Friday, March 06, 2015

All Sorts and Conditions of People: Meditation for March 8, 2015

     In today’s gospel Jesus drives the money-changers out of the temple. This should challenge our meek and mild view of Jesus. The money-changers were needed because coins with images, thus idols, could not be put in the temple offering. Other gospels imply the money changers were dishonest, but John’s Gospel, the one read today, offers no reason. The reader must speculate. Scripture frequently invites us to struggle for understanding in order to grow in wisdom.
     One suggestion is that Jesus disapproved that this part of the temple was unavailable for worship. It was the part meant for non-Jewish people. Jesus was not against commerce, but commerce had made the place unusable for worship, the only place for foreigners.
     The temple in Jesus’ day was a series of courts one situated within the other, each intended for a different group of people. The center was the holy of holies, entered only once each year by the high priest. Next was the sanctuary for the daily evening and morning offering of incense. Then a court for Jewish men, then one for Jewish women and children, and finally one for non-Jewish people, the nations, or Gentiles. Jesus cleaned this last one.
     That Jesus would want this area available for the nations is consistent with his teaching. He would care that their part of the temple was unavailable. Jesus opted to dissolve boundaries between peoples, and his disciples ended ethnic distinctions in the community they oversaw. Strong evidence also suggests neither social status nor gender mattered, though gender apparently reemerged in the Second Century, only to be challenged again in modern times.
     This interpretation strongly suggest two insights. First we should not allow other activity to crowd out the care of our spirits. And secondly, we should honor Christ’s teaching that all people have spiritual needs, and we must promote the inclusion of all into our communal spiritual life. It is this latter sensitivity that leads this parish to make our worship more friendly to the spiritual, but not religious. ~Father John