Wednesday, March 31, 2010
When will this happen? I am someone who likes a schedule, I like plans, lists, etc… I can roll with the punches, but do much better in the framework of a general schedule. Then, I would really prefer to know as much as possible ahead of time. What can I say, the world needs planners. Not terribly change resistant, so long as I understand the why of the change. I am the personality that would have been saying, “Um Jesus, could you give me some more information? I could plan so much better if I knew what and when.”
That is something that God has been working on in my life. I still use, and hone, my planning and scheduling abilities. It’s a busy world out there, and if I have any hope of not wanting to get flung off of this gravitational orbit on a weekly basis for a break, I have to have a schedule. But, at the same time, I need to relinquish the greater control and schedule to God. I have asked myself why that is so hard. If I trust God, if I really believe that He is always good – why is that so hard? Wanting to improve upon that in me, God has placed me in some situations where I had no choice but to either go cry in the bathroom (which I did at times) or to trust in Him, lean on Him. My leaning skills got better, my bathroom crying days got less. The trust leads me to want to keep the trust, to keep the trust I have been given by Him.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
"At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
"At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!'
'Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.'
'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.'
"But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
"Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!'
"But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.'
"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
The Parable of the Talents
"Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents[a] of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.
"After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.'
"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'
"The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.'
"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'
"Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.'
"His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
" 'Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Jesus warned his disciples to “keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come, (Matthew 24: 41). To keep watch, it implies very readily that there is a need to be watchful and alert. “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him,” (Matthew 24:44).
Sometimes, it may seem that the wait is too long, that the master is away for so long that you have been forgotten. The verses that follow in Matthew 24, those of 45-50, provide both an encouragement and a admonishment. That the master, put the servants in charge, with trust that upon return the servants would be judged. Then, it is dependent upon the servant to decide how they will act while unsupervised, so to speak.
When teaching, I once mentioned to a student that he should live in such a way that he would find people admiring his honor and behavior in both groups and alone. It is not easy to do such, but I want to be a servant who is faithful.
Monday, March 29, 2010
Yeah, it doesn't work like that. Instead, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father," (Matthew 24:36). In other words, God has his own calendar and he's not sharing it right now. Instead, "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left," (Matthew 24: 37-41). Part of me wonders why this is. If we knew, then perhaps more would be prepared for that moment, perhaps less would be left. But, I also think that if we knew, we would all have a moment of mob temporary insanity and behave quite badly. So, I will trust that God has a perfect calendar and I don't need to know what it says. In the meanwhile, I need to just keep living each day as the gift it is.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
That sounds like quite the tumult to me. Shaking, falling, this way and that way - rather chaotic. And yet, I know that God is a God of order. Thus, it is following a plan. Which reminds me of the way seasons change. Here in the Midwest, we see snow, rain, sleet, tornadoes, and sudden heat waves plunging into cold snaps as part of the transition into summer. There are signs present which give us a warning or heads up that the change is coming.
In much the same way, we have these changing things mentioned as something to make us aware that the Son of Man is coming to gather his elect. In fact, Jesus goes so far as to point this out with the fig tree lesson. "As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away," (Matthew 24:32-35).
Lessons from the Fig Tree - enjoy spring!
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Jesus and the disciples were on the Mount of Olives. The disciples came to Jesus and wanted to know what to expect. They were cautioned to continue seeking truth, enjoined to rest in God’s peace. But, then there came a moment when the ignorance was stripped away somewhat. The words they heard were dire, terrible, and very frightening. I think I would have been tempted to stick fingers in my ears at this point, sing very loudly at the top of my lungs, shut my eyes, and spin in circles – trying to block out the words which were coming.
“You will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and the each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold…”(Matthew 24:9-12).
Yes, most definitely fingers in ears, singing loudly, eyes, shut, and spinning! Then, it gets worse. “When you see standing in the holy place, ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof on his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in these days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time,” ((Matthew 24:15-25).
Nah nah nah nah nah (hands are in ears, spinning is occurring, and eyes are shut)!
Is there any good news? Yes! The disciples were not left without hope. Instead, “he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come,” (Matthew 24: 13-14).
