Sermon for Sunday: Disruption


Gospel: John 2:13-17
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.'

There are times in life when what we need most is a word of comfort. There are times in life when what we need is a prayer of healing or encouragement. And there are times when we are stuck, and we need a powerful word of challenging truth to wake us from our slumber.

Sometimes Jesus comforts. Sometimes Jesus heals. And sometimes, as in today’s Gospel story, Jesus disrupts. Whatever Jesus is doing or saying in the Gospels, the string that holds is all together is the overarching goal: to increase people’s awareness of the presence of God.

Today’s Gospel story is from John’s gospel.  The story of Jesus disrupting at the temple in Jerusalem happens in all four gospels. But in the other three, it happens at the end of Jesus’ ministry, and in John, it happens at the beginning. Today’s reading is from Chapter 2. From the beginning of John’s version of the story, we witness a Jesus who is willing to disrupt with boldness.

Prior to this was the wedding at Cana. Jesus turned lots of water into wine. And then today’s text. Disruptive Jesus. But why? Why does Jesus disrupt? To understand that, we step back in time and put this story into context.

What Jesus witnessed at the Temple was not out of the ordinary. It was a common scene…especially during the time of a festival. People would come from all over. They would be exchanging their local currencies for the common currency and buying grain and animals to sacrifice. It was part of how people had long-understood their relationship with God. And the temple was very much where people understood God to be.

But Jesus comes with a disruptive word…and disruptive actions, too. He takes this familiar scene and upturns it all. Literally and figuratively. He says, this system is broken and needs to be dismantled. 

He says, “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”

He kicks everyone and the animals out. He dumps out the money changers coins. He flips over tables. When Jesus disrupts, it’s for a purpose. Through the disruption, Jesus seeks to reorient his followers and everyone else toward a new way of understanding God and God’s presence.

The people around Jesus had a very specific understanding of worship and God. They had been taught and believed strongly that true worship happened at a temple. And that really was how things were outlined in the Old Testament! People had been taught and believed strongly that true, repentant worship required sacrifices. They were doing what they’d been told to do.

But Jesus comes into that reality with an expansive invitation…to make space for another approach to faith.

It's kind of like this...we have routes that we take to get around town. We usually take the same routes to get from point A to point B. Maybe someone told us along the way that it was the best route. Maybe we saw it on a map and assumed it was the best. And so we take the same route to get from A to B day after day and year after year.

Imagine that someone came to you and said, "There's a different route. You can actually just take this new frontage road and you'll get there. Try it. You don't need to take all those different roads. There's a more direct route."

In today's Gospel text, Jesus is introducing people to a frontage road. A different spiritual way to get from A to B.

And it's really normal that people would have a variety of responses to that invitation! Some would likely feel confused, "But I always go this way."

Some would feel suspicious, "What if I'm being misled? Who is this guy anyway?"

Some would feel threatened, "But I like the way I do it, and this is the way I've taught my family to go. So I'm sticking with it."

After Jesus' disruption in the Temple, it's normal that people had a variety of emotional responses! We do, too! Rather than requiring people to think in one specific way, perhaps Jesus is inviting people to just consider that there could be another way to get from A to B.

Jesus reveals, through his disruption, that access to God isn’t limited to one specific place, the temple. And a relationship with God doesn’t require a marketplace in the church.

What Jesus is describing is a revolutionary invitation to people. It would’ve been outside people’s comfort zones to think of God and faith that way. It was a disruption.

Disruptions are powerful.

That remains true in our lives today. When something happens that we don’t anticipate, it can be transformative and reorienting. Disruptions give us a chance to reconsider. As a congregation, you get that. With over 100 years of history, you’ve certainly faced disruptions. You’ve certainly experienced times when all did not go according to plan.

And through those disruptions, Jesus led you into new awarenesses of what it means to follow him!

Jesus disrupts in order to reorient people back toward God…a God who is living and accessible to everyone EVERYWHERE - not just in one sacred place. And that means our assignment to follow Jesus and be messengers of peace, justice, and forgiveness is something we live out in all places...not just in the walls of a church.

So how about for us? In what areas do we need to experience disruption and reorientation? Where have we gotten stuck? What tables in our lives maybe need to be flipped over and cleared out? Where have our spiritual practices become so automatic that we don’t even recognize that presence of God within them? Where have we unintentionally created roadblocks that perhaps make God seem inaccessible and out of reach to people? 

Jesus’ flipping over the tables is a disruption that leads people to a new sense of freedom and liberation. But they had to be willing to look past the drama and see the purpose. In that moment, after Jesus creates quite a chaotic scene, I imagine he didn't immediately go about cleaning it all up. I imagine that for awhile, everyone just had to look at it. Witness it. Let it sink in. Let the invitation of the disruption make itself apparent.

In our lives, there are times when we, too, need to look past the drama and see the purpose of the disruption. Many of us are pretty disruption-averse. If something disrupts how we want things to go, we tend to either ignore it or avoid it and hope it goes away. Or put bandaids on it.

But what if by doing that, we miss out on the greater story God is writing? What if we need to just look at the scene for awhile?

Homestead Church…siblings in faith….where is the Spirit of God disrupting us? Where are we coming up against roadblocks which are perhaps opportunities to reconsider? Where are our well-intentioned routines and rituals perhaps getting in the way of encountering God? Where are we overcomplicating things and a simpler route from A to B might be possible?

Today’s Gospel is an invitation to pay attention to disruptions. It’s a reminder that Jesus comes into our lives and our communities in many ways….sometimes with comfort, sometimes with peace, sometimes with healing, sometimes with a challenge, and sometimes with disruption.

In all these cases, it’s about bringing us back to God. A God who loves us and cares for us and wants us to live in relationship with our Creator.

May we embrace the disruptions in our lives and faith communities and world as opportunities to be reoriented toward the living Jesus who walks with us everywhere and always.


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