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Friends in Christ Weekly Message
March 18, 2006

When the Passover Feast, celebrated each spring by the Jews, was about to take place, Jesus traveled up to Jerusalem. He found the Temple teeming with people selling cattle and sheep and doves. The loan sharks were also there in full strength.
     Jesus put together a whip out of strips of leather and chased them out of the Temple, stampeding the sheep and cattle, upending the tables of the loan sharks, spilling coins left and right. He told the dove merchants, “Get your things out of here! Stop turning my Father's house into a shopping mall!”

John 2:13-16 (Message*)

People came from all over the world at Passover time to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. In theory, they could bring their own animals for sacrifice, but in that corrupt time, their animals were generally ruled unacceptable by the authorities, forcing them to buy animals from the temple sellers at jacked up prices. They also had to pay a half-shekel entrance fee. They could only use the local currency, and they were being cheated when they changed the money by people the Message translation calls “loan sharks.” This exploitation of the religious pilgrims outraged Jesus, and he drove the exploiters from the temple.

We don't have these exact means of exploitation at our houses of worship, but do we have equivalents? Do we effectively require those coming from outside to explore the Christian faith to perform particular rituals they don't understand, listen to Christianese special language that they can't comprehend, or follow our cultural customs which have nothing really to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ? As faith communities, we should regularly examine what cleansing we need to do.

This story, in one of its variants (it is in all four gospels), is always read at Lent. This relates to Lent being a time of cleansing and renewal. First of all, we need to be concerned with cleansing the temple of our own heart. We each need to prayerfully consider: “What do I need to do to make my own life a pure and holy place in which Christ can dwell? What is there that separates me from God that I need to drive out of my life?”

Bill Samuel

* The Message version ©2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.

©2006 Friends in Christ, Inc.

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Document last modified on Saturday, 25-Mar-2006 17:58:34 EST