Maybe I can take the hands out of my ears after-all. I think I will keep my eyes shut still for right now.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Jesus provided sign posts to his disciples, cautions of the days that were coming. Jesus left the temple and warned them about the temple, “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left one another; everyone will be thrown down,” (Matthew 24:1-2). That news must have been very disturbing to hear. In a time of unrest, with Rome increasingly brining pressure to bear on the people, and now the Pharisees were leading a rebellious stance from another side.
The disciples came to Jesus, they wanted to know what was going to happen. The unknown is a very frightening thing, especially when it is a frightening unknown. Jesus provides some caution signs, “Watch out for those who would deceive you, even when there are rumors of war and wars, nations rising against nations, kingdoms against kingdoms, famines and earthquakes.” The signs are like caution signs, but also are described as the beginning of birth pains. The pain and pressure were building.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Jesus had spent time correcting the Pharisees. He strongly disciplined them, “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matthew 23:33). What was he going to do? Condemn them and say forget it, they deserve it? No – instead, he responded by saying “Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers.” It continues into a prophecy that these prophets and wise men and teachers will be killed and crucified by these men, flogging them and pursuing them! The men were warned that they would suffer from the blood of the righteous.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing,” (Matthew 23: 37). This was a moment of the parent grieving over the poor choices of wayward and making bad choices children, standing in the same room and disciplining them with hope that they would make a different choice.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
There is another kind of woe – the woe of the heart, the deep down sorrow that is truly hurting and painful. There are woes of another kind, the woes are kind of placed on another – woe to you, like a disparagement on them.
Check out Matthew 23 to read the full passage of what I will refer to when saying, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees.” Why woe to them? They were turning people away from God through the use of laws, brow beating them with imperfections. Woe to them for turning people away from God and to the enemy instead. Woe to them for their blindness and foolishness, losing the forest for the trees and making silly rules which did not make sense nor really benefit the people. Woe to you for neglecting the people, for “straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel,” for focusing on the surface issues and missing the important things. Woe for cleaning the outside, for making what people see appear good, but not taking care of the heart and the hidden sins. Instead, they are called “whitewashed tombs, where everything is beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.” Woe for false witness, for claiming righteousness against those who lived before.
These woes were serious. The reaction of the Pharisees was not terribly happy at being called to account for their attitudes and hearts that were darkened with pride and arrogance. Instead, it was an angry time.
Imagine what would have been different if the Pharisees had listened to this, turned with great sorrow to God, and asked even begged for forgiveness. What would have happened? What would happen if we do that now? Lord, change me! Fix me! Mold me into the person you want me to be and take care of all of the gnats and camels!
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
The Pharisees liked titles; they liked the official names which they could use to imply power. Jesus challenged them to throw away the business cards, and think about who titles really belong to.
“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father, ‘for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbled himself will be exhausted.” (Matthew 23:8-12).
What an equalizing business card that is. Brother and servant are the new titles bestowed. Brother, a sibling, a care giving one who knows you and cares about you. Servant, one who is putting aside their demands at that moment to serve you, to care for you. Imagine for a moment what your world, your piece of the world, would look like if that was in motion. A brother to the woman in the assisted living facility who is people watching from her window, a brother waves. A servant who realizes that someone else has mud on their feet and stoops down to wash them, removing the dirt and grime, and drying them. Perhaps it is by doing the dishes or shoveling a walk, opening a door, or offering to help when you don’t have to. They are all acts of servant attitudes. Pull out your business cards, write on them – brother and servant.
Monday, March 22, 2010
It’s fine for someone to pat you on the back, to say congratulations, to recognize your unique abilities and special possibilities. But, there is a turn that comes when this becomes a burden rather than a pleasure, a craving rather than a highlight.
We aren’t alone with that. It’s not new. Jesus commented about the Pharisees, comparing what they said verses what they did. “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on the garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’” (Matthew 23: 5-7).
These were men gravitating to the lime light, craving the bright lights and big letters on the marquis, wanting the write ups in the newspaper. Maybe this group had forgotten how much fun it is to give in secret, to know that someone would be blessed and not know who is was from. Perhaps they forgot how much joy can be found in doing the right things, not for public approval, but for God’s approval.
Let’s not forget.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you.’” (Matthew 23:1-2).
These people are in authority over you, obey them. Obey? That really goes against our inertia in the heat of the moment when we are angry or confused. These people were in authority, obey.
“But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them,” (Matthew 23:3-4). Obey what they say, but do not do what they do.
