lenten journal: still in the temple


    When I first started writing my blog a little over three years ago, one of the nicest surprises was the comment window. I am by nature a collaborator. I love the give and take of working with somebody, so the responses to my posts fed me and kept me writing. Over the past year or so, even as my readership has grown, I’ve noticed fewer people commenting. I’ve also read other bloggers talking about the same dynamic; perhaps there is some sort of shift in how all of this works. All of that is to say last night’s post was fun for me because I got comments – thoughtful, conversational comments – that have given me more to think about. Here’s a sample:

    I can’t read John without remembering its purpose, as we understand it: to differentiate between Jewish Christians and the other Jewish people of a later era. Right from the beginning then, or from Chapter 2 verse, anyway, Jesus sets himself into opposition with the Way Things Are Done. (Martha)

    What a scene it must have been: whip cracking, tables upended, money on the ground, doves circling, animals panicked, men cursing and screaming and scrambling for safety while the onlookers wondered what in the name of God was going on. And to think it was all set in motion by the anger of our precious Lord, blessed Jesus of Nazareth. Sweet Jesus. Righteous anger, brothers and sisters. Anger in the service of what it means to have a God who is bloody well determined to save us from sin and death. (Ray, from his sermon)

    Preached from this passage yesterday. I’ve discovered something interesting recently. Nowhere does the text say that the people involved were cheating the poor. In fact, their law required the changing of currency so the Temple Tax could be paid. And if every family in Jerusalem for Passover is to sacrifice an animal, they have to buy them somewhere.

    The text seems to indicate that Jesus drove the animals out with the whip. But he did overturn the tables of the moneychangers. My take this year: This is where a spirituality based on laws brought them. To the inevitable place where the complexity of their rules has turned their worship into something ridiculous. I think the key for me is Jesus’ response. If this is where our temple worship has brought us, then maybe it is time for a new temple. (Gordon)

    Yesterday at church, our pastor ended his sermon on this passage, which he wrestled with much as you are, by saying that Jesus wants to drive out of us all those things like greed and self-focus and hard-heartedness toward the poor that get in the way of our relationship with others and with God. “But,” he said as he ended the sermon, “if you look into Jesus’ eyes as he is doing this, what you will see is love.” (Todd)

    Also, when we think of peacemakers, we unfortunately think of folks who are meek and mild. Perhaps this is a case for strong-armed peace, a peace that lives off the yin-yang of creation and destruction rather than mediation. (David)

    No, I don’t plan to respond here to everything that comes to mind and heart reading their thoughts and feelings. (I suppose I could and take care of my Lenten Journal for several more days . . .) The creative tension in the comments reminds me of The Mission, one of my all-time favorite movies. Jeremy Irons and Robert DeNiro play priests trying to figure out how to take a stand against Spanish aggression and colonization, which was brutal and violent. One chose to turn the other cheek, as it were, and the other chose to organize the villagers to fight for their freedom. Both made compelling emotional and theological arguments for their stance. Both also ended up dying for the stand they took.

    Neither stopped the Spanish.

    It’s interesting where our minds take us. David’s words about peacemakers made me realize I don’t think of peacemakers as meek and mild; I think of them as strong, though not particularly strong armed: Gandhi, King, Romero – to name a few. I’m not so sure, however, Jesus is playing the role of peacemaker in this story. I think he intended to disrupt, disquiet, and disturb. The other quote that came to mind, though I have no idea where I first heard it, was, “Responding to violence with violence is not a solution.” One note I saw somewhere (not in my comments) pointed out Jesus wasn’t responding to violence (unless we read it metaphorically), he was instigating it. So violence is a solution if you start the fight?

    Though I’ve spent most of this post talking about the passage again, what moves me most tonight is the conversation that has swirled around it. Some of the commenters are people I count as friends; others are those I only know in cyberspace by screen names and blogs. The exchange between us gives me hope.

    And fills me with gratitude.



    1. I loved the Mission too. One force seeking conquest and two seeking to thwart it in completely opposite ways. Each holding equal commitment to their path.

      I don’t think of peacemakers as meek and mild either. Martyrdom has its place, but not when there’s no audience. (Some might prefer to say “witnesses”). Jesus stirred things up and fomented violence in those he came to “overthrow” as it were. Then he used their violence against them in his martyrdom. And it wasn’t the individual people he sought battle with. It was the evil system that had overtaken their society. It was a profoundly brilliant strategy. Lethal. But profoundly brilliant. The ultimate prize required the ultimate sacrifice. I am humbled to claim this victory in his behalf.

    2. I hope that your friend who was injured is continuing to heal. Perhaps you could send him a selection of music for his recovery – plant the seed, water, and let God provide the growth.
      Thank you for sharing.

    3. I too have watched comments plummet over the last 3 years. I have some theories. A few contributing causes.

      1. Commenting is kind of boring. It was amazing at first. “Wow, I can leave a comment!” Eh, not so much now. It’s been done to death.

      2. People follow a LOT more blogs now. So they might be visiting a lot of blogs and there just isn’t as much time to comment.

      3. The big one: Aggregators like Google Reader. It’s much more convenient to read blogs in some kind of feed reader. But that means an extra click if you want to go and comment. Aggregators also kill server stats ability to record traffic. They don’t show up. RLP traffic has been flat for two years. And yet I hear of new readers all the time. I think that every time someone finds our blogs, another person discovers aggregators and begins to use feeds.

      My two cents.

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