Rev. Kristen Provost Switzer is the Minister of Youth and Mission at Newtown Congregational Church, in CT.
Scripture: John 2:13-22 (NRSV)
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.’ The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
Reflection: Rebuilding Our Temples
Friends, how are you?
I mean really, how are you doing right now? Has anyone asked you lately? How is your sleep, your eating habits? Does your body ache and have you had a tension headache for the past year? Are you constantly apologizing for being curt with your partner and kids? Do you need a nap, a Sunday off? Are you starting to make plans for your post-Easter staycation?
We are so tender these days. Like Jesus and everyone around us, we are trying to cope. After all, our temples have been destroyed. For Jesus and other 1st century Palestinian Jews, the Temple was the center of community, politics, religious life itself. That is, whatever we considered to be the center of our very being probably looks a lot different today than it did one year ago. Whether we consider our job descriptions (I didn’t go to seminary to be a video editor, did you?), our relationships with family and friends, even something as simple as hugging a dear one, not very much about life today looks like it did at this time last year. Like Jesus in the temple, the very center of our lives has been distorted into something that we don’t recognize and don’t like very much. Perhaps, like Jesus, we have a hard time coping ourselves. Though we don’t go around chasing people with whips and flipping tables, the deep existential crisis all around us is painful to witness and irritating to our souls to live among.
And yet, our Christian calling is one of delight, not despair.
By all means, please do despair. Don’t gloss over this time as if we all didn’t just miss out on a year of life to the fullest. Tear your garments and sprinkle yourself with ashes over the 500,000 and counting lives lost to COVID-19. Recall that it did not need to be this way.
And when we have processed that deep despair in our hearts, minds, souls and bodies, I hope that gleanings of resurrection begin to appear for each of us. In fact, I know that they will. The days will grow longer, the earth will grow greener and nature will remind us that life always finds a way. We will rebuild these temples- the temples of our faith communities, our bodies, our mental health and all types of holistic wellness. We may even build more grand temples when we examine the ways that people all around us have been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic- people of color, the poor, the elderly, those who were forgotten among us before we had even heard of COVID-19. We are not obligated to go back to the way that things were but we are obligated to learn from this year of deep reflection moving forward.
To preach resurrection this year is going to rock the status quo of death all around us. To some, the intentional cultivation of personal and communal joy is going to look as weird as Jesus did flipping the tables and running around with a whip of cords, especially for those who are still struggling in the aftermath of this past year. That’s okay. We’re not going to look any more strange than those early disciples did, proclaiming the risen Christ, boldly declaring the tomb empty. Being a Resurrection People means that we mourn at the cross... and then see for ourselves that the tomb is empty. We will build our temples again when it is time.
God of death and resurrection, help us to be sad. Help us to be mad. And then help us to be glad and rejoice in the new day that you will bring to this pandemic world. Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those grieving for the more than 510,000 dead due to the Covid-19 disease
- For the families of the victims of the 71 mass shootings already carried out in 2021
- For the people of Myanmar where protests have continued resulting in several death after a military coup last month
- For those who feel mentally fatigued, lonely, or depressed due to isolation and other impacts of the pandemic
- For the family and friends of the Rev. Jean Lenk, former pastor in Stoughton, MA, who died Feb. 24
- For the family and friends of the Rev. Theodore Paul Fritsch, missionary and pastor who served in Maine and in Westwood, MA, who died on Feb. 24
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the season of Lent
- For the prospect of warmer weather and a change in the season approaching
This Week in History:
March 1, 1961 (60 years ago) President John F. Kennedy establishes the Peace Corp by executive order and asks Congress to permanently fund the new agency. The corps was established to "promote world peace and friendship." Thousands answered the call to volunteer and 750 would be chosen to serve in 13 countries that first year. It is estimated that in the 60 years since its origin, nearly 250,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps serving 142 nations.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”
Rev. Kristen Provost Switzer is the Minister of Youth and Mission at Newtown Congregational Church.