Jesus Cleanses the Temple
Then they came to Jerusalem. And he 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; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written,
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?
But you have made it a den of robbers.”
And 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. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.
I love my country. I love the freedom that we are able to enjoy here. I love that I have the freedom to elect my own leaders, to worship who, when, and how I wish. I love that I may speak freely. I love that I have the freedom to disagree with others and they with me. I love and respect those who have served our country bravely wearing uniforms in the past and those who serve bravely today. Our kids march around our house singing The Star Spangled Banner! I love my country.
Thirteen years ago, we were all in a state of shock when the terrorists attacked New York and Washington DC. It was a day unlike any other that I have experienced in my life and I hope to never have to experience another one like it. In the days that followed, I experienced a spirit of nationalism and neighborliness that I have yet to experience again. I remember ALL of our elected leaders standing together on the steps of the Capitol united together and they rightly called upon all Americans to be united one with another. I was not so naive to have thought that it would last forever but it does sadden me how far it seems that we have fallen from that place; especially as we remember what happened thirteen years ago today.
Now Washington DC is no temple, but there are some echoes in this passage that make me see the similarity when I reflect upon this passage and I think about where our country is at this point in time. Jesus went in and turned over the tables in the temple because it had been turned from a place focused on the worship of God and service to the poor (look in the Old Testament at how many of the sacrifices also included provisions to go to the poor) into a place where the marketplace and the vendors were central and worship could take place only if one could find a way through the chaos of the money changing hands. This passage is tied in with the story of the fig tree that comes before and after this passage. When Jesus went to the temple, he hoped to find life and vitality but he found none so his curse was laid upon the fig tree just as he cursed the temple money changers.
I feel similarly about this “temple” for our country we call the Capital building. We elect our leaders and call them to be focused on the good of the many, yet so many of them are focused on lining their pockets or pushing extreme partisan views at the expense of others and there are so many moneychangers and tables all around that its next to impossible for anything good to be done or seen. We are a few months away from the mid-term elections and I remember something a mentor shared with me when I was first starting to vote. He said that in most cases, he always voted out the incumbents – senators, representatives, judges, etc – all of them. Sometimes a little turning over the tables is a good and a necessary thing. Martin Luther did it centuries ago with a list of 95 statements on the door of the church in Wittenburg, Germany and that sparked the Reformation. It doesn’t hurt to remember that our heritage as a reformed church and our heritage as a country (two separate things) have some measure of “turning over tables” within them.
As we remember what happened thirteen years ago, maybe the best way we can honor those who lost their lives and the many who have lost their lives since is to do a little table overturning calling upon our leaders to focus on making a difference for the country so that it can be a place of life and vitality.