Turning Over Tables And Towards Jesus

So … I forgot to record my sermon last weekend.

However, in the grand scheme of all that went on at church last weekend (huge visitation and funeral for one of the pillars of our church), if all I dropped the ball on was recording my sermon, I’m okay with that.

There wasn’t a sermon last week because we didn’t have power following the nor’easter and had to cancel church.  To be clear, I’m not talking about THIS week’s nor’easter, I’m talking about LAST week’s.

I’m so ready for spring.

Here’s my sermon!  I was scheduled to preach through the letters throughout this Lenten season, but decided to preach on Jesus turning over the tables in the temple LAST weekend, which turned into this past weekend, since I really wanted to get this story in.  So now I have yet to preach out of the letters, my preaching schedule is slightly askew and I’m flying by the seat of my robe.


Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
March 11, 2018

John 2:13-22

Turning Over Tables And Towards Jesus

Let’s put ourselves in the temple at Passover this morning: Can you imagine how loud it must have been when all of those coins hit the floor?

Making a whip of cords, [Jesus] drove all of them out of the temple … [and] also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.{John 2:15, NRSV}

Suffice is to say, people knew Jesus was in the temple that day.

When my mom and I went to Hungary in 2016, we went to church one Sunday morning. We were in the small town of Hévíz, Hungary, which is known for being home to the world’s second-largest thermal lake. There were two churches in the town, a Catholic Church and an Evangelical one. We decided to attend the Catholic Church, thinking we had a better shot of following a Catholic liturgy in Hungarian than we did an Evangelical worship in Hungarian. We walked in and found a seat off to the side, towards the back. We were hoping to blend in so no one would notice that we were: A. Protestant and B. American.

Everything started off really well; the liturgy was very similar to one’s I have experienced in the United States, so I was following along. The Gospel reading was the story of Mary and Martha, so I even kind of knew what was going on with that. My peripheral vision was on high alert, so I knew when to kneel and when to stand.

And then we got to the offering.

I do not know if this is how it normally works in the Catholic Church, or if this was just specific to this parish, but the priest introduced the offering, sent the baskets out into the congregation and then moved on to the Eucharist while everyone was passing the baskets around putting their offerings in.

And at the precise moment that the priest was consecrating the host – the Catholic Church believes in transubstantiation, so they believe the wafer and the wine literally become the body and blood of Christ – the person to my right handed me the offering basket, which, at that point, was full of forint, which is the Hungarian currency, which I had recently learned, makes large use of coins.

In other words, the basket was mostly full of coins.

Oh – and did I mention that the floor of this church was tile?

Maybe you can see where this story is going.

So I put my forint in the basket, hand it to my mom, who was sitting to the left of me. And for the record, I could have sworn I saw she had a hand on the basket before I let it go.

But apparently I was wrong.

The basket hit the floor and coins went EVERYWHERE.

Which was not exactly quiet on that tile floor.

So as the priest was consecrating the host – probably the holiest moment of the entire service – my mom and I found ourselves on our hands and knees frantically gathering the money that was bouncing off the tile and rolling away.

So much for blending in.

Suffice is to say, people knew we were in the church that day.

Of course, we were going for subtle; I am not entirely sure that Jesus was.

I have always loved the dramatic flair of this story; the image of the coins bouncing around the floor of the temple while the tables flew in the air, Jesus taking a whip and using that to shoo everyone out, people and animals alike. I can only imagine that the moneychangers were – like my mom and I in church that Sunday – on their hands and knees frantically trying gather up the coins that were scattering everywhere while the animals went in every different direction and the people who were selling them ran around trying to get control.

But even more than that, I have kind of always loved this story, because there is a real human side of Jesus that we see in this moment. For a man who we know from the gospel to be generally fairly calm and even-tempered – who healed the sick, fed the hungry, reached out to the poor and the marginalized and taught his disciples and his followers how to pray – he, like many of us do from time to time, got angry and lost his temper.

