The Gospel St. Luke Ch 19 V.41
And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves. And he taught daily in the temple.
Last week, I pointed out how the parable of the Prodigal Son should be familiar to all of us. Likewise, this weeks Gospel should be equally familiar. We have often heard the two themes in today’s Gospel; Jesus lamenting the ultimate destruction of Jerusalem and his eviction of the merchants and money changers from the Temple. And while we might be tempted to see this particular passage as simply being a recounting of God’s Wrath upon the corruption that had overtaken the Jewish leaders of that day, we must be careful not to miss the message that remains relevant to us; the message that we need to open our hearts and minds, and that our Faith requires not just words, but decisive action.
We begin as Jesus prepares to enter Jerusalem. He and his followers have come to the Mount of Olives, from which they can see the entire city laid out before them. But Our Lord doesn’t speak of the grandeur of the view. He doesn’t talk about the holiness of the place, nor does he make any mention of the coming Passover. No, as soon as he sees the city, Jesus begins to weep. He begins to mourn. He begins to speak about Jerusalem as if the city’s destruction is assured.
This should not have been surprising to his disciples; indeed Our Lord had spoken of the imminent demise of this great city earlier in his ministry. Both St. Matthew and St. Luke quote Our Lord using the same words; “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate”. (Matt. 23 v 37-38, Lk. 13 v 34-35)
Jesus’ lament also reflects the cries of the Old Testament prophets who had constantly warned the people of Israel of the consequence for their lack of faith; “But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it (Isaiah 1 v 20); “and the peaceable habitations are cut down because of the fierce anger of the Lord” (Jer. 25 v 37).
Now it might be understandable that the Pharisees and scribes would not make the correlation here. After all, the destruction that those prophets foretold had already happened, hadn’t it? Israel had been conquered by neighboring kingdoms and each time it had been restored. The Temple had been rebuilt and Jerusalem was once again the center of the Jewish faith. And while the current Roman occupation was onerous and even brutal, the authorities seemed more interested in maintaining peace, rather then inflicting wholesale destruction.
Additionally, as any half-learned Jew of the time would tell you, Israel’s previous troubles had been caused by their “backsliding”; their falling away from the Law. Surely this was not the case now. They worshipped no idols. They paid homage to no other god. They continued to perform all the required rituals and sacrifices, in the belief that this was all God required for them to obtain the ultimate victory over their oppressors. But this complacency was what would lead to their eventual downfall.
You see, the complacency of the Pharisees and scribes created among them an unbending adherence to the works of the Law, and an unwillingness to truly see the meaning of the Law. It also lead to corruption of the Law; using the tenets of the Law as a means of commerce and control, rather than as the vehicle by which God’s Love is communicated to His creation. Their hearts and minds were closed to the meaning, the purpose, of the Law.
This then is the same complacency that threatens us as well. A complacency born of the notion that all we need do to show our Faith is to come to Mass on Sunday. A complacency born from the belief that we are justified because we use the 1928 BCP and the Anglican Missal. A complacency born of the impression that just by being here, as opposed to remaining in the Episcopal Church or some other “church”, that our witness is complete. A complacency born of the thought that just by giving money or beautifying this building or occasionally adding a name to the prayer list, that we need do nothing else to bring people to Christ. A complacency born of the idea that we are doing, and have done, all that we can to help build the Kingdom of God.
And it might be understandable that we should become complacent, because none of those things, those “works”, that I mentioned are insignificant. Indeed, it is necessary that we come to Mass, that we maintain the Catholic Faith, that we give our tithes and that we pray for others. But is that where it ends? Do we just demand that others do likewise and leave it at that? Do we dismiss or deride those that do not believe as we do, without ever explaining to them why we believe as we do? In other words, have we become like those high priests and Pharisees and scribes and demand compliance with what we believe just because we said so? Have we closed our hearts and minds to the meaning and purpose for our being here in this Church?
So now you just know that I’m going to tell you that we must act, that we must do more to proclaim the Faith and to grow God’s Kingdom. Well, actually, I’m not going to tell you that; you already know it. But what I am going to tell you is how you must go about this duty.
You see, we must ask ourselves, when people look at us, what do they see? Do they see a small, old, tired, uninspired group of people just clinging to an equally old, tired and uninspiring Faith? Or so they see a people filled with a lively, joyous spirit?
Do they see a complacent collection of folks just going through the motions because “that’s what we’ve always done”, or do they see a community of believers who are truly happy to be worshiping together and equally humble for the Grace that God has given us?
Do they see a people who follow the laws of the Church because, well, those are the laws of the Church, or do they see an assembly of the Faithful who are ready, willing, and able to explain and proclaim the Gospel?
Do they see a staid, stagnant collection of “hangers-on”, or do they see a people who have their hearts and minds open to doing God’s Will? Are we ready in each case to be the latter, and not the former? Well, here’s how you become the latter.
Once, during my time at St. Edward’s, the Dean commented on my preaching style by referring to me as “so bold a preacher…”. If that is in any way true, then I take it as a high compliment; because it is with boldness that we must undertake our duties as Christians. But what does it mean to be bold? Please bear with me as I expound on that a bit.
First, we may define “bold” as; “not hesitating or fearful in the face of actual or possible danger or rebuff; necessitating courage and daring; challenging; courageous, confident; ready to take risks”. Likewise, listen to some of those words which are synonymous with “bold”; fearless, adventurous, brave, valiant, intrepid, valorous, dauntless.
“Fearless”, “Confident”, “Courage”, “Brave”, “Valiant”. You get the picture? These are all qualities that are possessed by people who KNOW that their cause is just; that they are doing right. These are qualities that are possessed by people who are unafraid of the rebukes of a “politically correct” secular society. These are the qualities possessed of those who truly hold the Faith in their hearts and minds. These are the qualities that we are commanded over and over again to exercise in our witness to that Faith. Let me give you some examples.
Ephesians 6:19 “And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth BOLDLY, to make known the mystery of the gospel”; Ephesians 6:20 “For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak BOLDLY, as I ought to speak”; Philippians 1:20 “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all BOLDNESS, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death”. Hebrews 13:6 “So that we may BOLDLY say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me”.
“that I may open my mouth FEARLESSLY”. That therein I may speak CONFIDENTLY. But that with all COURAGE, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body. So that we may BRAVELY say, the Lord is my helper.
Have I made it clearer now? Allow me to summarize this point; boldness is saying and doing the right thing regardless of how others will react. Boldness is what Our Lord displayed when he evicted the merchants and money-changers from the Temple. Boldness is what we do when we truly witness the Faith to our friends, our loved ones, or even to a stranger whom we have just met. Boldness is a requirement of our Faith.
But this boldness must be reinforced by humility; II Corinthians 11:21“Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also”; for we know that it is only by our Faith in Christ that we may achieve such boldness as is necessary to our task; Ephesians 3:12. “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him”. Our boldness does no good if it becomes arrogance; for of arrogance, complacency is born.
And so as we are reminded today of Christ’s lamentation for a people who had closed their hearts and minds to God, and of his boldness in sweeping his Father’s house clear of corruption, let us likewise open our hearts and minds to Our Lord; so that, by his Grace, we may speak and act with all fearlessness, confidence and courage; and that we may play our part to boldly lead the fight so that others may know the way of Truth and turn away from the corruption of this world.
And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves. And he taught daily in the temple