Monday of Holy Week
APC 6th April 2020
Introduction and Welcome
Good morning and welcome to the opening reflection in our holy week series as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus’ final week using our 5 senses. Today is entitled ‘the sight of holy week’ as together we will imagine ourselves in the crowd of people gathered in the ancient Jerusalem temple to worship. Suddenly a shouting man overturns the tables of the money changers scattering coins everywhere and sending sacrificial animals snorting and jumping in all directions. To our astonishment that man is Jesus. But before we read this surprising account, let us take a moment to speak to God. Let us pray…
Loving God, we come before you in worship, praise, thanksgiving and remembrance. We come to reflect on that last week in the life of Jesus and all that it teaches us of him- his faithfulness to the last, his love of justice and the outcast, his willingness to take the way of the cross, his courage in the face of opposition, suffering and death. We come, consecrating our lives to His service, committing ourselves to his cause. We come thankful for all he has done and continues to do, celebrating His great love. We come acknowledging him as our Lord and Saviour and desiring to be his true disciples. Receive now this time of worship that we offer to you and speak through it so that we might grow in faith and be strengthened in your service. Open our hearts to the presence of Christ and lead us in his way, for in his name we ask it. Amen.
Let us say the Lord’s Prayer together…
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever, AMEN.
Bible Readings Luke 19: 45-48 'Jesus at the Temple’
45 When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. 46 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’ ”
47 Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. 48 Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.
‘The Sight of Holy Week’
Knowing the man, I find it easy to understand how Jesus had compassion for people, even those who betrayed or rejected him. But at first glance, I find it much more difficult to understand Jesus’ behaviour as he leaves the city. We read that he goes into the temple and in an angry rage he overturns the benches of the people who are selling pilgrim sacrifices in the area of the temple known as ‘the Court of the Gentiles.’ As money scatters, tables thud against the floor and terrified animals noisily scramble to escape, Jesus screams, “It is written, my house will be called a house of prayer but you have made it a den of robbers!” What on earth is going on here? And what can we learn from it? Is Jesus by these actions forbidding us to ever hold a church fete or fundraiser? To understand this passage and what it teaches us about what it means for us to follow Christ, we need to look at the historical background of this situation.
According to OT law, each year, every male Jew had to pay a Temple Tax of half a shekel. That money was to pay for the running of the temple. That was equivalent to about two day’s pay. One month before the Passover, booths were set up in all towns and villages to give people a chance to pay. However, most people chose to pay it on the day of their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. In Palestine all sorts of currencies were in use but the temple tax could only be paid in Shekels. That meant that money exchangers were needed to help people change their currency into Shekels. This was all part of God’s laws for maintaining the temple. So in principle, there was nothing wrong with exchanging money even in the temple courts to facilitate people. What Jesus was so angry about was that in practice, many of these money changers were notorious swindlers. They were charging the pilgrims, many of whom were poor, an exorbitant rate of interest in order to exchange their money.
Then there were people who were selling animals. This too was in one sense a necessity. People could bring their own animals. The problem was that any animal brought for sacrifice first had to be inspected by a temple authority to ensure that it was without blemish. The easiest way for people to be certain that their animal would be acceptable was to buy one that had already been inspected and was being sold in one of the temple booths. Again, the principle of selling ‘ready-to-go’ animals in the temple courts wasn’t the issue here. What Jesus was so angry about wasn’t that things were being sold or money exchanged in the temple, but that the animals that were sold inside the temple were over 10 times the price of those being sold outside! In other words, Jesus wasn’t condemning the holding of a church bazaar or the renting of church premises. What he was condemning, was the deliberate exploitation of vulnerable people by others, especially those who claimed to be religious!
At the beginning of our journey through Holy week, this leaves us facing an uncomfortable question… “Are we unfair or discriminatory or do we exploit people in any way?”
Our immediate reaction to that question might actually be to feel quite offended. But the older I get, the more I realise that without God’s help and our constant watchfulness, there is nothing that we are incapable of.