Let’s back up: It was almost time for Passover and people from all over – probably close to 100,000 people – were traveling to Jerusalem for the festival. When Jesus arrived, he realized they had set up a marketplace in the temple. There were people selling cattle, sheep and doves and there were also moneychangers.

The question, of course, is why were they doing this, particularly inside the temple. Well, first of all, people who had a long way to travel to Jerusalem for the Passover needed a place to buy an animal to sacrifice, because it was not always easy or possible for them to travel to Jerusalem with one. By having the animals for sale in the temple, people could purchase them when they arrived in Jerusalem. The moneychangers were there to convert foreign currency, so that everyone – no matter where they were traveling from – could purchase one of these animals.

It is hard to pinpoint, exactly, why Jesus was upset, but we can surmise it was probably a combination of the fact that they were likely charging exorbitant rates, both to change the currency and for the animals (there was a high demand for these animals and only one place to get them, so they could get away with jacking up the prices, knowing people would have no choice but to pay them) and also because they were doing this inside the temple, where people were supposed to be worshipping.

“Take these things out of here,” Jesus screamed. “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”

At first Jesus is talking very literally about what is happening in the temple, but then he shifts and starts speaking in metaphor. He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews questioned him about this, saying, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But Jesus, of course, was talking about his body. He would die and in three days, he would be raised.

There is a lot going on in this story. But I think, at its core, Jesus is saying that, ultimately, we need to turn towards our lives him. I think Jesus is saying that we need to intentionally turn our eyes, our minds and our hearts towards Jesus, towards the message of the Gospel. Jesus is not necessarily saying the call to discipleship is an easy one; but rather one that requires us to make sacrifices, to change something about our lives and to sometimes live against the grain of what the world around us is telling us to do.

This is not easy; we live in a very imperfect, very human world; a world filled with earthly desires and temptations. We have basic wants and necessities. We get settled into our routines. I do not blame the people selling the animals for sacrifice or the moneychangers in the temple; they were trying to make a living and they saw an opportunity.

And yet, Jesus is right; we do need to let go of the things that take us away from Jesus and instead build up things that draw us closer to him.

This story is an important one; it appears in all four Gospels. And yet the timing of it in the Gospel of John is really intriguing to me. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, this story appears towards the end of the Gospel, after Jesus has already made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. His time on earth is wrapping up; there is a sense of urgency in his words and in his actions. He does not have a lot of time left on earth; of course he is going to be foreshadowing what is to come.

And yet in the Gospel of John, this story appears much earlier on. Jesus is baptized, he calls his disciples, they go to the wedding in Cana where Jesus turns water into wine and then enters the temple and all of this happens. The way the story is told in this gospel, Jesus did not wait until he was about to be crucified to boldly tell people to turn towards him; from the very beginning of his ministry it was about pointing people towards Jesus, it was about destroying the things that pull us away from Jesus.

I think there is a really good lesson for us in this, for two reasons: First of all, we do have to fight, sometimes, against the things that pull us away from Jesus. We have to intentionally push back when we are being pulled away. We live in a world where it is not always easy to live out our faith. This particular story is about money and the exchanging of goods within the temple, but it is not just money and material goods that pull us away from Jesus. Often times it is just life itself.

And second of all, I think the placement of the story in this particular gospel reminds us that we do not have to wait until there is a sense of urgency to point our lives to Jesus. From the very beginning, this is what we should be doing. We should be making this our focus today, in our lifetime. It is not about waiting until the timing is right; the time is now.

As hard as this is to admit sometimes, I think we all have our own way of selling animals for sacrifice and changing money in the temple. These are the pieces of our lives where we do not make our faith a priority. We let ourselves be pulled away from the Gospel, from what God is calling us to do. We sometimes focus on the material things and not the Godly things. And this is not something we can fix once and be set for life; this is an ongoing process.

