First in a series of devotions for Holy Week written by United Methodist pastors.
Scripture: Mark 11:15-19 CEB
Artist: Bernadette Lopez
They came into Jerusalem. After entering the temple, he threw out those who were selling and buying there. He pushed over the tables used for currency exchange and the chairs of those who sold doves. He didn’t allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He taught them, “Hasn’t it been written, My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you’ve turned it into a hideout for crooks.” The chief priests and legal experts heard this and tried to find a way to destroy him. They regarded him as dangerous because the whole crowd was enthralled at his teaching. When it was evening, Jesus and his disciples went outside the city.
Frequently, Jesus intentionally went out of his way to truly see those who were often invisible to the establishment. He saw people, like the Samaritan woman and the little child he invited us to be like. Christ made a point of welcoming those whose presence in the community was forbidden. The bleeding woman and the leper were among those he allowed to touch his divine essence.
In the Temple that day, Jesus again saw exclusion. A place of worship, holiness, and community-building, had become “a hideout for crooks," because only some were welcomed while others were kept out, penalized for being foreigners, in transit, and poor.
Jesus reminds them, and us, that God calls us to include not exclude. He quotes scripture that says God’s house is to be a house of prayer for all.
Jesus's intervention disrupted their order. His good news exposed the wickedness of their hearts and the sin hidden in their practices that kept people out.
Baptismal grace welcomes all to the waters. It demands that we examine our values and stop any action that kills the soul. We are not the ones with authority to determine who is ritually clean and worthy; that is defined by the eternal Love, the same One who turned over the tables. The One who sees all of us and declares: “It is very good!”
One has to wonder if the Church is still being a prophetic voice.
Are we watching and claiming the Church as a house of prayer for all people? Because God certainly is!
- Who am I excluding today?
- Why has acceptance become the exception and not the norm?
- Am I willing to disrupt the status quo that perpetuates systemic oppression, even if that leads me to question my own value systems and traditions?
- For whom is the Gospel good news?
Loving Creator, as I welcome you into my life, I invite the presence of the Holy Spirit to reveal those spaces in my life where I need to be in solidarity with those who have been oppressed and marginalized. As you call me to repent, give me strength and humility to genuinely examine where, in the depths of my soul, my words and actions remain far from you. Show me your mercy, so I can stand before you and be safe. Grant me the courage, so I won't feel weak when you invite me to be a prophetic voice that denounces the wickedness of the powers to be but announce your Shalom and the hopes of a new and just system for all. In the name of the One who taught us how to love, Jesus the Christ… So be it!
Pastor VJ Cruz-Báez serves La Plaza United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, California. Media contact: Joe Iovino, United Methodist Communications.