How many leaders do we have out there that we don’t listen to and yet model what they do? Let’s make a choice. As leaders, to model and speak well. As followers, to pray for our leaders so that they will have wisdom in speaking and modeling behavior.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
That is such a great question. Let’s stop and ask before we go on…
God, we only see a little part of you. You are so big, so great. Would you please show yourself to us, so that we can start to better understand who you are?
Jesus asked the question to the Pharisees, “‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?’ (Matthew 22:41).
The Pharisees replied, ‘The son of David.’” It has been prophesied that the Christ would come from the line of David.
Jesus was prepared with the answer however. “He said to them, ‘How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says: ‘The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’ If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?”
Christ, from the line of David and yet, by David is addressed as Lord. It is a paradox to our minds. It must have been for the Pharisees as well, “No one could say a word in reply, and from that day no one dared to ask him any more questions.”
Friday, March 19, 2010
Command, it sounds like a military word doesn’t it? I think of uniforms and orders, carried out with military precision.
When I looked into the thesaurus and dictionary, I found the words command:
thorough knowledge, order, direct, demand, instruct, seize control, a view over something, to have authority over something, to control....
The first commandment was 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' (Matthew 22:37).
Then there was another added… “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love my neighbor like myself. How do I do that? Well, let me think through a typical day, as typical as a day can possibly be. I get up in the morning where I am warm and comfy in bed. I get up to go to work, thus provide for needs. I get sleep and provide for other needs. Breakfast generally consists of fruit. Work, lunch, work, home...During the day, I may take a moment to close my eyes and just let something sink in, to laugh with a co-worker and friend at the daily Dilbert calendar, or just relax in the sunshine. If I don‘t feel well, I will take care of that with medicine, rest, hot tea, or a trip to the doctor. Exercise happens, riding on the bike during the cold winter months and looking forward to spring walks. If I love someone else like me, I’m going to be sensitive to them when they need more sleep. I’m going to be open to hearing their ideas, just like I want mine to be heard. I will laugh with them and not at them, will be gentle with them when they hurt.
If we all tried to do this, even for one hour of one day – it would make an enormous impact in our world. After all, “all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments,” (Matthew 22:40). Yet, it is a command, thus something we should take seriously.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Jesus was going through a different kind of question and answer session, but no less a test. This however was not going to result in a report card or parent teacher conferences. Instead, it was designed to trap Jesus.
The Sadducees were silenced by the answer that Jesus had provided earlier, so the Pharisees got together and started to test Jesus. An expert in the law tossed out a question. Can you imagine the arrogance that came with that?
‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’
What law is the best? Which law is the most important?
The response – now pay attention, because this is Jesus answering this question….
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
Man, talk about the Bible slimmed down into a few words. Love God with all your heart. Love God with all your soul. Love God with all your mind. Your heart or emotions and love. Love God with your emotions, with the feelings you feel. Love God with all your soul, with the hope and spirit that you have been given. Love God with all your mind. With your intellect, your capabilities.
Jesus didn’t stop there – he went to say, “and the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
But, that is a new answer for a new day.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Questions, questions… people kept coming to Jesus with questions. Where, when, why, how? But, there were others who were not coming with the idea of seeking and gaining wisdom or understanding. It came in the form of questions to put out the enthusiasm of the people, questions to build a case against Jesus, to find a fault or flaw.
The Sadducees came to Jesus, “‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and the third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?’” (Matthew 22:23-28).
Okay, leaving behind the flair up of feminism and equality that might be expressed at the moment, let’s figure out the question’s purpose. Why were the Sadducees asking this? Did they really want to gather information for a friend or to ease their minds? Of course not – it was a power trip.
“Jesus replied, ‘You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” Jesus answered the question there it seemed. No marriage, instead we have many references in the Bible to the Lord as the bridegroom.
Now, I will admit I left something out in the beginning. You see, the wedding question was really just a cover. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. Remember the end of the question, “at the resurrection…”
Jesus knew the truth about their question, the potential of the trap and answers, “but about the resurrection of the dead – have you not read what God said to you, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (Matthew 22:31-32).
What a great answer, a true comfort for those who have lost someone to death. God is a god of the living – and referencing men who had long died. These men would find the truth in the near days about the resurrection.
“When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.”
It is amazing – a God of the living, a God who came and is willing to listen to the questions.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Picking up in Matthew 22: 15-22.
