Anniversary Sunday, November 19, 17
Based on Matthew 21. 12-16
Jesus’ Cleansing of the Temple
Instead of the readings assigned for today by our lectionary schedule, I’ve chosen the scriptures from suggestions in our prayer book for a Church’s anniversary celebration. And the gospel reading I selected is often known as ‘Jesus cleansing the Temple’.
Now, the Temple in Jerusalem in Jesus’ time was a pilgrim destination for Diaspora Jews, and the businesses that surrounded the temple were there for the convenience of those who came to the temple to worship. It puts me a bit in mind of when I was in Italy and Vatican City, and the shops and businesses that catered to the many pilgrims and tourists surrounding the Vatican, as well as almost every other cathedral and basilica we visited. In Jesus’ day, the portico around the outside of the temple had various businesses operating within it; like money changers, to change the Roman currency, or currency from other lands into shekels, the Jewish currency, the only currency accepted at the Temple. There were the sellers of animals for sacrifices that were required by Jewish law for use in worship, birds for the poorer folk, larger animals for those with more means. Animals given in sacrifice had to be unblemished, in other words, perfect specimens, as prescribed by Jewish law. It would be hard to travel with an animal or bird and keep it in perfect health. I do suppose these businesses around the temple began as a convenience and courtesy. Worshipers needed shekels and animals for offering sacrifices. And, well, nothing comes free, and convenience has a price, and if there’s someone selling something, there’s an opportunity to make money. And the officials in the church would have rented out the spaces to the merchants, rather I suppose like renting out a table to a crafter at a bazaar. So the selling of these spaces then, made a profit for the temple; and maybe even a bit on the side for the one in charge of selling the space. And you know how that goes—the more spaces sold, the more profits made, deals get made, palms get greased, pockets get lined, resulting in very lucrative businesses for some—and all in the name of God of course! And I do suppose that over time, the market space and profit margins may well have taken precedence over the true business of the temple. Based on Jesus’ righteous anger and comments about the temple becoming a den for thieves, it doesn’t sound as if the businesses were really there for the good of the people who came to Temple! And like many ventures that came to pass out of a real desire to be helpful, when greed and avarice take over, the original intent gets lost in the name of profit. The Temple was no longer a place for worshipping God, praising God, teaching and learning about God and the scriptures, a place of sanctity, safety and healing. The Temple was no longer a place to do God’s work, but became a front for profiteering on the backs of those less advantaged; in effect, legalized robbery. No wonder Jesus was affronted and righteously angry!
I thought this an interesting reading for an Anniversary Sunday, day when we especially give thanks for God’s past faithfulness to this community as well as all the faithful believers who’ve attended here in years past. These are challenging times for many mainline churches, and this church is at a very pivotal moment in its history. The past few decades have seen rapid declines in attendance – for many reasons. The present reality is changing, the future uncertain. But anniversaries are also a really good time to look forward, to consider the future, consider the direction we’re going, what roles each of us have on the go-forward. Yes, God has been incredibly faithful to this community of believers, however, have we been faithful in our mission and ministry to God? Are we actually living out our mandate— our mission and our vision as a Christian community? Or have we lost our way?
important than their passion for the Gospel, then the church is dying.”1 It’s hard to hear, but give it some thought.
Here’s a quote, one that if you follow the parish facebook page, you’ve seen posted before: “When the preferences of the church membership become more What do we really spend more time thinking and talking about? What we want for our church, or what Jesus wants for his church? It is a symptom of many of our more challenged parishes—and not just Anglican ones!
What is the purpose of the church in today’s world? And if we’re honest, we, like many other churches, have kind of lost our way. We’ve lost sight of the bigger picture. If I asked you just what is church really for, what would you say?
Here’s an oft quoted phrase among clergy that I’d like to share with you:
This was “written by (William Temple) …
The Church is the only organisation that does not exist for itself, but for those who live outside of it.’ 2 That takes a minute or two to sink in! an outstanding priest, who would go on to become Bishop of Durham, Archbishop of York, and from 1942 until his untimely death in 1944, served as Archbishop of Canterbury. (He had many accomplishments,) but amongst his greatest were his presidency of the World Council of Churches … he was instrumental in setting it up, and his championing of the poor – later being recognized by the (British) labour party for preparing the ground for (their) National Health service and welfare support. His most famous book was ‘Christianity and Social Order’.”3
‘The Church is the only organisation that does not exist for itself, but for those who live outside of it.’ And when we truly consider the ramifications of that statement, it means we need to be much more outwardly focused in our thinking.
Bishop Linda, is guiding us all, across the Diocese, to bring us back and closer to our Christian calling and how each congregation can live out their calling as followers of Christ, in their communities, and in their context. Clergy has had training; we’ve been given tools and resources, one of which is the Mission and Ministry Plan. Every church, parish or regional ministry is to do one, and it’s based on the Five Marks of Mission, and these plans must be presented and passed by the members of vestry at each church’s annual vestry meeting. d to describe and encourage ministry throughout the worldwide Anglican Communion. We’ve talked about the Five These five Marks of Mission are a framework Marks before, but a refresher is good.
Click on the download pdf at the top of the page to read the full transcript.