Skip to content
Oct 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 30, 2022



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome to RefleXion.                 May the Beauty of the Lord be with you!

“Beauty will save the world.” This phrase appeared in a novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky in 1868. I heard it from Pastor Brian Zahnd.   The True, the Good, and the Beautiful are sometimes called the three transcendentals, or the human ideals. Today, I’m hearing a lot of folks talking about Truth— “We stand for the truth.”  I had a mentor years ago and whenever we said something like “This happened to me, or people act badly, or I’m disappointed or angry,” he’d often say, “Well, that’s true, but not True enough.”  He meant that there was always more to it, more to see.  I think about this sometimes when people are sworn in to court with “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”  How can any of us have the “whole truth”?

The Good?  Well, I think it’s clear that most times helping someone with a compassionate heart is good; but discernment is needed, right?  And how often do we label what comes to us as “good” or “bad.”  I mean, how can we judge if something (even something very difficult or disappointing) is bad, or good in the sense that God is in it?  I understand that my perception is only one perspective and that the thing that has come hasn’t reached its fulfillment yet. 

Perhaps we could say that it’s not yet Beautiful. Beauty is more than a visual.  We know when words or actions are also beautiful, don’t we? Can we ever separate truth from goodness and beauty.  Adding Beauty brings Light to Truth.  Adding Beauty to Goodness is a greater Good.  What happens when we develop Beauty, when we look for it and nourish it, when we create it or sensitize our hearts to long for it?  Dostoyevsky wrote, “The infinity of the human soul–having been revealed in Christ and capable of fitting into itself all the boundlessness of divinity–is at one and the same time both the greatest good, the highest truth, and the most perfect beauty.”  Will beauty save the world?  Perhaps it will, at least, save us.

Our prayer this morning is from an old hymn, perhaps you will remember it:                   
For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above,
Pleasures pure and undefiled,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.
We welcome You today, Lord, as we welcome each other,
in Truth and Goodness and Beauty.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Intro: I try not to say much about prayers that go wrong

There is no good reason to feel nervous about praying
– we’re children coming to a good, loving Father to ask for bread
• in fact, Jesus taught us to use prayer to rid ourselves of anxiety
◦ we can ease into prayer and find rest in God’s presence
• you will pray right, if your heart is right
– so we pray with confidence, but we also know that prayer can malfunction
• that’s what we’ll learn from Jesus in our two passages from Luke’s Gospel

The place of prayer can be spoiled
And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers” Luke 19:45-46

Jesus had arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover with disciples
– he is “home for the holidays” – but when he gets to temple,
• he finds out there is some spring cleaning that needs to be done
• preparing for Passover, many Jewish families play a game
◦ either leaven (yeast) or something containing leaven is hidden around the house
◦ children go around searching for it to get rid of it
Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel (Ex. 12:15)
– when Jesus entered the temple precinct,
• it looked more like a marketplace than a holy place
•so he began to clear out the leaven

Every Jewish family would try to be in Jerusalem for Passover
(the final words of the Seder meal are, “Next year in Jerusalem”)
– some worshipers came from far away – others arrived from different countries
• an annual temple tax could be paid during Passover, but foreign currency was not acceptable
• booths were set up in the colonnade around the temple’s outer court
◦ visitors were charged for any money they exchanged
◦ if they didn’t have exact amount, the were charged extra for the change they received
– every family had to bring a lamb to the temple for the Passover sacrifice
• if they had traveled a considerable distance, a lamb could purchased the marketplace
◦ but they would run the risk of it not being accepted by the inspectors
◦ the cost was hiked up for lambs purchased in the temple that had been preapproved
• so there was a profitable business going on in the temple
William Barclay, “It was not simply that the buying and selling interfered with the dignity and the solemnity of worship. It was that the very worship of the house of God was being used to exploit the worshipers.”

I am guessing, that given commotion going one, Jesus would have had to shout
– he explains the scene he’s created with two Old Testament quotes
• the first was based on an ancient tradition, in which God defined the purpose of the temple
. . . let them make me a make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst (Ex. 25:8)
◦ God has never abandoned this dream
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Rev. 21:2-3)
• God assured Israel everyone is accepted in his house
Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say,
“The LORD will surely separate me from his people . . . .”
[both foreigners and eunuchs would be welcomed]
“these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar
for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isa. 56:3-8)
◦ what Jesus was doing when driving traders out,
◦ was recovering God’s central purpose for the temple
– in the book of Jeremiah, chapter 7 is my favorite
• God sent Jeremiah to the temple gate to proclaim a message
◦ they were not to put their trust in the temple, as if it were magic
◦ God would abandon it unless they cleaned up their act
if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice . . . if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow . . . then I will let you dwell in this place . . . . Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? (Jer. 7:5-11)
• the priests and other religious authorities,
◦ had reverted to their old behavior
◦ they blinded themselves to what they risked losing (see Luke 19:41-44)