With that, “the Pharisees went out and laid plans to tram him (Jesus) in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians.”
Herodians? Is there a country out there called Herod that the Herodians belong too? These were actually members of the family of Herod of supporters of the family of Herod. Remember, there are political motives all jumbled up in here as well. Israel was under the authority of Rome, an enemy power. The family of Herod was seen as the last of the possible Jewish rulers, a fragment of government which they could claim as their own and not as Romes.
So, the Pharisees sent their followers and this politically minded Herod following group to Jesus. “‘ Teacher,’ they said, ‘we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then....’”
Okay – before we get to the question, just note for a minute that this is kind of somewhere between a backward compliment and an insult.
Going on... “ ‘Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’”
Remember – Caesar is the leader of Rome – the enemy invasion force, why pay the invasion force to stay in the country they are invading?
It is a loaded question right? A political quandary, an ethical dilemma.
“But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’ They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, ‘Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?’”
Take a moment and dig around in your purse or change drawer – what portrait do you see? What inscription?
The group replied that the portrait and the words were Caesar’s. Jesus “said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’ When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.” They were stumped by the answer.
Taxes are not always a pleasant thing to have done, especially if you have to pay back. You may dread the deadline of when the tax date approaches. But, the taxes are appointed by the government that prints the money. Yet, you and I, we don’t have any inscribed markings or portraits on us that say that we belong to the government. Who do you belong to?
Monday, March 15, 2010
Yesterday, we had the story of the wedding banquet. Rather than rehash that, I would say let’s just focus more on the highlights of the story.
We have a king whose son is getting married. He excitedly prepares everything. When it comes time to celebrate those who had been invited snub the chance to come, the king is upset. When those who were invited kill the servant – the king is furious.
Stop!!! Wait – in this story, the servants were killed because of the guests not wanting to come. Talk about moody guests! But let’s put this in a different context. Who would a king invite to his son’s wedding? There would of course be family and friends. But, these would be those with power, who are perhaps perceived as leaders, as successful.
Now remember, this is a story that is being told and the story teller must always remember their audience. Who in this case were the party snubbers? The Pharisees who had been invited, through opportunities to learn God’s word, to make the life of being in the temple their life, and yet were standing on the cusp of the wedding banquet refusing to come and even having murder in their hearts. They had received the engraved invitation, the filigree and the beautiful language. They had sent their RSVP cards and e-mails, but when it actually came time to go, were not willing to sacrifice their schedules, their wishes, their wants.
The king tried again, God tried again. He sent servants in the form of prophets, warriors, those who loved the heart of God. He sent his son in the form of a servant.
The servants went out again, they collected everyone they could find. Come – the banquet is ready. The hall was filled.
But, in the midst of the celebration about to begin, as laughter and amazement swirled around, the king entered. He noticed that one did not belong. It wasn’t a statement of have or have not, the man being too poor to have wedding clothes. It was either being prepared or not. The man did not come prepared. He received an invitation, he was called.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
For instance, take this story... (in a very paraphrased version of Matthew 22:1-14)
A king was preparing a wedding banquet for his son. The preparations were well underway. The chef had been consulted and a special meal had been planned. Decorations had been ordered and were being prepared. The clothing for the special day was being worked on, each thread and each stitch carefully prepared. The invitation list was arranged, family, friends, associates – everyone to come and celebrate this very special day.
Then, on the day of the wedding, the servants left the castle to go collect the guests. The limo pulls up in front of their home and someone goes to knock at the door. However, when they arrived at the homes, all they heard was excuses.
The servants return back to the king, their limos empty, the flowers and decorations not being admired, the smell of the sumptuous meal not being sniffed. The king said to some other servants, “Go and tell them that everything is ready, tell them about the meal. Remind them that this is for their king and their king’s son.”
Yet the people still refused to come. Instead, they were mistreated.
The king was furious. These were his servants, being sent to the people were under his rule! How dare they act in such a manner and on such a special day? They were in effect not only turning up their noses at celebrating this day, but now were being rebellious and murderous. The king turned his attention now not to his servants, but to his soldiers. He sent the soldiers to the murderers and they were destroyed. The town was burned.
The king went back to his servants; I have taken care of that group which was invited. They did not deserve to come. But, we still must celebrate this special day. Go out again and invite anyone you can find. The servants left again, they invited everyone they could find and soon the hall was filled. Both the good and bad, both those with well known social status and the invisible. They filled the hall, the smelled the smells, the admired the views.
