Lent Devotion, Wednesday, March 28, 2018

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(The gospel writer Mark is speaking to us.)

Yesterday I told you that Jesus staged a protest in the Temple. He explained the purpose of his protest with these words: “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

The first sentence of that explanation comes from Isaiah 56. The prophet wrote:

‟Make sure no outsider who now follows God
Ever has occasion to say, ‘God put me in second-class.
I don’t really belong.’
For God says:
‟And as for the outsiders who now follow me,
working for me, loving my name,
and wanting to be my servants–
All who keep Sabbath and don’t defile it,
holding fast to my covenant–
I’ll bring them to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
They’ll be welcome to worship the same as the ‘insiders,’
to bring burnt offerings and sacrifices to my altar.
Oh yes, my house of worship
will be known as a house of prayer for all people.”

By quoting Isaiah, Jesus was saying that worship of God is not the possession of a certain class or group of people. God desires the worship of all people, and we need to organize communities of faith that are open and welcoming to everyone. It’s the Jesus way of doing things.

God of grace, as you have welcomed us into your circle of love, move us to welcome others. Amen.

(Translation of verses of Isaiah 56 is from “The Message” by Eugene Peterson.)

Lent Devotion, Tuesday, March 27, 2018

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(The gospel writer Mark is speaking to us.)

“Finally, some action!” That’s what I thought to myself the day after Jesus entered Jerusalem. We had returned to the Temple, and Jesus went to work! In my Gospel, I described it this way: “He began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.” (Mark 11:15-16)

Surely now, I thought, Jesus would announce that he was taking charge. Surely, he would call down angels from heaven and show his power! Surely, now we would sit with him at seats of authority! Surely now all those who opposed his way would be driven from the land. I trembled with excitement, thinking that at long last, we were getting our way, that we would control the Temple and of the government, and that finally—finally!—we would be in charge.

Imagine my disappointment, then, when Jesus suddenly left the Temple. He wasn’t interested in claiming power for himself. He was rather protesting what the Temple had become. Tomorrow I’ll tell you what his protest was all about.

Heavenly Father, forgive us for the times we have thought that, because we follow you, we should be in charge. Forgive our lust for power. Forgive our desire to force our ways upon others. Send your Spirit into our midst and teach us to follow the non-violent way of your Son. Amen.