Saturday, 7 March 2015

“Stop making my Father’s house a market place” John 2:16

Since the financial crisis of 2008 the market place has come under increasing scrutiny and criticism as the place where the dreams and hope as well as the jobs and economic security of our country and indeed the world is fashioned.

Examples of greed, corruption and the unregulated perusal of profit have left billions in our world individually worse off, nations bankrupt, remember Iceland, or on the edge of insolvency, Greece and Spain and for our own nation a massive deficit that is still affecting the quality of life of all most every citizen in our country.

I say almost every citizen because last week saw the much talked about release of a book called the “Flat White Economy” by leading economist Douglas McWilliams.

It seems that according to McWilliams since the financial collapse of 2008 what he terms as “The Flat White Economy” has spawned four times more jobs than the City lost in the crisis. London is now growing one and a half times faster than Hong Kong as a result, a driving force behind this triumph of lifestyle and economics, being immigration.

The problem is that this growth is not necessarily felt in such positive terms in the rest of the country or even London.

We can certainly see here in West Hendon and Colindale the effects of the growth of London – the appearance of a myriad of tower blocks and small boxes in which human beings will strive to live, but without much thought to the infrastructure that is needed to support and enhance the quality of our life, roads, sewers, GP surgeries and schools.

It may be that the City’s champagne and supercars lifestyle has been swapped for bicycles and bohemian flats, the other side to this tremendous growth is the cost of living, and the reality of poverty both of which seem to be inextricably rising.

Last week secure tenants of the London Borough of Barnet in West Hendon were informed of the increased rent and service charges that they will now have to cover in their new flats. It is a very worrying time for many households in our parish and could for 90% of them put the dream and hope of living in this community to and end. It is hard to know how hard working and retired residents of West Hendon, some of whom have lived here almost all their life can afford these massive increases in their rent and service charges. The fear is that they will be driven out of this community by the staggering rises in the cost of living on West Hendon as a result of “Regeneration”.
So what has this all to do with Jesus entering the Temple with a cord of whips and driving out the money changers, the sellers of pigeons, sheep and cattle?

St John, from whose gospel we take the account of this episode in the life of Jesus, places the cleansing of the temple at the outset of Jesus' ministry, immediately after the changing of water into wine at the wedding of Cana.

By linking these two events together, St John the Evangelist is keen to show that in Jesus the old order is being replaced. The Jewish Cleansing ritual of his day, in the water that is changed into wine and the demise of the temple worship, with its associated belief that animal sacrifice can make us right with God, are signs that God is making a new beginning in Jesus.

This may well be true but what is equally the case is that Jesus enters the Temple and turns over the tables of the money changers because they are corrupt. They are using the system to line their own pockets, in this case animal sacrifice that is at the heart of Temple worship in the 1st Century and the desire of the people to live a better life, to find righteousness with God, who come to the Temple.

Of the two it is not clear which is the more obnoxious to Jesus who behaves so out of character, or certainly the characteristic that we are most comfortable with namely the Jesus gentle and mild and the faith that should be kept personal and not be spoken of in public.

To take advantage of people at the very point when they are holding on to their dreams and hopes is cruel, as cruel as is the plight of many of our children and grandchildren who cannot afford to live in the community they were born due to the escalating costs of that living.

But we cannot simply put this action of Jesus down to a symbolic act, a demonstration against the corrupt market place of his day. For the Temple is also the worshipping heart of the Jewish community of which Jesus is part. Social Justice and Worship of God are linked together.

“Stop making my Father’s house a market place” cries out Jesus over the noise of curses, bleeting sheep and distraught cattle. According to Matthew, Mark and Luke Jesus also says  “My house should be a house of prayer”

The cleaning of the temple is certainly about social justice, in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke it is this event that precipitates the political intervention of the Roman empire and the crucifixion. But it is also about the quality of  worship being offered to the people. 

In this mornings reading from the Hebrew scriptures we recall God giving Moses the 10 commandments in Chapter 20 of the book of Exodus.

Notice how the 10 commandments begins with God's self-announcement and the requirement of worship in the first five commandments verses 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8. The remaining 5 commandments are about the consequences of the worshiping  relationship with God; the positives and the negatives, or another way of saying it the social and moral consequences of right worship of God.

Last week in our lent course “Everybody Welcome” we started to look at how we make our worship, our church building and our program of activities throughout the year more accessible and visible to those around us. 
We explored the impact of our worship on the community, and one measure is the number of those who attend. It is not surprising that our most attended services are Easter and Christmas, the challenge before us is to make our worship throughout the whole year meaningful and transformative, and yes see those of our parish more than twice a year!

This evening we look at “our Temple” the church and ask how we make it more inviting? what are the very practical things that we need to do so that we indeed keep the church as the house of prayer and not allow it just to become another market place.
We meet for an hour at 5.00pm – come and join in the debate.

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