Third Sunday in Lent
If Jesus came to your congregation’s next spaghetti or chicken pie supper, would he bring a whip? If he noticed that table in the narthex loaded with crocheted dish scrubbers/cookbooks/fairly traded or-ganic coffee for sale, would he raise his voice?
It depends. The day Jesus lost his temper at the temple, it wasn’t as much about commerce as it was about intention. As crowds of faith practitioners poured into the facility to fulfill religious ob-ligations, the pilgrims all but had to stop at the stalls to purchase necessary supplies: animals for sacrifice and appropriate coins for taxes. It only made sense that merchants had found ways to profit by providing convenient solutions for traveling worshipers. It was a win-win arrangement, wasn’t it?
The trouble was that the system had devolved into a meaningless exchange of cash for hallowed experience. In effect, merchants in the courtyard were setting the admission price for an encounter with God in God’s house. Jesus’ demonstrative showdown that day sig-naled a change would be coming. Soon it would become clear that no one would ever need to buy their way into a building that housed God, because God was not contained in any building. Jesus himself would be taking the place of the temple, so to speak. God’s presence would be freely accessible through him.
So . . . would Jesus be bothered by church fundraising? That de-pends on whether the efforts help or hinder a person’s relationship with God. Is fundraising a disguise for weak stewardship, or does it allow for vibrant ministry? Is the busywork of fundraising a dis-traction from developing a bond with Jesus, or is it authentic service in the Savior’s name? Intentional or unintentional consequences—which ones are showing?
Chris Johnson, pastor, Fry’s Valley Moravian Church, New Philadelphia, Ohio