The healing of the nations

When Jesus evicted the vendors from the temple I hope they had somewhere else to go. Their livelihood was at stake. The Zambian Government evicted the vendors from central Lusaka recently as part of their response to the cholera outbreak that claimed around 50 lives. 

These vendors were directed elsewhere. I hope their customers followed them. Certainly it is a pleasure driving through the city now with the stalls, which used to encroach on the road to say nothing of the sidewalk, removed.

This cleansing of the streets is akin to any form of healing or renewal.  Not long ago I had a cataract operation on my eye. It was amazing to see clearly again after a long while of haziness.  But, of course, the healing is not total – neither for me or for Lusaka. And I suspect it was not long before the vendors crept back into the temple to resume their business.

But Jesus had given a sign. He probably only did this dramatic act in one corner of the vast concourse. But he made a statement: “There is something new here.” That “something new” is what we try to get our mind round in a time like Lent.  Jesus wants to cleanse people’s hearts to prepare them for something greater than they can conceive.  One of the shadow sides of our bright new “secular” age is that our minds are not attuned to even consider what that might be.

We are like children who have no idea what their adult life will be like.  And, like children, we can be totally absorbed in our own little world – my ambitions, my group, my country.  A lot of our politics is a struggle between selfishness and conviviality: we are torn between a desire to protect our own interests and another desire to live in harmony and happiness with others. We are caught between competition and cooperation and we do not know which is better.

John puts the cleansing of the temple at the beginning of his gospel where the others put it at the end.  But all four gospel writers see it as a sign, an announcement, that that the reign of God has come. From now on things are going to change. “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear and the dead are raised” (Matt. 11:5), “captives are released and the oppressed go free” (Luke 4:18).  These were the other “signs” Jesus did. It is all there on record: it was all for the cleansing and healing of the nations. (Ezek. 47:12)

Our challenge is to move beyond these beautiful sentiments to open the way for them to have an impact on our real life. This entails allowing the message of the promise to sink in, as Mary did.  “Blessed are you who believed the promise.” (Luke 1:45) We can be quite skittish and unable to settle. If we do have a moment we reach for our smart phone. We don’t allow time for cleansing and healing.

4 March 2018                          Lent Sunday 3 B

Exodus 20:1-17                       1 Corinthians 1;2-25               John 2:13-25

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