My thoughts and reflections this week are on the last week of Jesus life. I am using John’s account of the incredible scenes in the temple – John 2:13-22
On Holy Monday we find Jesus in the Temple in the midst of all the chaos and the noise and the hustle and the bustle – the pilgrims and the prayerful the tradesmen and the touts and his emotions rose to fever pitch. It would be wrong to suggest that Jesus got caught up in the heat of the moment. though, we read in verse 15 that Jesus made a whip of cords. He took time to reflect and time to make the whip: the actions of temple cleansing were not done in the heat of the moment. He had time to reflect and think through what he was going to do.
And then the anger of Jesus becomes evident: he drove out the sheep, he drove out the cattle, he scattered the money all over the floor, he overturned the tables, he threw out the dove sellers. No-one was spared the anger of Jesus in that moment. And then he shouts, “How dare you turn my Father’s house into as market!”
This act of Jesus is an act of disruption: not only disrupting the events of that day in the Temple but an act of disruption that cut to the core of the historic Jewish faith and all it stood for. It seems to me that Jesus was saying that the old way of doing faith was no longer appropriate, that the heart of faith had become lost in the ritualism. Jesus is confronting the people of God with a deeply uncomfortable question; Did they need to find the heart of their faith once more?
God is not primarily interested in beautiful worship, he is interested in pure worship – and the two are very different indeed: though not mutually exclusive. But, by the time Jesus visited the temple on that day, the Jewish nation had lost sight of the difference. The purity rituals had become rituals of discrimination: Jews in the Inner Court, Gentiles in the outer court, Men in this section, Women in that section, Sacrifices the poor could afford, sacrifices the rich could afford. Jesus asked a difficult question; Did they need to find the heart of their faith once more?
We are finding new ways to be church. to care for the poor and marginalised, to pray for one another and come together albeit virtually – these changes have been required of us to help fight this terrible virus and save lives – and rightly so.
We are no longer able to receive communion together and I long for the day that we can and we will hear together the words of Christ at the Last Supper: “Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the meantime as we do not meet Jesus in this way what can we do in remembrance of him? Show compassion to one another. Forgive one another. Love and care for our scared and broken world. Let us continue to do that in remembrance of him, and then when we meet together again the bread and the wine, which symbolise our union with Christ, will be filled with even greater meaning.
We need to reflect on what we are learning in these weeks, we need to hear what God is telling us about how we might be church in the future but in the meantime let us take advise from the Prophet Micah, “What the Lord requires of you is to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God”
Our worship need not be perfect, but it must be pure – I leave you with a hymn written in 1758 by Robert Robinson, one I remember from my childhood re-introduced to me a few years ago by my Methodist friends, a beautiful hymn of praise and worship.
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it Mount of Thy redeeming love
Here I raise my Ebenezer Here there by Thy great help I’ve come
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger Wandering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger Interposed His precious blood
Oh, that day when freed from sinning I shall see Thy lovely face
Clothed then in the blood washed linen How I’ll sing Thy wondrous grace
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry Take my ransomed soul away
Send Thine angels now to carry Me to realms of endless day
Oh, to grace how great a debtor Daily I’m constrained to be
Let that goodness like a fetter Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it Seal it for Thy courts above
Your friend and Vicar