Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul.
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
For human beings, architecture has never been just about the need for shelter. It’s way more than that, because the buildings we construct are expressions of our deepest values. It’s why we feel personally offended if a certain space we cherish is neglected or used inappropriately. Buildings are reflections of our selves, and so the way that a space is treated likewise reflects the way that we desire to be treated. For example, while we could theoretically teach our children in a metal shed with a couple heaters and a window unit, the fact that we can do better than that means that such a space would suggest an unacceptable lack of care for the value of education. Schools should look like we consider education to be as important as it is.
Sacred spaces are no exception to this. And, in particular, the temple in Jerusalem was always meant to be a physical and symbolic representation of both the faithful Israelite believer and the entire creation itself. According to Scripture, the human person was created to be a temple, in a temple. That is, human beings were created to be holy in the world in which they live; we exist to be filled with the presence of God in a world full of God’s presence. Creation is the space in which God has placed humanity in order to worship him -- so creation is a temple. And God has endowed human beings with a soul that exists to be “a mansion prepared for himself” -- so human beings are temples. But while “the world is charged with the grandeur of God,” as the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, for human beings to be so charged -- for us to be filled with the presence of God -- we must be obedient to the Law of God. In 2 Kings, we read that the temple was where the Book of the Law was housed, which makes sense, but it had been so forgotten that it had to be discovered by Hilkiah the priest and brought to King Josiah. This discovery of the Law then prompts Josiah to tear his clothes and direct his servants to:
Go, inquire of the Lord...concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us. (2 Kings 22:13)
It’s not enough for the law to be in the temple if it’s not written on the hearts of the people. The call to repentance that King Josiah issues for the people represents the call to cleanse the temple of their bodies -- their hearts, souls, and minds -- so that the literal temple can serve its rightful function of housing the law of God and the people who obey it.
Bear this in mind as we move to our Gospel lesson for this morning, which records our Lord’s own act of cleansing the temple.
The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.
There’s some historical context behind Christ’s actions here that can illuminate what might otherwise seem rather out-of-character for him. The merchants and money-changers who’ve set up their businesses in the temple court weren’t particularly scandalous in terms of conventional wisdom. They wouldn’t be there in the first place if they did not have at least the “tacit permission of the authorities” or if their trades weren’t an “established, recognized custom” . And it certainly was an effective fundraising program for the temple  -- who wouldn’t want that? But as with so many established customs that we eventually take for granted, the business in the temple court had a dark side. This temple court happened to be the Court of the Gentiles, which was the only part of the temple that they were allowed to be in . So these little pop up shops “not only turned the Court of the Gentiles into a market and money-changing bureau,” but were also conveniently placed to exploit the Gentile visitors -- who couldn’t go anywhere else in the temple -- and thereby “made it impossible” for them to pray there in peace . There is an implicit contempt towards Gentiles going on here -- because who cares if they can’t pray; they’re not our people -- which is why, in Mark’s account of this event, Jesus quotes the Prophet Isaiah who said that the temple was to be “a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:7), not just the people of Israel.
See how the injustice and exploitation that Jesus is resisting go hand in hand with the obstruction of the life of prayer for the Gentile pilgrims at the temple. These things are never separate from another. Material injustice is always accompanied by spiritual injustice; the money-changers that have degraded the temple into a “house of trade” are the expression of the temple’s spiritual degradation. Jesus is cleansing the temple of both: he drives out those practices that are incompatible with the spiritual integrity of the temple.
Aside from this historical context, however, there’s a deeper truth to be discerned in Jesus’ actions today. For all of us, it’s a constant temptation in the Christian life to imagine that our religion or spirituality can be kept neatly disconnected from the actual material practices that we engage in. Religion is seen as a purely private and internal matter — concerned with individual decency and manners — something which one’s daily life out in the world conveniently has little to do with. But even in terms of our private lives, we often have very little self-awareness or criticism of how we actually live. If we as human beings are created to be little temples, filled with the holiness of the divine life, then today’s Gospel prompts us to ask ourselves how we’ve allowed the “money-changers” to set up shop within us, so to speak; how we’ve allowed the temples of our bodies to become houses not of prayer and devotion, but of “trade” — of gain, acquisitiveness, indulgence, self-seeking, and neglect for the justice that is owed to our neighbors. Indeed, while this “trade” can represent just about anything that we might do that inhibits our devotion to God, it’s not a coincidence that it’s the reduction of the temple to a house of profit at the expense of prayer -- that induces Christ’s righteous indignation. The pursuit of wealth makes one vulnerable a unique kind of spiritual deception precisely because it can be more easily rationalized alongside a superficial pursuit of religion -- which is why almsgiving is such a powerful spiritual discipline, especially during Lent, as it cuts sharply through that deception. Because again, remember that according to the conventional wisdom of the day, everything about this arrangement in the temple appeared to be totally fine and agreeable. The temple authorities saw no incompatibility or contradiction between the maintenance of temple religion and the business of the merchants and money-changers. The authorities thus stand as a cautionary metaphor for each and every one of us, for we all in some way have made convenient compromises with ourselves so as to have it both ways: religion along with respectability. But our Lord will have none of it: he comes to cleanse the temple across the board so that it can be restored to its proper purpose, a purpose which necessarily drives out the side-gigs that had been established there.
Christ comes to do the same in us. As the great Anglican theologian and spiritual writer, Bede Frost, wrote about this passage:
How often there has gathered around the inner temple of the soul a mass of customary, ingrained habits of thought and action, which have become so common, so much part of ourselves, that we do not recognize how they hinder and weaken the spirit of worship and prayer. The courts of the soul filled with an incessant babble, with trivialities, with the cares, and riches, and pleasures of this world -- none sinful in themselves, but all jostling for an undue attention which, if given, reveals itself when we come to worship and prayer. [...] And one object of Lent is to direct our efforts to the cleansing of the courts of that temple which we are: those courts of our outward sense through which we allow so much to enter which would be better kept out; and of the interior sense of memory and imagination which, valuable as they are, so easily become dangerous to us. 
I couldn’t really say it better myself.
But, to close, see finally how these words from Frost call to mind our Epistle lesson from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. There, Paul laments that while “I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self...I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members.” Paul, like those of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus, has been brought into the state of grace. We have been liberated from the slavery to sin; the law of sin is no longer our master, since the Holy Spirit has imprints the new law on our hearts in which he dwells . But, as Paul says, there still remains “the law of sin which dwells in my members.” Though we have been rescued from sin’s captivity, we still have a residual inclination to sin because we are still “under attack from the flesh” .
It’s as though when God first regenerates us and we begin grow “into a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:21), our first discovery is that this temple of ours is full of all of those “money-changers” that Bede Frost described. We discover that we do not understand our own actions in light of the law of God; that there is “another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin.” This war, this struggle within us, is not one that we will ever fully escape in this life; our inclination to sin will always remain until we are delivered from this body of death. But Christ has entered into the temples of our souls by the Spirit, and he brings with him the grace and the power to drive away the forces that afflict us and keep us from being “houses of prayer.”
Lent is the season in which we make this request of our Lord with utmost sorrow and humility. It’s when we refuse to pretend any longer that all of the compromises we’ve set up in ourselves are acceptable and ask our Lord to enter in, that with his righteous judgment he may continue winning the war within us until his victory is finally secured within us. The struggle persists in the meantime -- Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? But it will end in glory. God has promised to "keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul." Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
 Bede Frost. Lent and Eastertide with the Liturgy. 25-26.
 St. Thomas Aquinas. Commentary on the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans. 190.
 Ibid. 190.