But do you know what the really cool part of this story is? There is hope. There is always hope! Jesus did not say, destroy the temple; Jesus said destroy the temple and in three days I will raise it back up. Even though life sometimes pulls us away from our faith, we can turn around and go back to it. We can push back against the things in our lives threatening our faith, confidently knowing that Jesus is helping to build us a stronger faith.

There was nothing subtle about my mom and me in that Catholic Church in Hungary that July Sunday.

But sometimes there is nothing subtle about being a follower of Jesus, either.

So may we turn our eyes and our minds and our hearts towards Jesus. May we resist the things in our lives that draw us away from our faith and focus on the Gospel. May we turn over tables in our lives and towards Jesus. And may we be built up.

For the kingdom is upon.

Thanks be to God!

Preaching in Pumps Podcast Artwork

Our Taizé Worship Services

Not long after we arrived in Rehoboth, Bruce and I started dreaming and scheming about ways we could introduce this community to new worship styles.  We stick pretty close to our traditional four-part worship on a Sunday morning, but there are so many other amazing ways to worship out there!

Bruce has traveled to Taizé twice and this worship style has always been one of his favorites. He approached the Deacons in the fall of 2016 and asked if they would give him their blessing to start a monthly Taizé worship service at RCC.  We kicked it off that December and have been going strong for over a year!  We typically meet on the last Sunday of the month at 7pm.  It isn’t a hugely attended service, but we have always said that we do it as much for us as we do for everyone else.  We have had anywhere from 4 to 18 people and generally average around 10.  We usually have a few regulars with one or two new attendees every month.  People have said to us they really enjoy the format – even if they aren’t able to make it work every month, they would like for us to continue, if possible.

There are essentially four components to putting together the service:  1. the order of worship, 2. silence 3. music & 4. the worship space.

Order of Worship

Let me start with the order of worship.  We follow a format very similar to what you will find in Taizé, but we do a slightly abbreviated version.  We want to keep the service around 40 minutes.  Here is the typical order.

Prayers of Intercession & Lord’s Prayer

Typically, I follow whatever passages fall in the Revised Common Lectionary that day, so it’s easy for me to decide what Psalm and Gospel passage are read.  Occasionally, I will deviate slightly (the service before Christmas, I used the birth narrative, when we were getting close to the beginning of Lent, I used the Ash Wednesday passages, etc.), but for the most part following the lectionary makes it simple for me to put together the services quickly.

Speaking of which – for the prayers of intercession, since I am following the lectionary, I just pull the prayer out of this worship resource:


The Feasting on the Word Worship Companion series are my go-to for this!  There are two volumes per year, so when you are building your collection you don’t have to buy them all at once, which is nice.  They also come with a CD-rom, which is nice because then I can just copy and paste into my worship script (although I know CD drives are becoming a thing of the past – I have other worship resources that have a link to download the resource, which is even better!).

For the benediction, I usually use the old Celtic blessing:

May the Christ who walks on wounded feet
walk with you on the road.
May the Christ who serves with wounded hands
stretch out your hands to serve.
May the Christ who loves with a wounded heart
open your hearts to love.
May you see the face of Christ in everyone you meet,
and may everyone you meet
see the face of Christ in you.
Go in peace! Amen.

I do put together an order of worship, mostly so people can see the music and follow along with the scriptures if they’d like.  Some protestant New England habits die hard – bulletins are one of them. :)


From the very beginning, we’ve been very transparent about the fact that a big piece of this service will be silence.  We started with 5 minutes, then 7, then 8, then 10, then 12 and now consistently have 15 minutes of silence each month.  We probably won’t go much longer than that – otherwise the services will start to go longer than 40 minutes.

Bruce has been unapologetic about the fact that this service just is not for everyone.  If you don’t like silence or can’t sit still for 15 minutes of silence, this is probably not a service for you and that’s okay!  The youngest we’ve every had at one of these services is our high school youth.  I actually feel weird talking about this, because I’m so adamant about welcoming children (and all of their boisterous chatter) in our Sunday morning worship, but we want to keep the experience as authentic as possible and this is a service that just would be tough for young children.  We used to bring Harrison to help us set up and then one of us would take him home; now he has a 7:00 bedtime so either one of us stays home or we have someone babysit.


