17 After Trinity

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Readings: 

Readings from the for the Dedication Festival (When the date of dedication is unknown, the Dedication Festival may be observed on the first Sunday of October (4 October), or on the Last Sunday after Trinity (25 October), or on a suitable date chosen locally). 

Sermon: 

Hello, I am Paul Lawlor a Vicar and Town Centre Chaplain based in Redditch.

This 1st Sunday of October can serve as the Dedication Festival for churches where the actual dedication date is not known.   So, it seems to me that today, in the midst of the challenges we are currently facing, it is a good time to reflect on how we think about our building, our churches.

To put today’s reading in context; verses 1 to 11 of chapter 21 Matthew has described Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  Today’s passage follows on immediately.  

Jesus enter the temple area and “drove out all who were buying and selling there.  He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves…”

“It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers’.”

A surface reading of this “living parable” could seem to point to Jesus objecting to the commerce taking place in the outer courts as a general evil or to corruption of the traders as a problem.   However, commentators point to the location of these events.   These dramatic events take place in the Court of the Gentiles a large area surrounding the other courts and the central buildings of the temple.

Here money was changed into “Tyrian coins…which alone could be used in making offerings or paying the temple tax.”[1]   This was a necessary thing as was the need to pilgrims to purchase animals and birds for sacrifice.

We might presume (possibly based on personal experience of tourism) that the prices were inflated or the exchange rates unfair, to do that  we have to extrapolate from “you are making it a ‘den of robbers’”  (from Jeremiah 7.11).   YOU are making – Jesus says -His frustration. His anger directed not at the buyers or sellers but at the temple authorities – the leaders of the people – those who had allowed the current situation to develop.

By clearing the temple Jesus points to His own authority to do this as Messianic King and then re-enforces His authority by healing the blind and lame.  He realigned the purpose of the temple with the purposes of the Kingdom of God.

But that was then – a unique moment in history a moment of the fulfilment of God’s plan for his people in Jesus – the Messiah.

What does this moment say to us in this moment?

Firstly, you might want to reflect upon how you are felling about the place, (or places), where you normally worship.   You may be able to worship there at present or maybe not…and even if worship is taking place, it may be different.  Are we focussed on the Kingdom of God, are we focussed on the call to, “go therefore and make disciples”?  (Matthew 28.19)

Secondly, we are in a time as a diocese when we need to look to be creative and seek how God is calling to be His church now.  Do we interpret this passage to say our churches need to Holy Sanctuaries, places cleanest from worldly impurity or it this call upon us as Living Temples?   What part does the physical temple play – too little or too much?

If Jesus were to come to us now what would he overturn?  What would he call us to look at and repent of?

Those 2000 years ago the change was that Jesus himself became the one perfect sacrifice – overturning the sacrificial life of the Jewish temple.

For us today, the Coronvirus, has meant that the Church has needed to find fresh ways of worshipping and serving God that don’t rely so much on our buildings.   Even when using our buildings, there is a need to be creative in how that happens.    For some of us we are having to consider how we relate to the communities which surround us without relying fully upon our buildings as places of hospitality and welcome.

Do we need to think about ourselves as individuals as living temples?  Does Jesus need to overturn those things in us which get in the way of us serving His Kingdom.

Pondering these things can be hard work and it is tempting to sit back and simply hope that the past will return…BUT is this a time when Jesus is seeking to disrupt our thinking, our patterns of being?  Time here does not allow us to consider where God is in the causes of the pandemic, but God uses situations for His purposes.   Back in Jerusalem tables crashed to the floor, money flew across the temple courts birds and animal cages crashing to be ground.

Our disruption is different, just as dramatic but does it give us cause to seek the future that God has for his church, for you and for me?

Questions:

  1. Beyond the social aspects of church what are you missing most about how we can worship and work for the Kingdom in these days?
  2. Are there aspects of our shared life which God is calling us to put down or stop doing?
  3. Take time to pray – to give thanks for the ways in which the church you are part of builds the Kingdom of God and ask Him to reveal where He wants us to change, as individuals and together.

 


[1] Donald Hagner - Word Biblical Commentary Vol 33b – Matthew 14-28 p600

 


Page last updated: 25th September 2020 11:57 AM
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