Saving God, in these last weeks of Lent, we cling to the promise of your glorious resurrection.
Bloodshed and hate, fear and death are our daily news. We yearn instead for your daily bread—for the grace and love we need to survive, for the justice and wholeness you want for your children. We have repeated destructive patterns for so long that we don't know how to live together, much less to love each other. We have acted out our hate and wasted precious life too many times to count. We see so much violence that we can hardly envision peace. We need you to break in, Lord. Break into this world, into our lives, into our hearts. With deep and desperate hope, we wait for you. And as we wait, we pray:
Come, Lord Jesus, to shatter the order of violence with your disruptive peace.
Come, Lord Jesus, to replace the death all around us with reverence for life.
Come, Lord Jesus, to root out the hate and loathing that live in us; stop us from hurting each other and ourselves.
Come, Lord Jesus, to release the chokehold of our fear; free us to know your joy.
Come, Lord Jesus, to show us that we cannot undo one sin with another; turn us back toward you.
Come, Lord Jesus, to hold the pain and sorrow we can no longer carry; heal and comfort us with your love.
Come, Lord Jesus, to show us how to live; give us the wisdom, courage, and fortitude we need to tell the truth and to be changed.
Come, Lord Jesus, come. Amen.
by Pastor Rebekah Close LeMon – Atlanta, GA
Mark 11:15-19Today's Reading from Mark
15Then they came to Jerusalem. And Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; 16and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17He was teaching and saying, "Is it not written,
'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? [Isaiah 56:7]
But you have made it a den of robbers." [Jeremiah 7:11]
18And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. 19And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.
Again this week I'm blogging the focus passage from Mark from the booklet we're using at church to guide us through our Lenten reading of Mark's gospel. In Mark, Jesus' journey to Jerusalem and the cross is relentless; by today's reading Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem. Every year on the Sixth Sunday in Lent we re-enact his entrance into the city riding on a donkey and surrounded by excited onlookers waving palm branches.
In All Four Gospels…
…so take notice! Synoptic gospels Mark, Matthew, and Luke record this Temple Cleansing incident after Jesus reaches Jerusalem before his trial, conviction, crucifixion, and death. Historical evidence indicates that's when Jesus probably confronted the temple money-changers and merchants. However, John places it at the start of Jesus public ministry, theologically setting the stage for Jesus' mercifully justice-seeking presence throughout his ministry.
Then Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; and he said, "It is written,
'My house shall be a house of prayer' [Isaiah 56:7];
but you have made it a den of robbers." [Jeremiah 7:11]
Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changes and the seats of those who sold doves. He said to them, "It is written,
'My house shall be a house of prayer' [Isaiah 56:7];
but you are making it a den of robbers." [Jeremiah 7:11]
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.
From the beginning, God's Spirit of Life filled creation. We often study the story of Israel's exodus from slavery in imperial Egypt as they walked through a series of deserts on their way to promise landed freedom. During that journey the people famously knew evidence of God with them as fire in the night sky, clouds during the day. They'd encountered a God who met their bodily needs with water springing from the rock, manna raining from the sky. They received the gift of God's presence in the Ten Words or Commandments of the Sinai Covenant to guide their lives together. This was God with the people, God for the people, not remote and capricious like other deities of the Ancient Near East.
However, just as Israel wanted a human monarch like the other nations, eventually they also wanted to honor God with a temple on a fixed location. You may remember King David being perplexed about living in a house built of expensive materials while God apparently resided in the portable tent of the Ark of the Covenant?
Today's reading references the Second Jerusalem Temple that was destroyed in the year 70—about three decades after Jesus's death and resurrection, not long after Mark wrote his gospel. As a central engine of the local economy, the temple employed near-countless workers and artisans. Our twenty-first century culture usually compartmentalizes life into work, play, family, private, public, religious, secular, and that's ok because most humans need categories and order to get through days, nights, weeks, and months—probably more so during the pandemic. Needless to say, though people in Jesus' day engaged in activities similar to ours, they didn't have a concept of sacred-profane, holy-mundane; those are very post-Enlightenment, and even during the time of the sixteenth-century Reformers they didn't have much currency.
By Jesus' time and for Jesus, the temple was an offense because the God of the bible goes everywhere God's people venture and (unlike "fake gods" back then) cannot be contained or located in a particular place. What is more, for Jesus the J-Temple was an outrage because the excessive monetary cost of supplies needed to engage in temple rituals (converting currency into temple coins, buying animals, oil, and grain for offerings) burdened low income "regular people" to a degree that further impoverished them, while at the same time filling the pockets of people who already had more than enough.
God's Presence in Jesus
As Christians we recognize Jesus of Nazareth as God's presence in ways that reflect Old Testament images or types of God's presence alongside the people. Even beyond that, we recognize Jesus as the ultimate showing-forth of God's essence and identity in ways that make Moses and David (for example) pale in comparison.
God's Presence in the Church
In baptism we receive the gift of God's Holy Spirit so that everywhere we go we will be the presence of Jesus Christ-presence of God. In 1 Corinthians 3:16 the Apostle Paul reminds us, "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?" Later in 1 Corinthians 6:19 he tells us, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?" So that's the nature God's presence now assumes: embodied in a human person.
God's Presence in COVID-19 – Violence – Injustice
That's now the essence of God's presence: embodied in humans as temples of the divine. What a gift and what a challenge for God to trust us during these turbulent times!
How's your Lent going?