a cave, born in obscurity, points to a God who is full of surprises. 
The biggest surprise of all is that the creator of the universe wants to be our loving Father and takes us into his family just as we are. How surprising is it that God knows us individually, just as well as he knows himself.
Yes, God is thinking about you constantly. But, he isn’t wracking his brain trying to figure out what to get you for Christmas. He is thinking about ways he can shine brighter in your life. He knows if you give him any crack of opening, he will overpower you with his love. He will bowl you over with how much he adores you. 
Love doesn’t mean we get whatever we want. Unless what we want is what God wants for us. Then there is nothing in heaven or earth that can stop us from getting exactly what we want. 
Think of it this way. As we are becoming the kind of people who can love, we are becoming the kind of people who automatically do what is right without thinking about it. Then, when we join together with each other and live this way, the world around us becomes more of what God wants. Together, we become, Immanuel, God with us, for the world. We become love. 

ME

What does God want to do through you this Christmas?

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John 13

Love one another as I have loved you.

There is a lot of confusion over the use of the word, “love” today. We don’t get what love means. Not really.

Sometimes we use the word “love” to mean we have a strong passion for something.

We love chocolate, love our favorite tv series, love our football team. This is not love. It is desire or delight.

There are other ways the term, “love” is misused. In fact in the recent election, a misuse of the word “love” became part of political campaign. The whole “Love Trumps Hate” slogan not only got “love” wrong, it got “hate” wrong, too. At least from a biblical perspective. “Love trumps hate” is a clever phrase. But, as usual, people pass off cleverness as intelligence.  Far from it.

The biblical meaning of love and hate are not represented by this slogan. To love someone is to will what God wants for them and work for this within your range of influence.

It does not mean to try to please their desires and champion the cause of them doing whatever they want.

To hate someone is to try to work evil in their life on purpose. It doesn’t mean to disagree or oppose their viewpoint. Confusing?

I don’t know if you watched the news, but when I saw “Love Trumps Hate” sign holders or t shirts wearers, the people usually appeared filled with rage and contempt. Well, that doesn’t work.

Being bigoted against those you consider bigoted makes you a bigot.

If you hate haters you are a hater.

And, if you are a Christian full of rage and contempt, you are showing you do not understand Jesus.

I suppose someone has the right to be uneducated about the meaning of love and hate if they are not a Christian, but if you are following the model of Christ, you need to show far more wisdom. Rage and contempt are not part of Jesus.

Christians can’t hate. We cannot work evil on purpose against someone. Not ever. 100% of the time God wants good to come to the lives of even those whom we consider most vile. Rage and contempt are never an option for Christians. You see, love is actually an overall disposition toward what is good and right in God’s eyes. Dallas Willard says it this way:

“Our aim under love is not to be loving to this or that person, or in this or that kind of situation, but to be a person possessed by love as an overall character of life, whatever is or is not going on. The “occasions” are met with from that overall character. I do not come to my enemy and then try to love them, I come to them as a loving person. Love is not a faucet to be turned on or off at will. God himself doesn’t just love me or you, he is love. He is creative will for all that is good. That is his identity, and explains why he loves individuals, even when he is not pleased with them. We are directed by Paul to “be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave himself up for us.” (Eph. 5: 1-2) We are called and enabled to love as God loves.”

ME

People who speak out about hate might be the most hate-full people you know. Why is that?

father-106708_1280

“No longer will babies die when only a few days old.
No longer will adults die before they have lived a full life.
No longer will people be considered old at one hundred!
Only the cursed will die that young!
In those days people will live in the houses they build
and eat the fruit of their own vineyards.
Unlike the past, invaders will not take their houses
and confiscate their vineyards.
For my people will live as long as trees,
and my chosen ones will have time to enjoy their hard-won gains.
They will not work in vain,
and their children will not be doomed to misfortune.
For they are people blessed by the Lord,
and their children, too, will be blessed.

We rely on God for everything. He will keep working through us as he slowly transforms our world to be what he has dreamed all along. The effects of God bringing in his new Kingdom now will continue to bring blessing. The world will prosper as his people prosper. God is making us different so that we can make a difference. What we are receiving is being directly received from God. One hundred years old will be nothing! And if not long and healthy lives for us in the “not yet” time, we pass down blessing to our children and through them bless future generations. This brings our legacy way beyond 100 years…

ME

Your legacy doesn’t stop with you. It’s just what kind of a legacy will it be?

 

eugene_delacroix_-_christ_endormi_pendant_la_tempete

John 14

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

The result of knowing Jesus, loving him, and obeying him, is he lives with us. We then have access to this amazing truth. We get invited into his shalom. His peace. Where we know that eventually, everything is going to be fine in our lives. Where we rest in the love and power of Jesus and we truly have peace.

In other words, we get the same kind of peace he has. Here is what our lives can look like some day.

Jesus is crossing Lake Galilee with his disciples. Then this happens.

But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

Now, the miracle of Jesus telling the storm to chill out or “chillax” is what we all focus on from this event in Jesus’ life. Rightfully so. This is the take away the disciples have.

‘Who is this guy? He tells the water and the wind to behave themselves. Relax…’

I get it. This is one of Jesus’ first miracles and it is a doozy.

But, what if we completely miss the miracle that comes before this? Here it is.

But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion.

His friends are terrified, but Jesus? He’s taking a nap. Are you kidding? I can have that kind of peace? Listen again.

But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion.

The subtitle some Bibles use for this story is, “Jesus Calms the Storm.” I am in favor of changing that to, “Jesus, Calm in the Storm.”

We might not be able to shout the waves down at Zuma Beach but we can nap through trouble and fear.  Jesus expects us to be more like him and he knows he is the only way to this peace.

There is no peace the world offers us. Not in the sense of biblical shalom where we are in synch with God and each other. The way of the world is almost the opposite.

If you haven’t noticed lately, it is popular in the world today to grow hysterical about everything. Everything is a crisis. The whole world is going to be ruined. I understand that because of the massive amount information that we are bombarded with, people will overemphasize crises in order to be heard. People will use the most extreme measures in order to be heard.

It it a sign of our times that all of this is happening. But the lasting peace that Jesus offers us is not about trying to manipulate, bully, distort and use aggressive tactics in order to get our way. There is no peace there. If you have to manipulate, bully, threaten and all the rest, your cause is lost. It is not the truth. Because the truth, Jesus, didn’t use any of these tactics.

Do you want to know if your actions are of God or not? This is what the people who follow your cause look like.

Galatians 5

 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

If I am not seeing this fruit coming out of you, then it is time for  a time out.

It is by following the ways of Jesus that will have his shalom. In this life Jesus offers us calm in the storm.

Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

ME

What do you worry about? How might Jesus help?