Friday, March 1, 2024

1 15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” Mark 11: 15-17 NRSV

Reflection Question: I wonder how my actions or inactions could be a stumbling block to others who are longing to draw closer to God?

Beloved Ones,

We are midway through Lent and the challenges to ponder our faithfulness continue. It’s safe to say that Jesus is displeased by unfaithfulness he witnesses everywhere. However, he finds it beyond tolerance in sacred space consecrated as holy. The Temple in Jerusalem is the center for Jewish faith and practice, so that when Jesus arrived to discover the sanctity of Temple grounds violated, he was more than distraught. He was angry!

Many believe that religious leaders had turned the Temple into a means to take advantage of the least fortunate, but the scripture doesn’t say that exactly. What Jesus challenges in Mark’s Gospel is the misuse of The “house of prayer.”

In any case, Jesus was overturning more than tables that day. He was challenging what the Temple was meant to be for all people.

Mark’s Gospel says that Jesus declared, ”Is it not written, ‘ My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations ( Mk. 11:17)?” It was a place of worship meant to spiritually nurture, teach, equip, and lift-up all God’s people; a place where all were welcomed to come and pray and draw closer to God. Jesus saw activity that distracted and diminished the blessing the Temple was supposed to be.

Jesus understood the human soul needs places of respite from the chaos of the world. As we follow him, we see that the harm selfish egos and demoralizing political posturing bring are not God’s desire for humankind. Jesus shows us that we are not to be a stumbling block to anyone seeking to draw closer to God! We are called to tend to what is holy, so that we can guard human dignity in recognition of the Imago Dei in all people. We must first tend to our own relationship with God!

Of course, God detests profiting through the exploitation of others, maybe as much as our judging one another as if we are God; but I wonder if the harder proclamation (or confession) to make might be that All people deserve safe places to grow in faith where they are welcomed and inspired to be all that God has created them to be.  Once again, it is clear that we need to do our best to make the way straight, and that begins in the garden of our own heart.

Therefore, it is my prayers that we will continue to engage in careful self-examen. Let us tend to our relationship with God. Let us consider how we can give our hearts more fully to God in prayer. May God save us from putting up barriers to anyone seeking to answer God’s call to come to worship and pray.

Loving Lord of All,

As I search my heart, I see that I am easily distracted and do not always notice the wondrous things you do to bless us day after glorious day.  I can let myself get so weary trying to accomplish tasks that I break faith with you. I can allow busy-ness to rob me of being still and enjoying time with you. Forgive me, Lord. I want to be perfected in your love and learn to always choose the better thing. Help me reset, for when I put you first there is always time for what needs attention. Grant me the serenity of spirit to keep a gentler more attentive pace. For I do want to notice your grace and share it with others. Save me from making judgements for only you know everything. Most of all save me from being a stumbling block to others. Let all my actions be a faithful prayer to you. Amen

L-TYAY and Shalom in Christ,

Rev. Vanessa LeVine

Pastor for Clinical and Regional Services at Methodist Healthcare Ministries and Clergy Member of Travis Park Church

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