My mother grew up on a small family farm in which everyone worked and nothing was wasted. The Apostle Paul’s words, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10), was a daily reality for every member of the family. Working hard in the summer and fall paid off in the winter with canned goods on the shelf, root vegetables in the cellar, and cured meats in the smokehouse. After a winter of eating such fare and with the spring arrival of ground breaking herbs, it was time for the “tonic.” The early spring ritual went something like this: children and adults lined up in front of my grandmother and one by one, received a generous ladle of the “spring tonic”– a molasses, sulfur and God and Grandma only knew what else concoction that could make child and adult shudder before even tasting it. The theory was that after a week or more of daily “infusions” everyone would be cleansed and filled with vitality and health. This is a ritual I am grateful my mother did not continue with her children!
There is another type of cleansing we hear about in John 2:13-20. Jesus zealously emptied the temple after he saw it filled with all the extraneous stuff of the marketplace. This was not what the temple was supposed to be about. It was to be a house of prayer for all people; a sacred space where anyone could enter and immediately recognize that here dwells the living and true God.
Each one of us has been redeemed into a living temple where God dwells; a welcoming space for the stranger and a house of prayer for all. Yet sometimes we find ourselves looking more like the marketplace, and the vision of Christ in us becomes less clear to those whom we encounter.
So how do we cleanse our inner temples? What extraneous stuff do we need to clear away in order to return once more to being a sacred space where anyone upon first meeting us can say, “Here dwells the living and true God.”? Fasting, prayer and almsgiving are the familiar Lenten tools for change. May I suggest an additional one?
Make time to just be with the Lord. No agenda; just quiet reflection, letting God’s Spirit sweep through your inner rooms and bring to your awareness what is in need of surrender. Let’s be honest: we may not like what we see in our temples, but now is the moment to own up to it; it is there because of our choices. Surrender them, one by one before the Lord, and cry out in true poverty of spirit, “I am nothing without You, God; fill me with Your life.” At your invitation, God will come and live in loving relationship with you and through you. Having been cleansed from within, the daily acts of Christian living take on a fresh significance, a springtime of service, because it is not you who live; it is the risen Christ who lives in you.” Surrender can be very cleansing if you are willing to try it. It is a spring tonic not only for Lent, but for a lifetime.