Sunday, March 5, 2017

Daily Devotion for Lent 2017 - First Sunday in Lent

Today's Reading: John 2:13-25 (NRSV)

Within the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), Jesus drives out the money changers shortly before he is arrested.  It is at the end of his public ministry.  One gets the idea that this was the final straw for the authorities who seek to put a permanent end to his ministry.

In contrast, John has this story at the beginning of Jesus's ministry.  John's gospel is a little more violent in that Jesus makes a whip of cords to drive out the money changers where this device is left to the imagination in the synoptics.

We see in John that the temple becomes overshadowed by the resurrection.  Of course, this was actually written after the temple was destroyed in the year 70 by the Romans after the Jewish revolt.  This would have been nearly 40 years after the earthly ministry of Jesus.

Putting money in the offering plate would feel very different
 if the government declared that Ben Franklin was a god we
were to worship.  
Jesus was likely not upset about the changing of the money.  Most Roman coinage would feature pagan deities or even earthly emperors identified as divine.  This would have been inappropriate to offer to God in the temple and so the common coinage could be exchanged for Jewish money. The difficulty for Jesus likely comes in the profiteering against Jews traveling from around the known world to come to worship at the temple in Jerusalem.  Many would have planned at great expense to make this trek.  If one is fleeced right before trying to enter the temple to worship, this might have a fairly negative impact on one's faith.

Jesus becomes upset because rather than making worship accommodating for those from out of town, the authorities were allowing the opposite to happen.

As we continue in Lent, what does your house of worship practice?  Does it cater more toward the insiders or is a generous hospitality practiced for those coming from the outside?  Having a periodic assessment is important because people naturally tend to group with those they already know.  If we are not careful, church policies can also benefit the membership rather than those who may be wondering for whom the church really exists.

Prayer for the day:

God, help us to open your house of worship for all.
Remind us that the stranger may be coming with a great spiritual yearning.
Move in us to re-enact the hospitality of Abraham and Sarah.
Forgive us when we have placed our own comfort ahead of your mission for the world.
We pray these things in the name of the One who drove out the money changers, Amen.

Photo by Ervins Strauhmanls via  Used under the Creative Commons license.

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