Onto music …

One day, we would love to have a worship leader for this service.  Love, love, LOVE to have a worship leader who leads the singing and accompanies on the piano.  Live is always better.

However – for the purposes of getting it off the ground, we knew canned music was the way to go.  That has worked for us for the time being.  We hook one of our phones up to one of the nice portable speakers the church has (turn it on airplane mode!) and then just sing along.  The advantage to this is that people who attend don’t have to sing if they don’t want to – and if they choose not to, there is still plenty of music to fill the space.

Bruce and I have Amazon Prime, so we have access to a lot of Taizé music through that and that’s typically where I get the music from.  But you could certainly get away with buying one or two albums and just cycling through those songs.  These are two we use a lot:


Sing to God


Songs of Taizé

The songs are 3-5 minutes each.  Hopefully within a year or so I can update you on using live music, but for the time being this is a really easy way for anyone to get started!  We use three songs a month and I only ever introduce one new song a month; a lot of the time, I just use songs we’ve already done.  I kind of think that one of the allures of Taizé worship is that it’s easy to follow and participate in, so having a small repertoire of music that you recycle and people know helps to create that.

Some of our favorites:
In The Lord I’ll Be Ever Thankful
In God Alone
O Lord, Hear My Prayer
Bless The Lord
Jesus, Remember Me

Worship Space

This is probably my favorite part!  Our services take place in Fellowship Hall, so we really have a lot of flexibility in terms of creating a worship space.  I have a closet full of fabric, candles, stools, basins, etc.  I usually stick with colors appropriate to the church year and sometimes will match the installation to the Gospel story.  Here are some of the installations we’ve done lately …




I have a tendency to go all out sometimes, but you really don’t have to. You could do a simple setup on a table that all of your chairs are centered around.  Like I mentioned before, we use Fellowship Hall, so I usually set up two rows of chairs in a semi-circle around the altar.  We turn off the overhead lights and use candles, the overhead lights on the stage and a few stage lights we have behind us to give us enough light.

Okay, I think that’s it!  If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out!  If you’d like for me to email you an actual sample order of worship, I’m happy to do that, as well!  I’m going to go back on my instagram posts and hashtag them #taizéatRCC so you can search my posts that way, as well!

A Faith Like Abraham’s (All Of It!)

Hi Friends!

Ignore the fact that I kind of sound like a baritone in the audio this week.  I’m pretty sure one of us has been sick at some point throughout the entire month of February.  I’m SO ready for spring!

I decided to preach through the Epistle selections in the lectionary throughout the Lenten season this year.  Obviously, I preached the Gospel last week (Lent 1 = Jesus in the wilderness), but I am going to try to stay in the letters from here on out.  I preached out of Romans this week, which was paired with the Abraham narrative in Genesis, because Paul talks about having a faith like Abraham’s.  We sang and danced to Father Abraham during the children’s sermon and then I talked about looking at the entire Abraham narrative when we think about having faith like his.



Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
February 25, 2018

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Romans 4:13-25

A Faith Like Abraham’s (All Of It!)

Bruce and I met when we were both on staff at a youth leadership program at Lancaster Seminary called Leadership Now. The mission of the program – the tagline that was on all of our brochures and shirts and other SWAG – was, “Cultivating a faith that celebrates questions.”

This program was built on the opposite foundation of blindly following religious doctrine. Students were encouraged to ask questions; about their faith, about their parents’ faith, about the church, about the bible, about worship and about the world we live in (everything, really). This program wanted to resist spoon-fed Christianity; rather, they wanted each student to foster their own beliefs.

