Do you ever think that Religion is a Business? Down through Christian History, at times bishops had armies and the Church sold indulgences. Most recently in the Clergy Sexual Abuse Crisis,
the Bishops seemed more intent on preserving the Old Boys Club than on protecting innocent children. And so, yesterday’s Gospel about Jesus driving the money-changers and animal sellers out of the temple seems to have something to teach us.
I, Ron, would like to focus my thoughts around three points: 1) John’s Gospel, 2) Jesus’ action for Social Justice and 3) You and I as the Temples of God. First, John’s Gospel clearly comes from the experience of an eye-witness. Many signs of evidencing this are found throughout the Gospel. One such evidence for this comes at the very beginning of the Gospel from the account of John the Baptist pointing out Jesus to two disciples who then follow Jesus . Jesus turns around and asks them “what do you seek?” and they respond “where do you live.” Jesus says, “come and see,” and one of the disciples remembers that this life-changing event for him took place “at the tenth hour,” or what we would call four o’clock in the afternoon.
John has three trips to Jerusalem for the annual Passover Celebration (whereas Matthew, Mark and Luke only have one Passover.) And so John becomes the basis for the structure that Jesus’ public ministry lasted between two and three years. John portrays Jesus cleansing the temple on this the first Passover visit, namely towards the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It shows a fiery Jesus intent on his mission.
Second point: Jesus, moved by anger at seeing “His Father’s House turned into a marketplace,” acts forcefully, with integrity and zeal to drive the money-changers and traders out of the Temple. This prompts me to wonder how you and I are being called to act for justice in our world. One issue that calls forth a response is the whole issue of gun-violence. To be honest, the whole issue of lack of legislative action around gun violence strikes me as glaringly parallel to the bishops covering up the pedophile priest issue to protect the Old Boys Club at the expense of innocent children. Politicians are so beholden to the NRA, that innocent school children and other innocent victims are seen as collateral damage willingly sacrificed to preserving the rights of the Old Boys Club of gun owners. But who needs assault rifles with high-capacity magazines? I take inspiration from the fact that a coalition of Mercy Investment Services (from the Sisters of Mercy) and The Episcopal Church and the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility sent a resolution in January to the Board of Trustees of Dick’s Sporting Goods asking them to review their policies around selling guns. After the Parkland, Florida School Shooting, Dick’s Sporting Goods changed their policy in three ways: requiring the minimum age of 21 for gun-buyers, no longer selling assault rifles, and high-capacity magazines. The bold initiative of these three religious groups were part of this decision-making process. I also take inspiration from how eloquent the Parkland survivors are in their prophetic boldness crying out for change in gun laws.
How are you and I called to boldly advocate? It may be in the area of gun control. It may be protecting Mother Earth. It may be working for immigrants and refugees. It may be for another cause that speaks to your heart. Jesus is modeling for us the zeal and integrity we are called to embody in our world today: God has no hands or hearts but yours and mine.
Point three: What makes this integrity in Jesus possible is his communion with God. Yesterday’s Gospel story ends with Jesus saying destroy this Temple and I will raise it up in three days and John notes “he was speaking about the temple of his own body.” Jesus was enraged by their making “His Father’s House a marketplace” because he saw the Temple as being a place of Communion with God. In the prologue to his Gospel, John says, “No one has ever seen God but the Word who lives closest to God’s Heart has come to tell us who God is.” I picture Jesus resting on God’s heart and picking up the beat and then coming to tell us what God is like. You and I are meant to do the same: rest on God’s Heart and then pick up the beat and then embody that in our world. Jesus in this passage is saying that he is the Temple of God and then the Christian Community has preached down through the ages that each of us are the Temples of God. Even our adopted greeting “Namaste” means the God in me greets the God in you. As I recounted before when John Phillip Newell greeted the Native American chief with Namaste, the chief began to cry, saying “can you imagine how different the history of this country would be if those coming from Europe had come expecting to find God in the native people here?” And so how different can we make our world today if we expect to find wisdom, a story, God, in each person we meet and greet them with “The God in me greets/reveres the God in you.” That is only possible if we first take the time to rest on God’s heart, pick up the beat and then embody it to everyone we meet. Another way of saying this is John portraying Jesus as saying “Make your home in me as I make my home in you” and then “Love one another as I have loved you.”
In this same vein, we offer you inspiration from Carolyn McDade:
“I often wonder what it would be like
if we dared to love this life~
the fragile and the vulnerable, the endangered,
daring to be humble before the magnitude of our beginnings,
daring to lean our species into a stubborn and pliant wonder,
until reverence shines in all that we do~
until we live an economics of reverence,
a theology of reverence,
a politics of reverence~
until it permeates education, development, and health care,
homes and relationships, arts and agriculture~
a reverence for life,
for planetary, social and personal wholeness.
This is our purpose now.
May we do it well with thoroughness and love.
From Through the Moons of Autumn, 1995
At The Spirit of Life, we work together in prayer and companionship to loosen the attitudes and brokenness which can hold us bound. We believe that God’s desire for us is that we be “Whole” and thus “Holy”… full of life , unfettered by life-destroying prejudices and free to move openly as the Spirit calls us.
Our belief in the sacredness of all created beings and loving relationships compels us to respond with care and compassion to all who are marginalized in our church and world. We invite you to come and to pray with us as we “do our own work” in growing into a deeper awareness of our own gifts and ‘growing edges’ and together create a community that invites diversity and honors the uniqueness of each individual and every journey. We are confident that you will feel welcome in the “home” of The Spirit of Life.
Abundant Blessings of deep peace and hope in this tender time,
Ron & Jean