Cleansing the Temple Meditation: Lent 3 2021

During the season of Lent, my husband, Pastor Patrick Sipes, will be our guest blogger with a series of tactile meditations exploring Sunday’s Gospel text. He is currently serving as the transitional minister at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Platte, Nebraska, and will be inviting congregation members into these meditations in worship. May God bless you as you explore Scripture through Prayer.

Items needed: a few strands of yarn

Spindle Whorl and Loom Weights by Giles Watson on

As we reflect on Jesus cleansing of the temple this morning, you will need a piece of string or yarn, preferably with several strands to it. As you pray you may feel most comfortable just holding the string in your hands, or if you are more of an active person, feel free to pull the strands of string apart as you reflect, and use them to make a “whip of cords” as Jesus did.

As we begin, we look at the words, “But he was speaking of the temple of his body.” We do this, because as we change the events of the day from an actual to a metaphorical one, it allows us to begin moving from Jesus cleansing the Temple in Jerusalem, to Jesus cleansing the temples of our bodies.

We begin with the cattle and the sheep that Jesus drives out. These animals were in the temple to make offering a sacrifice easier, but as animals go, they were loud, they had a tendency to not smell so good in afternoon sun, they could be dangerous if they were not controlled well enough, and Jesus drove them out. I invite you as you reflect on the whip that you hold, to bring to mind the cattle and sheep that roam in your life. Those parts that are too loud for your liking, those parts that don’t smell so good to you, those parts that can be dangerous if they get out of control and that you work too hard to keep under control. Those parts you’ve tried to shake but just don’t seem able to do…

(Take time to reflect on the sheep and cattle that roam in your temple.)

Hear this, know this, Jesus is here to drive those things out of you. Jesus is here to clean your temple, and to make you clean.

Jesus also turns over the tables of the money changers. These people were there to change foreign money to Hebrew money that was acceptable in the temple, and to turn a tidy profit for themselves as they did so. In our lives, we do not always act fairly either. As you reflect on the whip that you hold, bring to mind those places in your life where you are not fair to others…

(Take time to reflect on those places where you are a money changer that treats others unfairly.)

Hear this, know this, Jesus is here to upset the ways in which you treat others unfairly, to turn over the tables on which you work your injustice, and to bring your temple into right relationship with others. 

Jesus tells those who sell doves, “Get these things out of here.” Doves were meant for the poor, an acceptable substitute sacrifice for those who could not afford something better. In our lives, there are many things that make us feel unworthy of God, or that we feel are unworthy to give to God. In other words, we feel poor in God’s sight and so we bring our doves, our substitute offering that marks us as poor to all who can see. As you reflect on your whip, bring to mind those places in your life that you feel poor in God’s sight, those places where you do not feel worthy, those places where you substitute something less when what you have is something more…

(Take time to reflect on where you feel poor in God’s eyes.)

Hear this, know this, Jesus is here to tell you get those things out of here, Jesus is here to tell you, you are enough, you have great things to give to him, you are richly blessed by the Holy Spirit.

As your temple is swept clean by Jesus, enjoy the openness, enjoy the peacefulness, enjoy the more easy connection you find there with God.


If you would like to explore this text as a family devotion, check out my post for Lent in a Dish 2021 on Family God Time:

Revealed: The Wedding at Cana February 2019


John 2:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version)

1On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

ELCA Book of Faith Devotional Questions:

What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text? What do I have questions about?  I have always been a little disturbed by the way that Jesus seems to treat his mother in this text. She notices the situation, he responds with a sort of huffy, “Woman! It’s not the right time!” and then she forces his hand by telling the servants to do what he says. I don’t even want to consider my mother’s reaction if I called her “Woman”! I consulted a couple of commentaries on this text, and found out that what is translated here as “Woman” might more accurately be translated “Madam” or “My Lady,” a sign of respect, not disrespect.  It’s good to remember once in a while that our Bible is a translation from Ancient Hebrew and Greek, and that if something seems a little fishy, it’s a good idea to as the fine Lutheran question, “What does this mean?” But what about the rest of the exchange? Why does Mary insist that Jesus first reveal his power at a wedding? Why this wedding in particular? The commentary from SALT suggested that it is important that the last, the least, and the lowly are the ones who Jesus responds to. A woman notices the need and asks Jesus to act, and the servants serving at the banquet are the first-hand witnesses of the miracle. It is not a story about the powerful asking for more power, but the lowly being lifted up by the power of God. This is who Jesus is, and so now this first sign makes a bit more sense.

What delights me in this text? What is my favorite part, and why?  Once my eyes had been opened to the power dynamics in this story, I find myself more drawn to it. Each time we take Holy Communion together, we talk about the feast that never ends, where Jesus is the host, and we are the guests. What better place to reveal his power for the first time than at a wedding banquet?  Like his reimagining of the Passover Meal on Maundy Thursday, this first sign also points to the place that we have reserved at the last banquet.  Isaiah imagines it this way:

On this mountain the Lord of hosts
will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow,
of well-aged wines strained clear. (Isaiah 25:6 NRSV)

In the wedding at Cana, Jesus goes from guest to host, from human person to Son of God. It just makes you wonder what amazing thing might happen next, doesn’t it?

What stories or memories does this text stir up in me? How does this story connect to the story of my life?  This text reminds me of the rehearsal dinner for our wedding.  We had such an overabundance of food that we were giving away whole pans of meat and potatoes and side dishes to friends after the cleanup. I remember wondering why this had happened, and being a bit irritated at the wasted expense. I later learned, however, that when my husband’s brother got married they ran out of food at the rehearsal dinner, and wedding party and parents went hungry. My in-laws didn’t want to see that happen again, so they made sure to provide more than enough, and some financially strained seminary students benefited with leftovers for days. What a miracle!

What is God up to in this text? What is God calling me to do or to be because of this message?  This text is the third of the three great Epiphanies that traditionally kick off the Epiphany season (the others are the visit of the wise men and Jesus’ baptism). In these Epiphanies, Jesus is revealed to be who he really is by visitors from foreign nations, by God’s own words from heaven, and to women and servants in his own neighborhood. These Revelations set up just how Jesus will continue to reveal himself during his earthly ministry, and just who he has come to serve. Where is Goes abundantly present in your life, like at the wedding at Cana? If you can’t readily answer this question (it can be a tough one), where might you look to find God at work during the rest of this season filled with revelation?


As always, I look forward to diving deeper into this text with you as we Dwell in the Word together over the course of this month. May the light of Christ shine on you and illumine your path.

In Christ, Pastor Breen