03 April 2010

Cleansing the Temple

And the Iewes Passeouer was at hand, & Iesus went vp to Hierusalem. And found in the Temple those that sold oxen, and sheepe, and doues, and the changers of money, sitting. And when he had made a scourge of small cordes, he droue them all out of the Temple, and the sheepe & the oxen, and powred out the changers money, and ouerthrew the tables, And said vnto them that sold doues Take these things hence, make not my fathers house an house of merchandize. And his disciples remembred that it was written, The zeale of thine house hath eaten me vp -- John 2:13-17 --1611 Authorized Edition

You get to meet really interesting people when you drive a truck. Yesterday I was up in a steel mill in Wisconsin, where I’d loaded eleven slinkies onto the trailer to deliver to a wire works in Pennsylvania, the day after Ishtar. A slinkie is more or less just what you might expect it to be, a tightly coiled up roll of wire just like that ancient children’s toy, the one that rings in your hands when you juggle it, and topples down staircases so gracefully. But mine are much bigger and heavier. The ones on the back right now are all 5/16-inch unpickled steel, and each four-foot coil weigh about 4000 pounds. To hold them onto the bed, you have to lace them down with the four-inch nylon straps, weaving the straps in and out and down to the winches so all the slinkies are held tightly to the trailer bed and to each other. When they get unloaded, they’ll turn into log chain, or nuts and bolts, or threaded rod, or fencing wire, or who knows what. It’s raw material for the factories of America, and what I haul by the ton will someday end up cluttering that drawer in your kitchen along with the string, the miscellaneous nails, and the broken screwdrivers.

Anyway, I’d arrived at the mill at midday with just enough legal hours left to load, strap, and tarp the trailer, but not enough to go anywhere else, so I’d resolved to spend the night there and clean up in the morning in Chicago. I can spend the night most anywhere, as I live in my truck and don’t need anything else except a bathroom. And so to pass the afternoon, I walked around helping other drivers strap and tarp their own loads of slinkies. This sort of help is welcomed among flatbedders, especially when the wind is blowing hard and the tarps flop around like angry pterodactyls while you try to hook up the bungees. I get to talk to lots of different people, and they all have stories to tell.

One of them was Robert, a young driver with a delightful enthusiasm for hermeneutics, and a command of Biblical chapter and verse that eventually left me hopping from foot to foot trying to listen and avoid permanent paralysis at the same time. (I sprained my ankle on a load of aluminum extrusions about ten days ago in Michigan, and can’t stand for long. But Robert was too interesting to leave). Robert's Bible was the 1611 Authorized Version, an unusual choice for a trucker. Amid rapid fire excursions into Exodus, Proverbs, Acts, and the Gospels, Robert focused on the New Testament account of the cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem.

“You ever think about what that means, spiritually, I mean?” he asked, spitting tobacco juice onto the asphalt from his perch on the bed of his truck.


“No, no, I mean in the context of the temple of your body. What did Paul say about your body?”

“He said that our bodies were the temple, that they made it up. The Body of Christ.”

“Exactly! And what did Jesus do in the Temple in Jerusalem? When he went in there?”

“Well, he tossed out the money changers, let all the animals loose, and generally upset things.”

“Yes! Now, what does the Holy Spirit do in your own body, in the temple of the Body of Christ? It cleans out your misplaced passions, it drives out the evil, it sweeps it clean. See? The same things. And what did Jesus do after all that?”

“He wouldn’t let anybody else come into the temple while he was in there, taking shortcuts or setting up the tables again.”

“Yes! Remember what he said about the wicked spirits in Matthew 12:44? About how if they come back and find it cleaned up, but empty, they just move back in and you’re worse off? That’s what Jesus does—he comes into the Temple, into your own heart, he cleans it up, he throws out the dirt, and then if you let him, he lives in there, and keeps it occupied, and keeps the wicked spirits from returning.”

“You got it, Robert.”

Robert pauses again to spit more tobacco.

“See? The whole story was set up so Jesus could explain in the Bible what he was going to be doing inside the hearts of people, if they would let him in. He would clean them up, keep them clean, and make them into what they were supposed to be. That day he planned a lesson for us right now”

As the shadows lengthened and the light grew yellow, Robert and I talked about other discoveries he had made in Scripture, among the parables, and within symbolic narratives. Actually, Robert talked, and I listened, and tried to remember as much as I could. Robert was an inspiring evangelist, a man whose enthusiasm for God was boundless, and only matched by his amazing happiness in the discoveries he lived. He told of problems he had, too little money and too many bills. Also, he said, “I’m not very prompt.” Not a good trait for a truck driver. But after he became a Christian, he said, he looked up and visited every person from his past he could find that he had ever wronged, and apologized to them, face to face.

And he was happy. His face literally shone with it in the golden light in the evening. He was an inspiring visitation, an example of one who had welcomed God into his own heart, and had had the money changers thrown out, and the Light take residence inside him. So it should be for us all.
 I go back to this mill regularly, and I’ll see Robert again. I have more questions to ask, and I know he’ll have answers to some of them.

But next time, I’ll be ready with a pen and paper.


Michelle-ozark crafter said...

Hello my friend! God bless! Great post1 Thanks for writing it. Robert sounds interesting indeed!

forrest said...

This is wonderful!

But there is also that historical sense, in which he went into the Temple like Jeremiah to say, basically, 'This place is going to be destroyed because it's become the justifier and sanctifier for all sorts of systemic injustice.'

So hmmm, does that, too, apply to our little personal Temples...?

kevin roberts said...

Hi Michelle and Hello Forrest-

Robert was fascinating. I must have listened to him for over an hour, until I could barely stand. I think I made him late, because he decided to drive off without tarping.

Dunno about extending the metaphors, though. That's a very, very good question, with respect to the destruction of the Temples.

I mull it over all the time, and I don't have an answer.

John Richards said...

Friend Kevin, that was surely a treat for thee to meet such a man that day. It was a very pleasant way to pass thy time. I am in awe of the deepness and richness of the more than literal meanings contained in scripture. Thanks for sharing this.
Thy Friend in Christ, John.

kevin roberts said...

Johnny, the world is full of these people--if we can get them together we can exceed critical mass and achieve fusion.

The gifts of Scripture are made available only to people who take the trouble to read it, and spend some time with its implications.

It's not a secret code-- for the most part, the meanings are right there in plain language.