Eucharist – 3rd Sunday of Lent – 7th March
13The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15Making 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. 16He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
An angry young man disrupts business in Jesus Drives Out the Money Changers by Douglas Blanchard. This piece, one of a number taken from his series Passion of Christ, has Jesus arriving as a young gay man of today reflecting the author’s own struggles as a gay New Yorker who witnessed the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The artist was trying to challenge the rise of Christian fundamentalism he was seeing in response to the tragedies at the World Trade Centre. If you’re able, take thirty seconds to read the Gospel passage and a further 30 seconds to let your eyes rest on the image. What do you notice?
Jesus, with his hair flying, overturns tables stacked with money. Coins scatter, bills flutter away, and the men in suits run. A crowd in the background yanks off the barred gate that separates them from the wealthy money managers. One security guard struggles to keep out the mob. Another officer reaches to grab Jesus by the shoulder. Jesus looks like a freedom fighter standing up against greed and income inequality. The setting appears to be a present-day bank, church office, or financial institution with its statues, classical columns, and a hanging lamp. The lamp could perhaps remind us of the sanctuary lamp one might find in the side chapel of a church to signify the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in an aumbry. Is this scene closer to home than we might think?
When you think of this scene in your mind’s eye, where do you imagine yourself standing as this dramatic scene unfolds?
All too easily, perhaps, we can see ourselves as one of the disciples standing behind Jesus with a righteous smile, egging him on, as he challenges the corrupt commerce at the Temple where God dwells. We may even share with Jesus in overturning the tables and chastising the men in suits.
But let the penny drop a little further (if you’ll forgive the pun).
“Zeal for your house will consume me,” remember the same disciples.
The hyper-religious Jews have become fixated on the building and its structure of worship and sacrifice. They have become so obsessed with the ‘stuff’ of religion that Jesus needs the whip of cords to chastise and remind them that God has become consumed (squeezed out and boxed in) by the machinations of their religious practice, however well-intentioned.
What if we, in our own way, are the money-changers in this story? As we continue to dwell in the Lenten wilderness, perhaps we are being challenged or even chastised. Could it be that we have set up complex ways of transacting our business with God? Do we push those ways on to others, complicating faith and belief? What if we have become a little too keen to look at the world from inside the Church instead of looking at our faith from inside the world? These are deeply challenging questions as we stay awhile in the desert.
Bishop John V. Taylor, fifty years ago, reminds us that the world and secular society is already the sphere and dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. The world is God’s Temple and it is in our hearts that Christ dwells.
Lord Jesus, think on me.
Forgive me when I try and escape the world to find you.
I’m sorry when I make things harder than they need to be,
for myself and for others.
Thank you for loving me,
and living in me.
This Lent, give me the courage to overturn my own tables,
so that when Easter comes,
I can stand up straight and see my Risen Lord.
Through him who is alive and reigns,
now and always.