Sunday, 11 March 2012

Lent for Ordinary People-Lent 3 2012 Jesus loses his rag with the bankers


This Sundays reading rings a close chord with today! Jesus lost his rag with the bankers! He cleaned out the temple in Jerusalem of market traders, pigeon sellers and money changers. You can imagine the noise and caflufel! 
There was an economic network of curtain makers, barbers, incense manufacturers, goldsmiths, trench diggers,, shewbread bakers. It was a racketeering issue with ruling class interest. Maybe some parallels with the banks and the City today? The temple fundamentally was an economic institution that dominated Jerusalem. Again as the financial sector dominates UK economy. Greek or Roman money had to be changed into temple or Tryian coinage for temple dues. There were other money changers, bankers. Doves were sold to the poor and widows, women, lepers, who were considered unclean by the law and were made to pay for it.
Jesus also had an issue with anyone carrying a vessel through the temple. He basically caused all business to be suspended for the day-at a loss to the markets! In the Old Testament the prophet  Isaiah (56) speaks of an inclusive Israel, of giving justice to foreigners who were marginalized and to the dispossessed and outsiders. The thieves or robbers Jesus refers to are social bandits, the government! Unless exploitation of the poor stops, the temple will be destroyed. And it was!

Jesus attacks the underlying political economy of the temple economy that exploits the poor. His actions upset the temple authorities who depended on the sale of those sacrificial victims and the exchange of money to lubricate their coffers. Prophets were associated with miracles so the Jewish authorities demand a miracle to explain his actions. His answer indicates that despite his anger he does not believe that God lives in buildings alone. The Temple of God he alludes to in his reply is of course his body and by implication our bodies (and the implications of that take some swallowing) which will be resurrected in 3 days. The Jewish authorities are scandalized by his response and fail to understand what he is talking about. And despite his following in Jerusalem, Jesus intuitively knew he could not trust the people. Time would tell that he was right.

Often our holy places are not places of prayer but are cold reminders of a bygone age or are let out, sold for other purposes. We desperately need places to pray-and if churches should be anything they should be those places-and places of justice like the protest outside Sty Pauls. Whose side should the church be on, should we be on at this time of terrible in justice for so many people? 
The story also speaks to us of the passion of Jesus, his anger, his righteous indignation. We need that passion as a channel to energise our fight against the injustices and abuses we are now daily surrounded by. Are we going to let our apathy see the NHS and the Welfare State destroyed as appears to be the case? Anger is a sign that something is wrong, recognising that and using it rather than getting depressed is essential for our well being and that of families, our society and our world.

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