If Jesus were to enter into your church today, what would he find? Would he find a pastor who is diligent in leading the worship? Would Jesus find the pews filled with faithful children of God, gathered for the express purpose of offering their thanks and praise to the Father? If Jesus were to sit in on one of the church council meetings, would he read the reports and approve of the way everything provided by God is managed?
When Jesus entered the temple in Jerusalem, he found it to be anything but the house of prayer it was intended to be. The place for religious rituals and worship had become a place of exchanging foreign currency and selling animals for sacrifice. Faithfulness, it seems, had given way to entrepreneurship, worship turned into business.
In his judgment, Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold animals and goods. He drove out all who bought and sold, for they had turned God’s house of prayer into a den of robbers. It is interesting to note that the word Mark uses to describe Jesus driving out the abusers of the temple is the same word he uses when Jesus casts out demons. Just as Jesus drives out the evil spirits that have invaded God’s people, so he also drove out the evil taking place in the temple.
What is it that needs to be driven out of our churches; what sorts of abuses need cleansing? Are there harmful attitudes Jesus would rid us of? Would our Lord enter into our midst, pass judgment and drive out the perceived power brokers and those who would hoard the money given to do the work of the gospel? If we are going to be honest, we have to admit these conditions exist.
Just as there was no place for the abuses of the temple, there is no place for such behavior within the church. Jesus calls God’s people to faithfulness; he calls us to follow his example and become imitators of his ways. Jesus teaches us that our worship is to be true, our love for God and neighbor genuine. And when we fall short, we must remember that in the place of sacrificial offerings, Jesus drove out the powers that defy God and offered his life for the sake of God’s people.
Gracious Lord, rid us of the attitudes and practices that turn us away from you. Create within us clean hearts, that we may keep your house a place for worship and prayer. In Christ we pray, Amen.
Image: St. Mary of the Mount; Pittsburgh, PA. August, 2013