This idea was new to me. I did not grow up in a heavily indoctrinated church, but I think I always kind of took thinks at face value. I do remember sitting in Sunday School one week and our teacher was explaining the meaning of the word, “Amen,” which essentially means, “So it be.” When you say, “Amen,” at the end of a prayer, in a way, you are affirming whatever was just said in the prayer. My Sunday School teacher said she was going to read several statements and we were to respond affirmatively with the phrase, “So it be,” to each statement as our way of saying, “Amen,” and agreeing with what she said. I piped up, “Well, what if I don’t agree with what you said?” (Sorry – even the most well behaved preacher’s kids have their moments.) I distinctly remember her taking a deep breath, raising her eyebrows at me and exasperatedly saying, “Trust me, you’ll agree with these statements.”

And I did; she certainly was not saying anything controversial. The point of the exercise was not to stir up an intense theological debate; it was to teach us the meaning of the word, “Amen.”

But that moment always kind of stuck with me. Because I never really thought I was allowed to ask questions about what I was being taught in church or – gasp! – have doubts.

I was heavily influenced by Leadership Now; now, I take the same approach of “celebrating questions” when I teach confirmation and lead bible study. Even here in worship, I think it is okay (albeit frustrating for you at times) for me to look at a scripture and say, “I am just not sure I believe this” or, “I struggle with this story,” or, “I cannot reconcile what this means.”

Which is why, at first glance, our two scriptures for this morning – read in conjunction with one another – are a little bit troublesome for me.

Let’s start with the second passage we heard from the New Testament; Paul was writing to the church in Rome in response to growing tension between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. He was addressing the differences between adherence to the law (which Jewish Christians were accustomed to) and righteousness of faith (the path understood by many of the Gentile Christians, who just did not grow up following the law). Paul’s point was that it was not the law that mattered most in how they lived their lives and built their church, but their faith.

In other words, Gentile Christians – even without strict adherence to the law – had the same access to God through the grace of Jesus Christ that Jewish Christians did.

For the record, I completely agree with the point Paul was trying to make.

But there is another layer to the grace we receive through faith that I want to explore this morning. In this particular passage, Paul points to Abraham, which, of course, leads us back to this morning’s Old Testament reading from the book of Genesis.

I want to take a slight detour for a moment and talk about how I choose our readings every week. For the most part, I follow the Revised Common Lectionary, which is a three-year cycle of weekly readings from the bible used by many Protestant and Catholic churches in the United States and Canada. Every week there is a passage from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the letters of the New Testament and the Gospels. The reading from the Gospel follows the rhythm of the church year and the other passages are often thematically related to it. Preachers can choose one or any combination of the four passages for their weekly worship.

I was recently asked about the lectionary and why I follow it and I thought my responses were worth repeating here, in case anyone was curious. Do I have to follow the lectionary? No. There are advantages and disadvantages to it. The advantage is that is brings me around the bible and encourages me to preach on books and passages I might otherwise overlook. It is nice that the passages are often thematically linked, which creates a more cohesive understanding of the bible. It is also nice that a lot of my colleagues are also following the lectionary, so we are all essentially preaching on the same thing and can brainstorm together. The disadvantage, though, is that sometimes, because it jumps around so much, we only get pieces of the story.

Which is kind of the problem this morning.

Okay, let’s get off of our detour and jump back into this morning’s text. In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul points to Abraham when he talks about the righteousness of faith.

“The promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed … to those who share the faith of Abraham.”[1]
“Hoping against hope, [Abraham] believed.”[2]
“[Abraham] did not weaken in faith.”[3]
“No distrust made [Abraham] waver.”[4]

Paul paints Abraham as the picture of obedience and then, in the passages from Genesis that have been paired with the lectionary readings, this picture is kind of set up for us.

