Third Sunday in Lent Day 345 of Lockdown.
Collect: Loggie Pillay
Sermon: Revd Sabelo Mthimkhulu
INTROIT: Disposer supreme CP 214
THE 10 COMMANDMENTS
COLLECT: God of passion and power,
your Son drove the moneychangers out of the Temple:
cleanse us of our arrogance
and recreate in us a dwelling for your holiness:
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
FIRST READING: 1 Corinthians 1: 18-25
GRADUAL: Lord Jesus, think on me CP 97
GOSPEL: John 2: 13-22
CREED: The Nicene Creed
OFFERTORY: Take my life, and let it be CP 581
1st EUCHARISTIC PRAYER (APB pg 117)
RECESSIONAL: O God of earth and the altar CP 358
Sermon Revd Sabelo Mthimkhulu
“People are dying, and the ecosystems are collapsing, we are at the begging of the mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of economic eternal growth, how dare you?
How dare you continue to look away and come here saying you doing enough
When the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight?
You have stolen my dreams in my childhood with your empty words, yet I am one of the lucky ones
How dare you “
These are the words of the 18-year-old Swedish Climate change activist Greta Thurnbeg
Isn’t that what we hear these days?
How is our government planning to improve the country’s economy?
We busy comparing ourselves with Western countries economically
“Whatever they are doing, we need to do, regardless of the costs”
On his 2019th midterm budget policy statement Minister Tito Mboweni quotes 2 Corithians 9:6 “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” Its’ all just about production, isn’t? In the Gospel reading we just read this morning, John narrates to us a story of Jesus entering the Temple in Jerusalem. The reason he goes to the temple is because it was Passover. Jesus enters the Temple and find people selling cattle, sheep, and doves. As if that’s not enough, there is also a group sitting at the tables exchanging money.
So, there is trading taking place here. As we might know the temple held an immense conceptual and symbolic value for at least the majority of the Jewish people.
A socio-historical understanding of the temple recognizes that the temple ordered or structured the religious, social, political, and economic life of Israel.
It is obvious in this gospel reading that the temple was not just a religious institution, but something more complex is “going on” in the temple.
The architectural features on their own, could tell the whole story.
Firstly, the temple ordered each person’s status and location in the social order. The outer walls of the temple identified the holy people, Israel, setting this people aside from all others.
Within the temple there was a separate court for women, men, and priests, and then there was the Holy of Holies, where only the High Priest entered once a year.
Significantly, the sick, the maimed and mutilated, the mentally and physically disabled, and “unclean”
Women were excluded from temple worship.
The hierarchy was highly recognised.
Not everyone is equal.
Secondly, the temple ordered time through its annual cycle of festivals, for example, the Day of Atonement, Passover, Pentecost, and many more. These festivals were integral to the economic functions of the temple.
So here Jesus goes to the Temple, during one of these important festivals.
He goes there during Passover.
The unfair trading is taking place. The money changers exchanged denarii into half-shekels so pilgrims could pay the temple tax. While on the other hand animals were offered in sacrifices for ritual purity from daily life so that one could participate fully in the Passover. Pilgrims had no choice, whether the price of the animals sounds ridiculous or not they had to buy them, so does with the money exchanging rate. The money changers knew that and used it to their advantage. They exploited the pilgrims.
Thirdly, the temple ordered the political life of Israel. After the Roman procurator, the High Priest was the most powerful individual in Roman-occupied Palestine. The High Priest controlled the governing body of the temple and the high council of the Sanhedrin.
The seventy members of the Sanhedrin (a sort of parliament under the Roman procurators) were drawn largely from the chief priests, Sadducees, Pharisees, and scribes all of whom were closely connected with the temple.
Members of the Sanhedrin were also drawn from the Jewish secular aristocracy—the elders and the Herodians, so the people administering the temple we not just religious figures but political figures too.
There are additional political dimensions to the relationships between the temple and its leadership and Roman imperial power.
The Roman procurators, when resident in Jerusalem, were divided together with their military troops in the fortress of Antonia, which looked down on the temple court from the northwest corner.
This fortress also housed the high priestly vestments, a sign of Rome’s control and the subjection and collaboration entailed in the appointment of the High Priest.
As the Kairos document would suggest that there are 3 theologies “State Theology, Church Theology and Prophetic Theology” and the church theology seems to be losing its value to the state theology rather than Prophetic theology”
The same is happening here, what the state does to the poor and marginalised, is what the temple does; anyway, the temple and church were inseparable”
The temple also ordered the economic life of Israel. In fact, the only groups that were hostile to the temple, the Essenes and the Jesus movement, focused on the economic dimension of the temple system.
The Essenes, for example, rebelled against what they saw as a corrupted temple, mainly because it compromised “for the sake of riches” and piled up “money and wealth by plundering the people.”
Jesus had similar reasons for acting prophetically against the temple. The temple was the primary economic institution in Judea.
It gathered its income from the people through taxation, tithes offerings, and tribute regardless of one’s economic status.
Before people could even pay tax, they had to convert their denarii into half-shekels.
The temple was then also used as a marketplace, a place of trading which obviously benefited the privileged minorities. Sacrificial animals were sold for a high unreasonable price.
The regular festivals such as the Passover were times when devout Jews were encouraged to visit the temple and make contributions to it.
The temple treasury held considerable resources, some of which were used to minister to the needs of the people, but the bulk of which were used to buy land and make loans.
Through the rent charged on temple-owned land and through the interest charged on loans and the foreclosure on bad debts, the temple collective considerable wealth.
This wealth was controlled by the temple elite.
The temple was more interested on how much the elites make and less on how the marginalized groups are pushed more and more to the margins.
The act of Jesus (Turning over the tables and driving out sheep and cattle) therefore affected the elite group, to them that was far beyond the disruption of the great festival but affected their whole entire Economic system. But why Jesus disrupts such an important festival? Why would he disrupt the purification? I guess verses 16 helps us with that question. Jesus calls the Temple a marketplace NOT a place of purification, not a religious institution. To Him the Temple has shifted it’s focus from being the place of prayer to a place of monetary exchange.
I would therefore like to suggest this morning that Jesus’ idea of disrupting of the monetary activities in the temple is the invitation for us as the church to move towards “Prophetic Theology” and boldly challenge the current systems.
System driven by economic imbalance by consumerism, lack of environmental stewardship
And commit ourselves to the principles of raised Temple, principles of Jesus Himself. Principles based on justice, compassion and dignity, not only just for human but for all creation.
In this season of Lent, lets us pray for a moment where our desired life is not just what the world desires. Where our desired life is not just production but flourishing.
Let us seek for God’s foolishness, which is wiser than human wisdom
Let seek for God’s weakness which is stronger than human strength
During this difficult time of the global pandemic, you are invited to make a contribution to the ministry and mission of our church by making a donation to the following account: Account Name: St Paul’s Church Account Number: 50854628623 Bank: First National Bank (FNB) Branch Code: 221426