The earliest Christians followed a Jewish tradition of pausing to pray, preferably together, first thing in the morning, about mid morning, at noon, about mid afternoon, and in the evening. “Just a Note” posts are brief observations made from Scripture readings not related to a lectionary. If I have one to post, it normally appears about 9:00 in the morning, at “the hour of prayer.”
John records a cleansing of the temple in chapter 2, right at the start of Jesus’ public ministry. This is the first trip of Jesus to Jerusalem for the Passover which John records.
Pop Christianity often pictures Jesus attacking the people who are selling animals. In fact, notice here that he uses the whip to drive the animals away. He pours out the money onto the floor. He tells the people with cages of birds to take them away. Of all the upheaval, and it is significant upheaval, notice that Jesus does not deprive anybody of livelihood or health. He inconveniences them severely. Yet the money changers can pick their money up out of the straw and dung on the floor. The people who are working with the herd animals will be able to find them again. The people with the birds still have their birds.
What does Jesus accomplish here? He points out to everybody present that the area dedicated to worship of God is a special place. It is not to be used for our own profit, but for the good of God’s people.
Some, when considering the church building as “God’s house” will make it a sacred space, implying that it is the special dwelling place of God on earth. This falls short of truth, because the Holy Spirit, God the Spirit, lives in his people no matter where they are. All earth and heaven belong to God. So in a certain way, no building is specially holy.
Some, when considering the church building as a place made by people for the use of people will think it no more special than a warehouse or a meeting hall. This also falls short, because of the special nature of the churchly meetings which happen there.
The place where Christians assemble for worship should have a right dignity. It is not because of the place, but because of the confession that at this place, at this time, God has promised to meet with his people bringing forgiveness and life. Because of that function, the church is a special place indeed.
May the zeal for God’s presence consume us!
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