In this morning’s reading from the book of Genesis, we hear part of the story of Abraham. Abraham was 99 years old when God appeared to him and told him he was going to make a covenant with Abraham that he was going to be the father of all nations; and this covenant was not just between God and Abraham, but also between God and all of Abraham’s offspring, generation upon generation. This, God explained, would be an, “everlasting covenant.”[5]

I was reading a commentary this week that pointed out that, okay, this is all well and good and everything, but Abraham still had doubts along the way and did not fully submit to trusting God. Perhaps not in these particular passages, but when you look at the entire Abraham narrative, he stumbles once or twice. On not one, but two occasions when they were traveling as aliens outside of their own land, Abraham did not trust that God would protect them on their journey; Abraham took matters into his own hands and told people that his wife, Sarah, who was beautiful and desirable, was his sister so they would take her as a wife and his life would be spared.[6] And when Sarah was not able to bear him children, Abraham did not trust that God would reverse her fertility struggles; Abraham took Hagar, the Egyptian slave-girl, as a wife so that she could conceive his child.[7] And, in Genesis 17:17, which the lectionary conveniently cuts off one chapter before (this morning’s reading stops at chapter 16), Abraham literally fell on his face laughing after God told him that God was going make this covenant with him and he was going to have all these children.

Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, ‘Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’[8]

This is not the picture of perfect obedience. This is the picture of a man who had doubts along the way; who sometimes took things into his own hands because he was unsure of where God was taking him. This is a man who sometimes had a hard time believing in the promises of God’s covenant.

I have to laugh because, in Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he said that, “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.”[9] No offense, Paul, but I beg to differ.

That being said, I do not think his distrust made Abraham an unfaithful man; I think it made him human.

I think we can do one of two things here. We can look at the picture of Abraham that we see solely from this morning’s lectionary and then read Roman’s reflections in his letter to the church in Rome and seek to have that kind of faith; the kind that does not waver, the kind that is strong and obedient, the kind that lives up to God’s covenant.

Or, we can remember the other parts of Abraham’s story and give ourselves permission to have that kind of faith. We can give ourselves permission have doubts along the way, to struggle to fully submit to God. We can be gentle with ourselves if we get impatient while we wait for God’s promises to come to fruition. We can laugh at God when those promises seem impossible and know that God is not going to take those promises away.

Because faith is believing in God’s promises, but it is also working through those moments when you do not.

Paul was trying to settle a dispute between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, saying that it is not strict adherence to the law that gives us access to God’s grace, but faith like Abraham. And I agree with him – but not necessarily for the reasons he gave. Paul kind of put on rose-colored glasses when it came to what Abraham’s faith looked like; but I love the whole story. Abraham’s story is a beautiful one, full of struggles, full of doubts and full of moments – just like the ones I experience in my own life – where he did not feel as though his faith was strong.

And absolutely, a faith like that will give us access to God’s grace.

Friends, I do think we should share the faith of Abraham – all of it. I think we should share his struggles. I think we should share the moments where he hesitantly takes things into his own hands. I think we should share the times when he believes that God is not listening. I think we should laugh when the promises seems out of reach or too good to be true.

But, then; then, we should remember that the everlasting covenant God made with Abraham is a covenant made with us as well. We should hold onto the hope of that bold truth that God is faithful; that the promises made to Abraham are still made to us today and that God is always with us.

Paul is right. The grace that comes from this kind of faith is not something we can get from the law.

So may our faith give you the strength to believe in the promises made to Abraham. May you allow yourself to have doubts, to be frustrated in God’s timing and even to laugh at the possibility of what those promises might look like. May you celebrate your questions and those child-like moments when you think, “But want if I don’t agree with that?”

This Lenten season, may you also hope against hope that God is with you on your journey; that Easter is coming, that redemption is always possible and that resurrection is real and true and powerful.

Thanks be to God!

[1] Romans 4:16, NRSV
[2] Romans 4:18, NRSV
[3] Romans 4:19, NRSV
[4] Romans 4:20, NRSV
[5] Genesis 17:7, NRSV
[6] Genesis 12:10-20, 2:1-18
[7] Genesis 16:1-16
[8] Genesis 17:17, NRSV
[9] Romans 4:20, NRSV

Preaching in Pumps Podcast Artwork