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Scripture Reflection: Transformed From the Inside Out

“Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ . . . But he was speaking of the temple of his body.” —John 2:19, 21

A Look Ahead to Sunday’s Readings

As Passover approaches, Jesus goes to Jerusalem and with a whip in his hand drives out money changers and those selling sacrificial animals from the temple courts. “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” he cries.

During Jesus’s time, sacrificial animals were sold to the faithful pilgrims who came to the temple to observe Passover, the commemoration of the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt. Money changers were a necessity: The pilgrims came from different places and needed to exchange their currency to purchase animals and pay temple taxes.

God is not distant; God is alive and at work in us — cultivating compassion and transforming us, and the world, from the inside out.

So, is this puzzling demonstration an overturning of temple worship norms, or is there more to the story? Because it comes near the end of Jesus’s life and ministry, it makes sense to interpret this heated exchange as a foreshadowing of his death and resurrection. (After Jesus is raised from the dead — three days after his crucifixion — the disciples have a lightbulb moment when they remember his words in the temple court.)

And yet we might interpret Jesus’s words and actions as pointing to something deeper: a proclamation of God’s life-breathing presence within each of us. God is not distant; God is alive and at work in us — cultivating compassion and transforming us, and the world, from the inside out. We, like Jesus, are walking temples of the Holy Spirit.

This Lenten season, may we attend to our inner lives and consider the ways we might cooperate with God to turn our communities, our homes, and our hearts into centers of love in action.

Read all of Sunday’s scriptures.

Here are five ways to think more about what it means to experience God’s presence within us:

Social Justice  In The Great Spiritual Migration, theologian Brian McLaren proposes that without inner “soul work that opens our deepest selves to God and grounds our souls in love, no movement will succeed and no institution will stand.”

Spirituality  In a self-guided retreat called The Inner Temple, the Rev. Suzanne Guthrie invites us to move from false senses of security to experiencing the soul as a place of beauty and life even in anxious and dangerous times.

Poetry  “Know that you also hold many worlds unseen inside you,” writes poet James Crews, imagining the soul as a place of beauty, aliveness, and, ultimately, belonging.

Visual Arts  Writer and journalist Simcha Jacobovici helps us visualize Jesus’s dramatic visit to the temple in this clip from the PBS documentary Last Days of Jesus.

Guided Meditation  This seven-minute mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) body scan is set within a Christian scriptural framework and provides an opportunity to connect with God’s good creation of our bodies with an awareness of God’s presence within.

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