Church of England Diocese of Chichester Nuthurst

3rd week of Lent

7 Mar 2021, 11:30 a.m.

CHURCH NEWS – SUNDAY 7 MARCH 2021

LENT COURSE 3 – THE ‘COMMUNION’ OF THE CHURCH - ALL ABOUT US

Introduction

This week considers our place in the life of the church. The word ‘communion’ in the New Testament is translated from the Greek word ‘koinonia’, which means ‘fellowship and sharing’. This fellowship is the life of the church, of which each of us are a vital part.

I am widening the Bible references, as we will be considering the phrase ‘Temple of the Holy Spirit’. In John’s Gospel, he declares that ‘each baptised believer becomes a Temple of the Holy Spirit, in whom as Jesus promised, the Father and the Son come to dwell’ (John 13:23). Paul also writes to the Corinthian Christians stating ‘do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who lives in you, and who was given to you by God/ You do not belong to yourselves but to God; He bought you for a price. So use your bodies for God’s glory.’ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Bishop Ruth, in her conversation with Bishop Will declares that ‘we are living breathing miniature temples’. Thinking of our own lives, what sort of ’temples’ are we? The reading of the Bible passage form John’s Gospel provides a great ‘visual aid’ showing Jesus’ reaction to a temple which was not being used for God’s glory – more for personal gain!

Bible reading: John Chapter 2 verses 13-22.

The Temple was the centre of the Jewish religion, and was dedicated to the service and worship of God. The Bible passage refers to the Passover Festival, the greatest festival in the Jewish year. The streets were packed, and the Temple was crowded. But instead of the Temple being a place of service and worship to God, Jesus saw that it had become a place of corruption and self-interest. Those coming to the Temple to give sacrifices (a thank offering for a safe journey to Jerusalem), were forced to buy them from the traders in the Temple at inflated prices. These included sheep and doves. Also, all trade, and payment of the Temple Tax, had to be in Jewish currency, and many at the festival had come from other countries. They all had to exchange their money with the ‘money changers’ in the Temple, who inflated the exchange rate to their advantage.

Jesus saw all this corruption in God’s temple, and became so enraged that He drove all of the animals out of the Temple; overturned the tables of the ‘money changers’, and scattered their coins. He exclaimed ‘Get these things out of here. Stop making my Father’s house a market place!’ In Mark’s Gospel, he writes ‘My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer But you have made it a den of thieves’ (Mark 11:17).

What is our ‘Temple’ like?

The challenge of this week’s Session is to consider whether our faith and lifestyle reflects the fact that we are a ‘temple of the Holy Spirit’, or whether some aspects of our lives are more like the Temple as Jesus found it, with its focus on self-interest, dishonesty, and disregard for worship and service to God. Each of us are part of this mystical ‘body of Christ’ in this Parish, and our desire must be to reflect the ‘koinonia’ of fellowship and sharing. This coming together as a thriving church in our Parish must be our constant desire, with no room for any aspect of the activities which Jesus saw in the Temple, and which made Him so outraged.

To encourage us all in this aim to be the ‘Temple of the Holy Spirit’, the words of Paul in his letter to the Galatians ring true: ‘The Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control’ (Galatians 5: 22).