The truth is, without God’s help, it isn’t easy to be fair. We all have our favourites. We are all tempted to take advantage of other people. We are all tempted to think we are just that bit better or more important than someone else. We are all prone to ignoring certain sections of society or leaving certain people out of the loop. It’s easy for us to use people to our own advantage no matter what the cost might be to them.
We’re all happy to forget about the kid on the side-line, providing it’s not our child who is crying themselves to sleep at night. We may rejoice at the air miles we get on our credit cards – but how many people had to pay extortionate rates of interest so that our miles could be “free”? We might be delighted with our end of year profits, but what about the cleaner at the bottom of the tree, that can hardly afford to feed her children because her wages are so low and her zero hours contract so insecure? What conditions did people have to work in so that our clothes or groceries could be so cheap? What natural resources were destroyed, or how many people had to suffer so that we could receive a handsome return on our stocks and shares? We might not have had to wait long for an important procedure. But what about the people who can’t afford insurance and who might have to endure years of waiting and suffering as a result? Sure we might be able to achieve a sizeable rental income on a second property. But how will that impact our tenants, and what effect might it have on those who would love to own just one home, never mind two?
I realise that for all of us, despite our best efforts, it can sometimes feel like it’s impossible to live a life that is totally free from having a negative impact on our environment, society or on a person living in another part of the world. I don’t think God wants us to walk around feeling guilty all the time. Nor do I think all that I’ve just said means we should automatically give up on technological progress, free market exchanges, investment, creativity or the enjoyment of life.
But as Christians, I do believe that periodically we should make time to ask God by his Holy Spirit to enable us to search our lives, our attitudes and our actions and to ask ourselves some penetrating questions. That’s one reason this season of Lent is so important. So let me ask you the questions that I’ve asked myself this week after reflecting on Jesus’ reaction to injustice. “Are there attitudes in our lives that are discriminatory? Are we being unfair to anyone or is there someone that we are exploiting? Are we willing to stand up against these things like Jesus where we witness them in work, in our clubs, in our church or in society?” Are we making daily life choices that minimise our impact on the globe and on the poorer people of other nations?
Prayers for Others
Loving God, we thank you for all that we have- our homes, our food, our clothing, our modern appliances, our public amenities, our opportunities for education, our access to healthcare and so much more.
Loving God, hear our prayer for the ‘have-nots’ of this world.
We pray for those who have no homes, living as refugees or living rough on our streets.
We pray for those who live in inadequate housing, the shacks and huts of shanty towns, or in hotels or bed and breakfast accommodation because here is nowhere else for them to go.
We pray for those who have no food, their crops have failed, their economies burdened by debt, or their labours not fairly rewarded.
We pray for those who have no fresh water, daily facing the threat of disease and the nightmare of drought, and for those who have no resources, condemned to a life of poverty with no prospect of respite, no opportunity to help themselves.
We pray for those who have no access to education, to a health service or a welfare system; no one to turn to for help or support.
Loving God, in the context of this world of ours we are the ‘haves’- those who have been fortunate, those who enjoy plenty. Stir our hearts to respond to the ‘have-nots’. Help us to be ready to say ‘no’ to ourselves so that we may say ‘yes’ to them, to sacrifice a little that they may receive much.
Help us to live in such a way that our carbon footprint will be minimal and our choices may not impact negatively on those who are poorest.
Loving God, hear our prayer for the have-nots of this world, in the name of Christ we pray, Amen.
I hope you’ve found this time of worship to be both challenging and encouraging. Thanks for logging on. Please remember to tune in again tomorrow as we continue our journey with Jesus through Holy week. We will be reflecting on the ‘smell’ of holy week as we think about the amazing incident when a close friend Mary, spontaneously pours a very expensive jar of perfume on Jesus’ head.
Don’t forget to look at our church website or on our Facebook page for latest information. Keep everyone in your prayers and look out for anyone you can help. So let me close with a benediction after which, as always, I invite you to join me in saying the grace together…
Go now and proclaim the good news, not just through words but deeds- through what you say, what you do and who you are. May others, as they meet with you, meet with Christ and know His living presence for themselves…
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore, Amen.
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