Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tables Upturned

John 2:13-22

I should have taken a picture of my kitchen Friday night, with our overturned dining room table in the middle of the floor... We had been talking about a major furniture shift involving four rooms in the house but mostly for the purpose of turning our dining room (which, let's be honest, is really used mostly as a homework and storage room) into a music room. 

High on the excitement of having a whole week off to work on long-overdue house projects, and hoping to surprise Big Charlie, whose back isn't up to hauling heavy objects, I thought I would start the transformation of rooms myself.  Surely I could slide furniture where I needed it to go...

So off came the piles of papers and books and jackets and other non-dining things that cover our dining room table, and over the table turned as I prepared to slide it on its side into the kitchen.  The table and I made it to the kitchen just fine, and all I needed to do was turn it back upright.  

I pulled from one side, pushed from another, thought about sliding my fingers underneath to lift from below, thought again... I tried leverage, deep breaths, bending at the knees. even a little sweet talk and finally a prayer - nothing worked.  So there the table stayed, in the kitchen, on its side.

In the temple, Jesus 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 marketplace!" 

We read these words from John's gospel early Friday morning at the Lower School, those of us gathered in the small chapel for the weekly faculty Eucharist.  The start of Spring Break was just a few hours away, and though we could each claim our work was a calling, we could also each use some time off.  The school year consists of long days, short nights, overfilled calendars, overstacked desks and overcommitted schedules.  Faculty, staff and students alike arrive at this time of year weary, as much from all the joys and accomplishments as from the challenges.

In the midst of it all, I wondered, how have we been treating God's temple?  Not the little brick chapel with its stained glass angels and stone altar, but the temple of our selves, our souls and bodies?  

"Destroy this temple," Jesus said, "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...

How have we been treating God's temple?  How many things occupy our lives?  How many things consume us?  How many things distract us?  How many things make demands of us, have expectations of us, have a share in us?

How big is God's share?

Spring break is our opportunity to turn all those tables over, to drive out the distractions and expectations and obligations and making in their places a sacred space.  Or, in my case, a conservatory.  I think it will be sacred, though - a peaceful place I can return to at the end of long school days to come...

So it is with the season of Lent, a season of opening ourselves up to Jesus and his passion for returning God's temple to its proper, intended state, making it a dwelling place for God instead of crowded, noisy, holding place for everything but God.  There are tables to be turned over, rooms to be rearranged, and demons to be driven out in order to make space for Christ and all his passion.  I am speaking of the temples of our bodies, our hearts and minds and spirits and hands and feet and bones and all of who we are, made to contain and convey the presence of God...

Our dining room table is upright again, but perhaps I need to leave the rest of life's tables overturned for now and invite Jesus to help me rearrange...

Artwork: "Nummularii de templo eiecti", by Salvador Dali; "The Dance of Life I", by Wendy West.

1 comment:

Julie Nolte Owen said...

I love this reflection, and I can't wait to see the newly configured music room!