Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Themes in Holy Week - Tuesday in Holy Week

Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and 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. He was teaching and saying, ‘Is it not written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations”? But you have made it a den of robbers.’ And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city. (Mark 11:15-19)

Conflict - I don't consider myself a Marxist but I do find "Social Conflict Theory" intriguing. Louis Kreisberg writes

Conflicts are said to occur when members of two or more groups have decided that they have incompatible objectives, irrespective of how these are being pursued. The conflict becomes manifest when: (1) members of each side have a sense of a collective 'us' in relationship to a collective 'them'; (2) members of at least one group feel aggrieved; (3) attributing responsibility for their grievance to the other group, one or both parties formulate goals to change the behaviour of the other so as to alleviate their grievance; and (4) members of the aggrieved party believe they can bring about the desired change in the antagonist.(L. Kreisberg, The Social Science Encyclopedia, Conflict Resolution, para. #3 2004).
It's very clear that Jesus was aggrieved and particularly interested in changing the behavior of his antagonists, the Temple authorities and the money-changers. He was most likely very displeased that these religious and civic leaders imposed a tax upon pilgrims celebrating Passover. Marcus Borg (1994) writes that Jesus was unquestionably upset with the fact that The Temple had become the warehouse for an unjust religious purity system that worked in concert with oppressive economic and political systems. Whatever Jesus' motivation, on that day, he was not meek or mild. He sought conflict with little regard for his own well-being. His prophetic wrath in this passage from Mark assuredly suggests that the Temple authorities and businessmen were distraught and sought ways to kill Jesus for his actions in the Temple during Passover.

Some people of faith aren't turning over the tables in the US House of Representatives these days but more than 30,000 people are fasting in protest of perceived immoral budget cuts in the nation's budget. One wonders whether or not The Church institutionally and implicitly promotes such questionable politics with its lack of prophetic outrage. Do current economic and political trends create circumstances such that middle and lower income families are aggrieved by corporations and their political allies.
Jesus threw over tables. Should we? Social Conflict is apparently always a possibility in an capitalistic society. To what extent do we as Christians and the (non)denominational churches we attend support and/or push back against the injustices we observe.

Consolation - Jesus clearly needed a break after his confrontation with the money-changers. My companion said earlier today that he hoped Jesus and his disciples spent Holy Tuesday making matzo balls and gefilte fish for their Seder Meal on Thursday. The "throw-down" in the Temple didn't take all day in his version. That's a humorous notion. I kinda think that Jesus needed a place to let things calm down. I mean, if you've been involved in a heated argument, don't you withdraw and compose yourself? I do, along with saying a prayer or two. I need God's consolation. I need a friendly hug and some reassurance, especially if the ordeal isn't over. Picture Jesus spending the evening in Bethany with his disciples.
A quiet meal, a person standing by the door just in case the Temple soldiers were nearby. Isn't life like that, for Jesus and for us?

Dear God, Help us to be unafraid of responding to the injustice around us. Teach us to live firmly and wisely without embittering others without letting them harm our neighbors either. Grant us your peace, a peace that the profane world doesn't understand but that we so desperately need. Keep us safe, but not so safe that we do not follow you into the Temple or back to the securities of prayer. Abide with us as we strive to abide with you. Keep us moving toward Good Friday, a place so horrifying yet so redemptive that it doesn't make worldly sense but expresses your love. Give us the courage we need to fast, protest, protect, and forgive the evil that we participate in and that we have the power to bring to conclusion.

Blessings Along The Way -

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