“Clear it out” a sermon for Ash Wednesday

‘When the Passover Feast, celebrated each spring by the Jews, was about to take place, Jesus traveled up to Jerusalem. He found the Temple teeming with people selling cattle and sheep and doves. The loan sharks were also there in full strength.

 Jesus put together a whip out of strips of leather and chased them out of the Temple, stampeding the sheep and cattle, upending the tables of the loan sharks, spilling coins left and right. He told the dove merchants, “Get your things out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a shopping mall!” That’s when his disciples remembered the Scripture, “Zeal for your house consumes me.”

But the Jews were upset. They asked, “What credentials can you present to justify this?” Jesus answered, “Tear down this Temple and in three days I’ll put it back together.”

They were indignant: “It took forty-six years to build this Temple, and you’re going to rebuild it in three days?” But Jesus was talking about his body as the Temple. Later, after he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this. They then put two and two together and believed both what was written in Scripture and what Jesus had said.’  (John 2:13-22 The Message)

My questions for you this Lent are these: What in your life needs clearing out?  What should be you making room for? What is in the way?

We recently got a pool table for the basement.

poolWhile it certainly is not the nicest one available on the market (we only spent a few hundred dollars); we still needed to save for it, and we also got a little help from my parents this Christmas. It arrived a couple of weeks ago and already has gotten much use.

There was one problem however. The room was still full of toys!

We all knew it was time to change over from a toy room to a rec room soon as our kids aged, but the pool table became the catalyst to start cleaning things out.

Tammie led the charge – and let’s be fair and honest – did 90% of the work in packing things up, giving things away and throwing out that which needed to be cleared.

When the clearing out was done – we ordered the table; and something new could begin!

What can you clear out to make room for something new to begin?

For us, it’s time to move on to the garage. We usually keep a relatively tidy garage –

I really like my garage cleaned out before my father-in-law visits (he likes a clean garage and I like to deliver it.)  Yet it seems that every winter the garage accumulates things: cardbaord, recyclables, Chrismtas decorations yet to be put on shelves, and other STUFF. I used to schedule Father’s Day as clean out the garage day. I did it on Father’s Day because I knew the kids could not say no to helping me!

But we are ready to do that clean up now (keep in mind we have a one stall garage).

  1. We have all the cardboard and Styrofoam from the pool table in there.
  2. We received my aunt’s old dryer after she replaced hers and ours no longer worked properly. (Although I still stand by my work of FIXING IT!)
  3. We have a kayak on loan so we had to move stuff around in there to store it once it got cold. 
  4. And last, the regular winter accumulation of things and the tools (like Joe’s snow blower – that needs to go out to the shed to make room for the lawnmower and bikes.)

It’s easy to start accumulating things. As we prepare for work here at St. Paul on the building project in the coming months I look around at objects that have sat around for some time and probably need to be weeded out. Especially in my office. I have a tendency to create piles of paper over tine that need to be sorted. (I think I have notes at the bottom of a pile planning for Christmas.) I have books and remnants of previous occupiers of that space that have not been looked at since they occupied it!  Before we moved to Old Saybrook I sorted and eliminated about a third of my books – and could easily stand to eliminate third more. If we are going to renew all of our space it is time to clear things out.

In the story Jesus is clearing out that which doesn’t belong in the Temple, and he’s really pretty zealous about it isn’t he? He is adamant about getting rid of the clutter. Practices that began under the best of intentions bit now don’t belong there. Jesus clearing the Temple makes room for what is new – namely him!

Jesus was clearing out the clutter – not for more regulations within the sacrificial system or to add more rules to the moral code, but to make space for for him – the fulfillment of the law and the prophets; and the type of sacrificial love the he embodied throughout his relationships; and the road to the cross in which he embarked.  But first he had to clear that Temple out – if his promise of a new life through his death and resurrection was to be written on their hearts; or ours too for that matter.

It is time for us to join Jesus in that clearing things out.  Lent provides a great opportunity.

Over the course of the next 40 days as we prepare for Jesus’ passion and the amazing hope of Easter, let’s think about clearing out all the clutter in our lives.

Sometimes that might be a little painful, because there is a lot that has accumulated along the way.  But our path toward Easter is sure; the love God gives us in Jesus is complete; the sweet breeze of the Spirit is blowing; and you and I are called to join what God is up to among us to clear the way.  So let’s clear things out. If it really is STUFF that is in the way; than it is STUFF that needs to go.

There are great resources as you think about the disciplines of Lent:

Minimalism. This is a great way to spend an evening on Netflix.

40 bags in 40 days. (We are going to use this at home). You get 40 bags, boxes, crates to fill of stuff to give away, throw way and de-clutter and reclaim your space.  (I’m using a few of these bags in my office for sure!)

No New Stuff. There’s a program our good friends have been using for a year. You don’t buy anything new (besides perishables) in order to reclaim your finances, and increase your capacity for generosity.

What about your schedule? We all only get 24 hours a day to get everything done – what is cluttering your time? A friend of mine challenged me to pray 1% of my day which is almost 15 minutes.  At first I wondered how I would carve that out, but after thinking about it there’s 15 minutes of connecting with God that I can make time for – but it’s going to take some diligence. I challenge you to do the same.

Food and Fasting. I am a year into a new eating plan to reclaimed a healthy lifestyle and take ownership of my future. There are lots of ways to go about it – but the most effective: start tracking what you eat. Get a journal and write it down. Eat enough protein. Cut the junk. Drink way more water than you ever thought you needed. And you’ll probably lose some of the clutter around your waist. 🙂

In this age of 24 hour news cycles, social media platforms to keep seeking to draw you in, varied and divisive news sources and politics that seeks to keep us on edge and at each other’s throats. My recommendation for Lent is to cut the clutter. I’m not saying become a hermit or recluse, but consider how you might intentionally unplug for a time and then re-engage with a clear head in order to identify: not with what is wrong in the world, who to be angry at or who to fear, but so you can ask “How can I help contribute toward the good?”

And what about filling the story of your life with good news?  If you clear the clutter of everything else – schedule some time to get back to God’s word this Lent. (Besides this coming Sunday when we read the temptation from Matthew’s Gospel) the Sunday readings will be from John throughout this Lenten cycle. Maybe you want to read John’s Gospel this Lent.  Or perhaps pick up a one of the great devotionals Tammie and Kim got for us that are ready for you to take with you in the vestibule.

It is time to clear the clutter.

It is time to join Jesus in his healthy indignation towards all the things that draw us away from him, and his uncompromising promise of love and mercy that both we and the world need so desperately.

Make room in your life to be part of Jesus’ movement to clear the clutter.

As we enter this Lenten season, and the road that leads to the cross, we may find that   Easter may not be so far away after all.

Rack ’em!


About geoff sinibaldo

Follower of Jesus, Husband, Father, Son, Friend, Change Proponent, Goofball, Seeking Faithfulness in the 21st Century
This entry was posted in Lent/Easter, Lent/Easter Sermons, on Gospel of John, Sermons and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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