This Sunday will mark the halfway point of Lent this year.  Our theme for this week is… Christ among Us, Showing Us Justice.

The scriptures we are invited to dwell with are…

Exodus 20:1–17,

Psalm 19,

John 2:13–22,

1 Corinthians 1:18–25

In Jesus’ day, the temple was ripe for conflict. Many thought the entire temple establishment corrupt. The Essenes thought it so corrupt that they fled to the banks of the Dead Sea in order to establish a new priestly community. The story of Jesus cleansing the temple fits into this conflict-ridden situation. The time is Passover. Pilgrims filled the city. Apparently, in the courts of the temple, people were making a living by selling animals for sacrifice and by changing Roman coins into Jewish coins for the payment of temple taxes. Jesus is not pleased. He drives out the large animals with a whip of cords, he overturns the moneychanger’s tables, and he tells those selling the doves to take them away and to stop making his Father’s house a marketplace. Jesus sees a crass moneymaking corrupting the temple. The irony here is the all too familiar story of the regulations that were set up to protect the holiness of the sacred place becoming the very means by which the temple is desecrated.

In 2008, in Jerusalem, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a fistfight broke out between Greek and Armenian monks. The church is the traditional site of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Here’s the BBC report…

“Israeli police had to restore order at one of Christianity’s holiest sites after a mass brawl broke out between monks in Jerusalem’s Old City. Fighting erupted between Greek Orthodox and Armenian monks at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre… Two monks from each side were detained as dozens of worshippers traded kicks and punches at the shrine, said police. Trouble flared as Armenians prepared to mark the annual Feast of the Cross. Shocked pilgrims looked on as decorations and tapestries were toppled during Sunday’s clash. Dressed in the vestments of the Greek Orthodox and Armenian denominations, rival monks threw punches and anything they could lay their hands on. The Greeks blamed the Armenians for not recognizing their rights inside the holy site, while the Armenians said the Greeks had violated one of their traditional ceremonies.”

This is sad. And it is not the first time rival religious orders have fought in the church. It also seems a bit like Monty Python.

But is it really so surprising?

On the one hand, yes, monks brawling with each other seems an outrage, a violation of their vocation. But on the other hand, it’s not all that surprising. Because when it comes to holy sites, the conditions are ripe for conflict. Sacred spaces, all too often, are contested spaces, places where rivals fight for access, control, and the power and prestige that come from these things.

What about today?

Is the church still fighting, arguing, or jockeying for power?  Maybe there isn’t physical fighting with our fists, but what about with our words and actions, our theologies and our political votes. 

Where does justice factor in?  What about love your neighbor and love your enemy?

What is God’s part in bringing justice into our world?

What is our part in bringing about justice? 

Let’s talk about it on Sunday…

~ Pastor Dustin