The king entered the hall to see the guests. He had prepared, every special garment was in place. He looked around and saw one man who was not wearing wedding clothes.
“How did you get in here without wedding clothes?” the king asked.
The man was speechless. The king went to the attendants, this man did not come prepared. Throw him out. “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
So, let’s let the story digest....
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Monday, March 8, 2010
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Now, compare these two environments – the temple before and the temple after. The before is the before Jesus came and removed the “den of thieves” from its presence. The before is when the temple, God’s very house, was made the marketplace where quasi acceptable sacrifices could be purchased. Imagine the sound of the birds in their cages, footfalls as people stop and look. Jingling of the coins as a purchase is made. “Over here, look over here. My birds are better. Come friend, let me offer you a deal.” Haggling perhaps was heard.
The after is when “the blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. ...and the children shouting in the temple area, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’” (Matthew 14&15b). Imagine the sounds now. Gasps of wonder and joy as healing occurs, children’s feet running, giggles and laughter giving way to shouts and laughter! What a completely different environment. It is as if the area was changed from the place where the deathbed vigil was being kept by a greedy inheritor to a place of birth and growth.
What was the reaction? Again – there are two environments, “But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area...they were indignant.” These are the wonderful people who greet us on Sunday morning. “Can’t you contain that child?” “That music is too loud!” “I just don’t care for the way that style of music is played.” “That sermon is a bit too pointed.” “That sermon lasted forever.” “Can you believe that they wore that?” However, as we begin to picture people in our minds, let us not forget to take a look in the mirror as well. The thing is, that those people really are normally quite wonderful. They often have spent their lives dedicated to their church; they give of themselves, their time, and their resources. The priests certainly had a responsibility in their community. They had worked hard, and I’m sure had many unpleasant responsibilities within their positions. However, they could not see the reverence in the sound of a child’s laughter, in a blind man’s sight, in a lame man’s use of limbs. They were still stuck in the deathbed vigil, misplacing reverence and worship with tradition and somber garb.
“‘Do you hear what these children are saying?’ they asked him,” (Matthew 21:16). It’s kind of last ditch effort to make someone take notice that this is just all very improper. “‘Yes,’ replied Jesus, ‘have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise?’”
Friday, March 5, 2010
Think of a rich stew. Ingredients are held throughout, but if I just gaze at the pot from the top, I only see a few things. I don’t see what is actually all throughout the stew unless I grab my stirring spoon and stir away.
Remember, Jesus entered the city and it was stirred. The hearts of the people were rejoicing and yet, there was also stirring occurring – stirring of the elephant in the room, stirring in the new ingredients.
One of these new ingredients was in the temple. The temple, intended to be the house of God! Imagine if you were going to design and keep a house for God. How exquisite would you want it to be? How clean? How perfect? Yet, the stew pot had set there long enough that some of that newness, the excitement that carried the devotion had drifted to the bottom. While there, some of the ingredients got a bit burned.
“Jesus entered 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 at ‘den or robbers,’” (Matthew 21:12-23).
The house of prayer and the den of robbers – both have their roots in different verses. Jesus was calling back the words of Isaiah, “these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations,” (Isaiah 56:7). A house of prayer, what a wonderful title for a house! To pray, to communicate, to talk with God – to be in the very presence of God, a vastly amazing and precious thing was being subverted into the market place. He goes on to pull from Jeremiah, “Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord,” (Jeremiah 7:11). What a transition from a house of prayer to a den of robbers.
Jesus acted as a pot stirrer that day. Not only did he see an issue, he acted. Sometimes the elephant in the room is overwhelming, a very difficult thing to address. Sometimes adding a new element to the stew is also very hard, what if it doesn’t take? Perhaps there are some burned bits at the bottom. Before the whole pot is ruined, can they be stirred up to the top and removed?
I feel as if I’m kind of in a pot stirring place right now. It’s not always terribly comfortable; some burned bits are sticking to the bottom; some new ingredients are resisting blending into the flavor. Yet, when I start thinking about me being the pot stirrer I realize that my focus is off. It is Jesus that is stirring the pot, mixing, removing the burned pieces, adding in refreshed parts. If you were stirred, what would come to the top?