I suppose we can benefit from applying this to churches

In the New Testament, the community of Christians becomes God’s temple
(the house where he dwells on earth; 1 Peter 2:5)
– together, we become the space where God lives
• anyone can join us without jumping through any hoops
• no purchases have to be made – nothing here is for sale
For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word (2 Cor. 2:17)
[Or, as it reads in the Good News Bible] We are not like so many others, who handle God’s message is if it were cheap merchandise.
Karl Barth, [Paul says] “the word of God cannot be handled in such a way. . . . there is something where bargaining is out of the question. The word of God is not for sale; and therefore it has no need of shrewd salesmen . . . . therefore it refuses price cutting and bargaining; therefore it has no need of middlemen. The word of God does not compare with other commodities which are being offered [people] on the bargain counter of life. It does not care to be sold at any price.”

So much for church life then – but what about our personal lives?
– I find it isn’t difficult to get myself out of the world to pray
• but my biggest challenge is to get world out of my head
The Message Bible paraphrases Jeremiah 17:21-22 like this: Be careful, if you care about your lives, not to desecrate the Sabbath by turning it into just another workday, lugging stuff here and there. Don’t use the Sabbath to do business as usual. Keep the Sabbath day holy . . . .
• it occurred to me that I lug a bunch of stuff into my prayers
– now when I pray, I relax, breathe slowly, and purge my mind of that outside stuff
• when temple was first built, gatekeepers were assigned to it monitor what was brought into it
• part of my focus in prayer now includes monitoring what gets in
◦ I cannot allow my mind to lug worldly stuff into God’s the place or prayer, or else I ruin it

The way that we use prayer can spoil it
And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive greater condemnation Luke 20:45-47

The scribes were experts in the law of Moses – teachers
– people would consult them for the correct interpretation and application of the law
– but Jesus pointed out things they were doing outside the classroom
• what they liked and what they loved, what they devoured, and what they made
• where they could be found enjoying and doing these things:
the marketplaces, the synagogues, and at feasts (or banquets)
– people who pray “long prayers” create a perception of sincere devotion
• but Jesus saw through their pretense
◦ they were like stage actors, making a show of their piety
• in Matthew, Jesus taught his disciples,
. . . when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others (Mt. 6:5)

Jesus was warning the disciples, but he intended others to hear what he had to say
– he does not tell his disciples, “Don’t be like them,” but “Beware of them”
• that they shouldn’t be like them was implicit in his warning
• the danger wasn’t with their example only, but with the scribes themselves
◦ they worked at creating a pious image, but Jesus said, “Don’t trust them”
– right before this warning, some scribes had congratulated Jesus for a wise answer he gave the Sadducees
• at that point, I was tempted to see the scribes on Jesus’ side, but they weren’t!
◦ they had not changed their opinion about him
• Jesus didn’t want his disciples–or anyone else– to mistake that moment as a friendly alliance between them
◦ it wasn’t! – they were dangerous

A long time ago, the Lord made it clear to me
– I was to proclaim the gospel, but never promote myself
• a lot of my colleagues were having their sermons broadcast on Christian radio
◦ some of my friends urged me to do the same with my sermons
◦ but after thinking about it, I had to question my purpose for doing that
• why would I need to add my voice to a medium glutted with voices already
◦ what would my motivation be to get my name out there?
– I get that — we are not supposed to promote ourselves; it’s wrong
• but what surprises me is that Jesus tells us, “Watch out for those who do promote themselves!”
• they aren’t safe and they can’t be trusted

Conclusion: To summarize all this, here’s another quote from the Message Bible:

The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply (Mt. 6:7-13)

Okay, it’s time to end on a positive note
when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Mt. 6:6)
God is present, but his presence is secret
it is hidden from us, because he transcends all that we can know or experience

So maybe try this when you pray; begin by asking:
What am I thinking? Then remind yourself, I am not this thought
What does my heart feel? Then remind yourself, I am not this emotion
What does my body feel? Then remind yourself, I am not this sensation
Perhaps observing and recognizing these things we will transcend them,
and enter that secret place of God’s presence and commune with him there
After all, we are his temple (1 Cor. 3:16-17)

Leave a comment