Time to Clean House!

Heritage Presbyterian Church https://heritagepresbyterian.org

March 7, 2021
3rd Sunday in Lent
Scripture reading – John 2: 13-22

Two weeks ago, when the cold weather hit and our power went out and our water stopped coming through the pipes, my wife and I “hunkered down” in our home in Spring Branch and hoped for an early spring.  We lived without warmth or water for a little more than two days – and then without much water for three more.  During those freezing days, we spent some of the time struggling to make coffee, struggling to cook decent food before it spoiled, struggling to stay clean, and struggling to stay warm.  Staying in bed with lots of blankets and blue jeans and sweatshirts on worked fairly well.

But it didn’t take long before both of us got bored.  We couldn’t go anywhere.  No one could get to us.  It was too cold for a long, invigorating walk (and too much ice on the sidewalks), and no television, Internet, or radio.

So we cleaned the house.

This brought back memories from my childhood when my mother would suddenly declare that our good old home needed a good spring cleaning.  I remember thinking that I thought everything looked pretty clean to me, but pretending it was clean enough was not an option at that time.  So when my dear wife said we should get up and clean the house, I just wanted to stay in our relatively-warm bed and just take a nap.  That was not an option at that time either.

So we began.  It’s funny how you can get into cleaning when you don’t have anything else to do.  We hit it and hit it hard.  We moved from room to room cleaning and throwing stuff out.  We emptied out closets and drawers, we scrubbed bathrooms,  we cleaned floors, tiles, counters, toilets, shelves, window sills, and walls.  We did all this by hand and being careful not to use up the cleaning supplies we had (there was no running to the store to get more…).  We did a pretty good job – especially considering we had to conserve water, and the vacuum cleaner was not battery-operating.  

The other funny thing I noticed was how dirty we had let our home get.  I don’t mean it was filthy; we keep a clean house.  I mean that a thorough spring cleaning – the way my mother used to impose – had not been done.  We had gotten used to some things, and I think it had crept up on us slowly.  We needed some zeal and some time (and perhaps few choices) in order to get this done.

I wonder if Jesus would object if I compared his actions in the Temple with our spring cleaning during the winter storms.

First of all, do you think the rank-and-file believers who visited the Temple ever really noticed how much the animals and the money-changers had taken over the courtyard?  Do you think they looked around and were annoyed or irritated or even angry when they saw it?  Or, as I suspect, was it something that had grown slowly over time and was set up in the guise of helping the believers with their sacrificial animals and their strange coins from various points in the Roman Empire?  And, of course, it is wonderfully tempting to point an accusing finger at the Sadducees who ran this whole operation to raise money for the Temple… while at the same time, paying them to maintain the whole operation.  Oh sure… corruption sometimes comes on so slowly that no one really notices.

It takes a zealous eye and a righteous understanding of how things are supposed to be in order for that really good “cleaning out” process to begin.  Although neither my mother nor my wife turned over tables and scattered coins all over the house when spring cleaning arrived, there was a certain zeal.

When she got that look, it did not good arguing with her.

I will confess that several times during our own house cleaning, I was sorely tempted to get back under the covers and rest for a while with a good, warm nap; that would not have worked if my wife was still cleaning anything anywhere in our house.   I will give her a great deal of credit though…it was so cold in our house that several times, we both headed to the driveway to sit in our nice, warm cars with the seat warmers and the heater going full blast while charging our phones.  Then we would go back inside and resume the work.

By the time we finished, the house looked great.  And there was NO yelling at each other either…no yelling at all.

Jesus probably had to put up with those same self-righteous Sadducees yelling at him and demanding answers to those age-old questions:  “Just who do you think you are, coming in here and making such a big mess?  What gives you the right?”

I also wonder what the courtyard of the Temple looked like when Jesus got finished…picture it: 

  • No tables in sight and no vendors behind them;
  • No coins on the ground (oh please…what do you think happened to those piles of coins?);
  • Animals who were probably spooked and moved themselves outside the courtyard (or got loose and ran off);
  • Wonder if it looked…better?!?!?

And what did the Apostles do?  What did they see?

Was it “gentle Jesus, meek and mild?”  I highly doubt it.

I’ll bet it took “zealous” Jesus a few deep breaths to gather himself before heading off to wherever he was going.  

Wonder if he kept the whip of cords…or did he throw it away?  Or did one of the Apostles pick it up…just in case?

That’s a house that was cleaned out…the house of the Lord.  It doesn’t really compare to the cleaning my wife and I gave our house.  But it illustrates something that we could all learn:

Namely, I wonder how much “corruption” each of us has gathered in our hearts and in our souls as we walk through our lives trying our best to live as Christians.  How much do we pray?  How often do we call our friends – just to check on them?  How much do we give to others – I mean really give of ourselves?  In a few minutes, we will recite the Ten Commandments as our Affirmation of Faith today…I wonder if we truly honor and obey them in our daily lives.  I wonder how much we stretch and “fudge” our obedience to the Lord instead of seeking ways to be fully obedient.

I wonder how clean our own houses are.  And I wonder if we are zealous in getting them clean and keeping them that way?  

Finally, one more thought:

In order to gain a fuller understanding of Jesus Christ, we cannot gather only those things we like about him from Scripture; we must gather all we can, so we can gain a better picture of our Savior. That includes the one scene in which Jesus was angry.

In order to gain a fuller understanding of ourselves, we cannot only gather those things that we like about ourselves and those things others like about us; we must gather all we can in order to get and maintain a better picture of the house we are keeping for the Lord.  That might include some things we don’t want to admit need cleaning or throwing out.  

But that’s how you clean a house.