Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Meditation on This Week's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, March 15, 2009:

First Reading: Exodus 20:1-17

Psalm: Psalm 19

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Gospel: John 2:13-22

Ah, the moneychangers in the temple! Many of us as children (and perhaps as adults) loved this tale. Finally, a non-wimpy Jesus. A Jesus who wasn't afraid to take on the religious establishment. As a sullen teenager, I looked around church and thought, boy, Jesus would have his work cut out for him here.

Don't get the wrong idea--I wasn't going to some church that was transgressing on any large scale, and not on any small scale, that I knew about. I just looked around and saw lots of hypocrisy. Look at all this gold, I would say. We could sell the offering plates and give the money to the poor. Why do we all buy church clothes? We could come in our jeans, and give the money that we would have spent on fancy clothes to the poor. Why don't we invite the poor to our potluck dinners?

In retrospect, I'm surprised my parents still talk to me. What a tiresome child/teen I must have been, so self-righteous, so sure of everyone's faults and shortcomings.

As I've gotten older, I've become interested in this story from the moneychangers point of view. We often assume that the moneychangers were scurrilous men, out to make easy money, and I'm sure that some of them were.

However, I suspect that the majority of them would have told you that they were making salvation possible.

Under the old covenant, people had to go to the temple to make sacrifices to wash their sins away (it's a simplified version of a complicated theology, but let me continue for a few sentences). People who farmed had animals for sacrifice. Those who didn't, or those who came from far away, had to buy their sacrifice on site. And they needed help from the moneychangers and the animal sellers.

These people didn't know that Jesus had come to make a new covenant possible. They got up, went about their personal business, went to work, took care of their families--all the stuff that you and I do. They weren't focused on watching for the presence of God. They didn't know that they had been called to make way for a new Kingdom. They didn't know that the new Kingdom was breaking through, even as they showed up at their day jobs.

We might take a look at our own modern lives and institutions. In what ways do we think we're participating in God's law/kingdom/plan, but we're really not. My surly teenage self would mutter about hypocrites and exposing hypocrisy, but I'm not sure that's God's vision for me. It's a path that leads to self-righteousness and insufferability.

We might also take a look at our own modern institutions, especially religious ones. Where are we participating in God's plan? If Jesus showed up, what would he see as problematic? And how would we respond, if he pointed out something that needed some Spring cleaning, and it turned out that it was something we really cherished or thought that we were doing well?

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