WORSHIP IN AN INDESTRUCTIBLE CHURCH

Hymns:  224, 456, (401 communion), 531

 John 2:13-22  When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  In the temple courts he found men 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 area, 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! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”  His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.  Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous 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.”  The Jews 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.

Dear Christian Friends:

   On November 14th, 1940, at the start of World War II, the German air force bombed central England.  The Luftwaffe hit the city of Coventry.  German bombs destroyed Coventry’s five hundred year old cathedral.  That bombing left only the cathedral’s outer walls, steeple, and a bishop’s tomb. 

After all that destruction the head pastor of the Coventry cathedral did something unusual.  He had an inscription etched onto the inside wall behind the altar.  The inscription was only two words.  “FATHER FORGIVE.”

   After World War II, Coventry built a new cathedral next to the shell of the old cathedral.  But during the clean up of the wreckage, the workers recovered many of the long nails used in the old cathedral’s roof.  They used three of these nails to form a cross.  That cross now hangs in the rebuilt cathedral.

    But let’s back up to near the end of World War II.  On November 23, 1943, three years after the bombing raid that destroyed the Coventry cathedral, enemy bombs destroyed another important church.  This time it was British bombs. The Royal Air Force destroyed the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in central Berlin.  All that is left of that church are the outer walls and steeple.

   After World War II, the city of West Berlin built a new church next to the old ruined church.  In the new church there is a chapel.  They call it the “Chapel of Reconciliation.”   In this chapel hangs a cross.  This cross is made of three nails—three nails that came from the roof of the Coventry Cathedral—a gift from England to its former enemy, Germany.

  Two churches, both destroyed by war, but rebuilt and rededicated to forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace—that describes two churches in England and Germany.  Jesus also talks about the same thing in our text.

       In John, Chapter two, Jesus talks about two temples.  Enemies destroyed both these temples.  But out of the ruins of these two temples God produced forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace.

   Our text begins with Jesus cleansing the Jerusalem temple of moneychangers.  But our text ends with a description of two destroyed temples.  Listen again.   Then the Jews demanded of [Jesus], “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” (that is, cleanse the temple.)  Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”  The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple [Jesus] had spoken of was his body.

    Forty years after Jesus spoke these words the Roman army marched on Jerusalem.  The Romans destroyed the whole city, including its magnificent temple.  All that remains of that temple today is the so-called Wailing Wall.

   But again, let’s back up a bit.  Thirty seven years before the Romans, destroyed Jerusalem, that is, three years after Jesus spoke the words of our text, the Roman army destroyed an even more magnificent temple.  The Roman soldiers executed Jesus on the cross.  They put his body to death.  But three days later, God rebuilt Christ’s broken body.  Jesus came back to life.  By doing so Jesus destroyed death.  Jesus also destroyed sin, the cause of death.

  Now, perhaps you are doing the math.  Perhaps you are thinking, “OK, Pastor, I see how the Coventry Cathedral and the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church parallel the Jerusalem temple and the body of Jesus.  Yes, Jesus rebuilt the temple of his body when he rose from the dead.  But the Jerusalem temple was never rebuilt.  Pastor, you are missing one rebuilt temple.”

   Well, it’s true that the Jerusalem temple was never rebuilt.  At least, it was not rebuilt physically.  But God’s temple on earth was rebuilt.  And our text even describes it.    After [Jesus] was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

     Did you catch it?  Do you see how God rebuilt his temple?  It’s easy to miss. It’s only two words.  Those two words are:  They believed. 

   That’s how God has been rebuilding his temple on earth over the last two thousand years. Everyone who believes in Jesus is God’s new Temple.  That’s why Saint Peter says, As you come to [Jesus], the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood…For in Scripture it says:  “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.

    The crucified and risen Christ is the cornerstone of God’s temple, the Holy Christian Church.  Through faith in Christ we are God’s magnificent cathedral.  Jesus said that even the gates of hell would not prevail against it.  So Satan cannot destroy the Holy Christian Church.  Therefore, no Roman legions, no Luftwaffe air raids, and not even a crazy bunch of Muslim terrorists can destroy the Holy Christian Church.  That’s because when you trust Christ and worship Christ as your only Savior, well then, you WORSHIP IN AN INDESTRUCTIBLE CHURCH.

   Of course, the Holy Christian Church on earth does not have this indestructibility by our power.  No, by ourselves, by our own power, and by our own “holiness” we quickly commit the same sins the Jews committed in the temple during the days of Jesus.  Our text says, [Jesus] made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the moneychangers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”

    Now, maybe we are not expecting to get a financial gain by our church membership, but by our own sinfulness we can be just like those Jewish moneychangers. We think God’s Church is our personal property.  Sinners that we are, we think the church exists to be our own little social club.  We think the church is all about “my family, my friends, and my way of doing things.” We think that only “our type of people,” that is, only conservative, white, middle class Midwesterners truly belong in our church. 

  But just like Jesus used a whip to cleanse the temple two thousand years ago, so also Jesus uses the whip of God’s law to purify us.  Jesus drives out our self-righteous pride.  Jesus expels our narrow-minded, self-centered attitudes.  Jesus banishes our egos, puffed up with our self-made wisdom.

   Then Jesus takes all our sins and wipes them all away all two words:  FATHER FORGIVE.  And the heavenly Father does what Jesus asks because Jesus did what his heavenly Father asked.  Jesus gave his body over to the destruction of the cross.  Jesus suffered and died to wash away all our sins with his holy, precious blood.  Then Jesus raised the temple of his body three days later.

    And Jesus has dedicated his rebuilt temple to forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace.  So, Jesus is the only power that forgives all our sins.  Jesus is the only power that reconciles sinners like you and me to his heavenly Father.  Jesus is the only power that brings peace – peace between sinners and God and also peace among forgiven sinners on earth. 

    Yes, Jesus Christ—crucified, risen, and ruling in heaven—Jesus Christ is the only power that continues to rebuild God’s temple on earth.  Jesus Christ is the only power that makes you a living stone in his Holy Christian Church.  Jesus Christ is the only power that will raise you from the dead and make you his indestructible Church forever and ever in heaven. 

     Therefore, to Christ alone be the glory, now and forever and ever.  AMEN.