Tuesday, March 3
Lent is hardly a week old and yet we have John’s version of the cleansing of the Temple in today’s list of readings. We are used to hearing about this in Holy Week where the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) put it. Indeed the Synoptics seem to point to the cleansing as the proximate cause for the arrest and crucifixion. But I suspect John gets it in the right place: very early in Jesus’ ministry. This is such a dramatic action that it would cause people to notice Jesus right away. Sides would be chosen: you are either for him or against him based on what you heard he did at the Temple. And because the Temple is such a holy place, I suspect a vague resentment begins to build up about how Jesus treated the place. After all it was the one place the people of Israel were assured of encountering God. How dare he judge those who worked there by driving them out.
We tend to choose sides on all manner of events. This year, the year of our Lord two thousand nine, began with an Israeli invasion of the Gaza strip. The Israelis were tired of Hamas firing missiles into Israel. Israel has never accepted that Hamas could control the government in the Gaza strip. As far as Israel and the United States are concerned, Hamas is a terrorist organization. Yet the invasion went badly for Israel. Too many civilians were killed. United Nations relief workers were attacked and a school was destroyed. It is hard to know who the good guys and who the bad guys are in this conflict. Yet we take sides: sometimes because of where we live, sometimes because of our religion, sometimes because we feel an affinity for the oppressed, sometimes because…
Nearly 3500 years ago, give or take a couple of centuries, this conflict started. And God warned about choosing sides. “Know then, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to occupy because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people.” (Deut. 9:6) Even at the beginning of the conflict it was God’s judgment and God’s alone. The moment we presume to speak for God and choose sides will be the end of the opportunity to hear God.
I find I have to challenge myself constantly not to choose sides in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and other places I choose sides; but to ask how the both sides are bearing witness to God.