There was a girl who lived on a farm during the 1920’s and when she grew up she loved to tell the story of what it was like to grow up on her family’s farm. One of her absolute favorite stories was about Spring cleaning. Cleaning the house during the springtime was a must in her family. It happened on the exact same day every year. The family would start upstairs and they would begin by cleaning out their rooms and putting away all their winter clothing: they hung their winter coats, their gloves, the scarves, the hats and everything else associated with winter out on the clothes line to let them air dry before they then put them away in their trunks for the next winter.
They would then proceed to clean the rest of their rooms with brooms and rags with wood polish until each and every room was done upstairs. They would then move downstairs and they would begin to clean downstairs. They took out the rugs and they would beat them outside to clean all the dust off and then they would hang them up. After the rugs had been cleaned they would take the carpet which had been tacked down and they would pull it up, roll it up, and then ship it off to the nearest carpet company and they would clean the carpet and send it back.
Then came the kitchen. Since it had been winter for so long the kitchen had been used for so many different activities, especially the big oak kitchen table. The woman remembers her mom’s stern orders that now that it was Spring and the cleaning had begun that the kitchen and the kitchen table were only allowed to be used for making and eating food until Winter hit again. So they cleaned the kitchen counters and the big oak table, they made everything spick and span. Windows were opened to let in fresh air and doors were opened to sweep out all the dirt and grime.
She always remembered it being a hard and tedious job because of how clean and meticulous her mother was about making sure everything was done and not one thing was overlooked when it came to cleaning and tidying their home for the Spring and Summer. She also always looked forward to the day that she was done with Spring cleaning because it was such hard work. She used to remind herself that if she just got past the spring cleaning that she would know that warmer weather would be coming and that it would be nicer and nicer out each day that passed and eventually summer would hit and she had very fond memories of her summer’s growing up.
The day after spring cleaning had finished she would wake up excited about the chores being done and the sun beaming in her face, and then her father would call to her and her siblings, “Spring cleaning is done!” And they would all smile and giggle. Then her father would say, “Now that it’s done and the weather is warmer we can go outside,” and she would get even happier and smile even bigger. Her father continued, “So now that means we have plenty of time to clean to chicken coops, and check on the barn with the animals, and...” Her smile would fade and she would remember that spring cleaning only mean that outside chores had once again resumed to take care of the farm and that her cleaning would never really end.
People still Spring clean today and some people actually look at Lent as a time to clean because it does usually fall into the Springtime and Lent is typically about giving up and simplifying one’s life. It’s about cleaning up our lives and our spirits to bring us back to what is central about faith. That is one way that we can look at today’s text.
The story of Jesus in the temple is typically seen as the cleansing of his Father’s house, where he ‘spring’ cleans the outer courtyard where there are animals being sold for sacrifice and there are money changers exchanging foreign currency for the currency of the temple to offer their tithes and offerings to God.
Jesus sees what is happening to what is supposed to be the central location of his faith and the faith of all Jews and the people are treating it like it is a place to make money. The temple and more importantly the central part of the temple with the curtain was the Holy of Holies, it was where God resided in the minds of the Israelites. There literally was no place holier than this to them and Jesus sees all these people turning it into an opportunity to make some money.
It makes sense that people were selling animals for sacrifice and there were money changers there. In their own way, these people selling the cattle and the doves and exchanging money were all doing a very valuable service to those who came to the temple. Israel had undergone several exiles, so not every Israelite lived in Israel any longer and people’s lives had changed so not everyone had cattle in their family to bring as a sacrifice. These two facts existed which caused the rise and need for people to be near the temple in order to have access to their offerings to God. The story starts off by telling us that it was the time of the Passover, which is a holy day for the Jews, so this would be a time when those Jews who were living in other countries would pilgrimage back to Jerusalem to go to the temple to make their offerings and sacrifices to God.
The story starts off by telling us that it was the time of the Passover, which is a holy day for the Jews, so this would be a time when those Jews who were living in other countries would pilgrimage back to Jerusalem to go to the temple to make their offerings and sacrifices to God.
I don’t know that Jesus is against the idea of providing the sacrifices and offerings to people so that they could bring them to God, but I think he is against the location in which it is taking place. Would Jesus have been as passionate about cleaning his Father’s house if the people had been outside of the temple and on the streets? Is cleaning of the temple a good thing to think about?
What if we looked past the actual details of the story and instead looked at what drove Jesus to spring clean? I think what is maybe more important than focusing just on the idea of kicking out the vendors from the temple, is that this is something that Jesus was very passionate about. This is something that Jesus cared deeply about. His Father’s house and what it meant to him is what drives this entire story. Jesus cares so much about God’s temple that he is willing to go to extreme cleaning mode in order for people to take notice. God’s house is about worship. God’s house is about becoming closer to God and learning more about what God wants for our lives. God’s house is about praising God for all the good things we have in our lives and thanking God for being with us when we encounter bad things in our lives. God’s house is for asking for forgiveness and receiving God’s grace and mercy.
Jesus wanted simplify and return the temple to a time and place when it was about those things and just those things. God’s house should be focused on God, not on the marketplace and getting a good deal on what is available that day. That is what drove Jesus to be so passionate that day about cleaning the temple. So it begs the question then, what are you passionate about? What am I passionate about? What is is that we see in this world and realize that we have to do something about it? What in this world gives you joy and drive and motivation to want to spring clean for the sake of God?
For some people it is literal Spring cleaning. If that’s your thing we have some great projects for you here at the church! Who’s in? We have some rooms that could use some deep cleaning and purging of old stuff. You can also join us for St. Grubby’s Day coming up in two weeks. The women have an awesome sign up board in the narthex.
For other’s it’s about providing food and clothing to people who may be having a difficult time right now. For some people it’s caring for others and visiting them so they do have someone in their lives to talk with on a regular basis. There are so many ways that we can spread God’s temple beyond these walls and share the good news with others.
One day that girl from the 1920’s finally realized that just because Spring cleaning was done in her house didn’t mean that her work was done. It also didn’t mean that there wouldn’t be a Spring cleaning next year. She eventually realized that her work would never be done. Some chores would be finished and she would move on to the next one, but her work never ended. because that was what it meant to be a part of the family.
Our work as Christians is never done. We may also finish certain ‘chores’ and certain ministries, but the work of God is never done. Today I invite you to listen to God, see what fire, what passion God stirs inside of you. See what brings you joy when you think about what you can do for God.
All this passion, all this Spring cleaning, everything that we do for God is a response to the great gift he has given us. Jesus tells us that the temple will be destroyed and in three days it will rise again. John tells us that it wasn’t about the temple in Jerusalem but the temple he was talking about was his body. The temple that forgives us all our sins and offers us grace and life. That is why we joyfully serve and do works in his name. Go and clean and rejoice for God is good!