Today's lectionary reading: Psalm 84; Ezra 6:1-16; Mark 11:15-19
Selected passage for reflection: Mark 11:15-19 (The Message)
15-17 They arrived at Jerusalem. Immediately on entering the Temple Jesus started throwing out everyone who had set up shop there, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of the bankers and the stalls of the pigeon merchants. He didn’t let anyone even carry a basket through the Temple. And then he taught them, quoting this text:
My house was designated a house of prayer for the nations;
You’ve turned it into a hangout for thieves.
18 The high priests and religion scholars heard what was going on and plotted how they might get rid of him. They panicked, for the entire crowd was carried away by his teaching.
19 At evening, Jesus and his disciples left the city.
In this scripture passage, I cannot help but put myself into Jesus’s place. I imagine walking into what is supposed to be a sacred space transformed into the modern-day mall. Big retails, small businesses, and banks have managed to misuse this place and maybe even abuse it. As Jesus was, it is easy to become deeply outraged and I want to immediately call for justice against them too!
But suddenly a sinking feeling sets in.
If I can use my “sanctified imagination” as Wil Gafney coined it, what if that was me selling and bartering outside of that sacred space and this was my desperate attempt to make the most money I could to live, to survive, to support my family?
Maybe they were not in need financially and they were the classic exploiter and oppressor, no arguments and no questions about it, as we are often taught. We are not sure of the identities of the buyers (or even the sellers) but I imagine they were exploited in some way in this business exchange. These sellers were probably these classic Zacchaeuses of their world, common thieves, taking advantage of their own people.
But let’s still dive a little deeper into this common perspective. The traditional interpretation and single story we have been taught. This has made complete sense since these merchants and bankers are “the villain” characters maybe even the religious leaders who were around and Jesus was right in getting angry at the injustice he saw and in expressing a “fierce compassion” toward those who were being exploited.
But with every character in a story, we discover people’s flaws, humanity, their complexity. Jesus came as a disrupter, ripping away at the layers of society, institutions, communities, and humanity, to say: “Hey stop here and just think. When you sell these things to make an extra buck here, you hurt people, you even hurt youself. You rob them of their dignity, their humanity, their complexity. And because of our intrinsic interconnectedness, you lose yours too.”
There is no doubt that these bankers and merchants need to own up to their mistakes, acknowledge how they exploited their own people, and offer reparations but I wonder if Jesus was calling for more than that?
Maybe Jesus was trying to break a cycle here of how we think of people and understand our own humanity? Maybe there was a call for restorative justice that deeply included collective healing of the exploited and exploiter within our communities and institutions. Jesus is challenging us to end both the personal harm and injustice we do unto to each other and the systemic harm and injustice we see in our communities and our institutions. To become bearers of compassion, kindness, healing and justice when we see harm is being done.
Take a moment to pause, find a comfortable place to sit or lay down. Take a few deep breaths right were you are, to settle into your bodies.
How do you feel as you sink into your bodies and reflect on this passage and on my reflection?
Which characters in this story (Jesus, the merchant, banker, buyers, the bystanders, etc) do you identify with the most and why? Which characters can’t you seem to relate to and why?
Where and how can you become bearers of compassion, kindness, healing, and justice?
Oh God of love, the God who sees us, who sees our humanity, our complexities. We are grateful for your deep well of compassion, kindness, and healing you extend toward us. May we become a reflection of you, becoming disruptors of harm and injustice. May we become bearers of compassion, kindness, healing, and justice. Amen.
About the Author
Leanette Pokuwaah calls Chicago home. She's a founding member and leader at the Inclusive Collective. As Director of Worship, she has supported this radically inclusive Christian community by facilitating open, warm and healing worship experiences. She is a writer, teacher, coach and musician who is pursuing her Masters of Divinity and Counseling Psychology. She hopes to continue to bridge spirituality, mental health, and the Enneagram within communities of color. To learn more check out her out at www.enneastories.com.