We Can Make A Difference

On January 21, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

We Can Make a Difference Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Jan 21, 2018 Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. We usually think of Jesus meek and mild, but Jesus was […]

We Can Make a Difference
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Jan 21, 2018

Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

We usually think of Jesus meek and mild, but Jesus was also very passionate.

We see him this morning having an outburst in public, knocking over tables. What got into Jesus? Of all things, why attack money exchange clerks and dove merchants?

The money changers served a legitimate function. In Jesus’ day, we wouldn’t have images. We’ve all been in churches with statues or icons or brass pulpits that looked like an eagle or people depicted in the stained glass windows…images that have been engraved into surfaces. But graven images were a no-no. They took that so seriously in Jesus’ day, that they wouldn’t let you bring money in the Temple that had someone’s face on the coins.

We’ll take your Washingtons, Lincolns, Hamiltons, Jacksons, and Franklins…we’ll take your check with birds or flags or clouds on them…we’ll swipe your credit card with your own photo on it…but not in
Jesus’ day. No images meant NO images.

So, some enterprising people set up a money exchange service.

In Rome, mere feet (or meters) from the walls of Vatican City, there are shops where you can buy papal swag, or a hot seminarians beef cake calendar, but that doesn’t really go to support papal ministry.

I think that’s what was going on in Jesus’ day. People knew you needed Temple currency to spend in the temple, so they set up shop. Of course, there was a fee. It was a business to enrich the business owner, not really a fundraiser for ministry.

Now, if you didn’t bring a sacrifice, you’d buy one there at the temple. Again, someone has set up the Sacrifice on Site Store. I buy two birds, because I don’t have enough for a four legged animal. That I’m buying birds shows you that I’m not a rich guy, and I’m already less rich than I was an hour ago.

I’ve spent money at two shops before I ever get inside the Temple! I want to support the Temple, but so far, I’ve supported the Money for Money Shop and the Sacrifices to Go Mart. The bird sellers are making money and the money changers are making money…off of me, poor peasant guy who just wants to worship in my religion’s famed temple.

Jesus has a fit and falls in it, but not because people are supporting the Temple, his own parents gave a gift of turtle doves to the Temple when he was born. Jesus grew up hearing about and practicing tithing. Jesus praised the widow who gave a mite, all she could to support the temple ministry.

Jesus gave food and wine and healing and time and wisdom and whatever else he could all the time. Even in his passionate display today, he’s basically giving his life for what he believes. The consequences of his outburst will
be fatal…he gave courageously from his heart anyway.

Jesus wants us to be generous, but when he sees the rich and powerful lining their pockets at the expense of the poor, marginalzed, or oppressed and using God’s temple as cover for their exploits, then he displays righteous indignation.

Jesus is furious that people are using religion to cheat others, to keep them down, to break them rather than to lift them up, and when you make religion be something to enrich the already rich or to keep some in power at the expense of the disadvantaged, Jesus is then ready to take names and kick butt.

And that’s why we see him confronting people who are exploiting the vulnerable. Exploitation of the vulnerable is apparently the one thing that gets Jesus fighting mad.

Jesus quotes scriptures from his own tradition when he’s confronting those who are exploiting the poor. He quotes the prophet Isaiah, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” Of course, the prophet says, a house of prayer for all peoples, all nations, all ethnicities, all races, all economic classes…all groups of people, all kinds of people.

Jesus also quotes the prophet Jeremiah who asked in his own day, “Has this house become in your eyes a den of thieves?” Standing with the prophets, Jesus affirms the dignity of all people and insists that God’s house is where the sacred value of all people is to be acknowledged and celebrated. The Temple isn’t cover for the powerful, its refuge and sanctuary for the
hurting and marginalized.

And then, in response to his radical affirmation of those who had been exploited, the lame and the blind come for healing. Jesus is engaging scripture again. Leviticus 21 says that those who have physical limitations or challenges can’t serve as priests at the altar, but Jesus, in the Temple, lays hands on the hurting…as if to say, your body may have some issues
right now, but the real you, the spirit that you are, is, always has been, and always will be whole and perfect. Embrace your wholeness and serve the Lord with gladness.

Then what happens? Children say admiring things about Jesus. And again, he quotes scripture, the 8th psalm: “Out of the mouths of babes God has brought forth praise.” Children have no power, but they are the ones to affirm Jesus, and by lifting that up, the writer is affirming the dignity and goodness of children and all who have been rendered powerless.

And then Jesus leaves for Bethany. Bethany is where his chosen family lived. Two women who called themselves sisters, and a man they called their brother all lived together in Bethany: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. The exact nature of the various relationships is a matter of rigorous investigation among Queer theologians, but in any case, three unmarried adults without children living together was uncommon, a biblical example of what makes a family…love and choice.

In this one gospel text:
Jesus fights for the poor.
Jesus comforts the hurting.
Jesus empowers the powerless.
Jesus affirms non-traditional families.

Matthew wanted us to see who Jesus was, and therefore, what we who follow Jesus are meant to be. This story shows a dramatic and radical commitment to the poor, the powerless, the vexed and the vilified. This disruption in the Temple struck fear in the hearts of the guardians of the status quo, and that is almost certainly what led to Jesus’ arrest and execution.

But he couldn’t be silent…when he saw the poor, the victimized, the marginalized, the suffering having their suffering needlessly enhanced, or having their suffering ignored, or having their suffering used to enrich others…he couldn’t be silent. He had to speak up; he had to do something. It might have cost him something, maybe, as it turned out, it would cost him everything…but he believed he could make a difference, and if he could, then he reasoned, he must.

I am asking you today to renew your commitment to the mission and ministry of Sunshine Cathedral for another year. I’m asking you to worship with us faithfully, every Sunday that you are able, and we gather at other times as well. I’m asking you to volunteer sometimes, either for a single project or for an on-going ministry. And I’m asking you to make a financial commitment to this church if you benefit from it in any way or if you believe in what we are trying to do in the world. Prayerfully dedicate a percentage of your net income to supporting your church and give your gifts as acts of worship.

We can make a difference, and we need all hands on deck to do all that we are called to do.

Jesus made a profound difference in the world, and in his name we strive to make a difference as well. This is the good news. Amen.

I believe I can make a difference.
Let me be a conduit through which divine goodness flows.
God bless me to be a blessing.
Inspired by Jesus, I want to serve your plan.

Comments are closed.

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can
take care of it!