Posted by: smstrouse | March 8, 2012

Cleansing the Temple/Then; Changing the Church/Now

Jesus chasing the money changers out of the Temple is often laughingly referred to when the Ladies Aid Society is selling tickets to the spaghetti supper in the narthex after church.  This incident, reported in all four gospels, is probably based on historical fact.  But if we read it only as a day in the life of the historical Jesus, we lose its impact for us today.   So should we get out our whips and go after those spaghetti-mongers?  No. If ever there was a case for ‘What Would Jesus Not Do?’ it’s that. 

We can’t read this as a supercessionist excuse either – that Jesus’ action proved that Christianity now took precedence over Judaism. That won’t do either.  But what then?  Zeal for the Temple, the house of worship for Jesus, caused him to react to the ‘business as usual’ of the purity codes, the role of the priests, the sacrifice system, and the money changers necessary to uphold it.  His action (maybe  a piece of street theater?) called for a cleansing of the tradition – dare I say, a reformation? 

Phyllis Tickle, author of The Great Emergence posits that every 500 years the Church goes through a rummage sale, and cleans out some of the old forms of spirituality and replaces them with new ones.  She believes that we’re going through such a time right now.  And whether or not you agree with this idea, the example of Jesus clearing out the Temple speaks to us. 

What are the practices, beliefs, language, traditions (the ‘business as usual’) that are no longer useful to us?  How about:

  • Patriarchalism that still rears its ugly head in political campaigns
  • Outdated scholarship and theology on homosexuality – and sexuality in general 
  • Exclusively male langauge for God
  • Recitation of creeds that were written to answer questions no longer being asked
  • Prayers offered to a God somewhere ‘out there’ who may or may not intervene in human affairs
  • Concern for who is saved and who is not, who can receive Communion and who cannot
  • Belief that there is only one way to the Divine
  • Others?

Raising these questions is not throwing away all of our practices, beliefs, language, and traditions.  That’s not what Jesus was doing.  He was expressing his love, his zeal for the Temple and for the people – all the people – who came there in search of connection with God.

So, all of you who have love and zeal for the Church and for the people – all the people, grab a broom; we’re cleaning out our Temple!


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