Hello, New Women. I gotta tell ya, it's good to be back. While I was away I felt like something -- you -- was seriously missing, plus I was bummed that our road trip to Jerusalem was stalled, but at least we're picking it up again at a crucial time. I'll refer to your comments as soon as I've really had a chance to read them thoroughly. For now, shall we move on?
This is our first real day in Jerusalem with Jesus. Two days ago we arrived to this awesome celebration with people waving palms and shouting Hosannas to Jesus as we made our way into the city. Jesus had told us several times that he was coming here to be arrested and killed, but we sure weren't feeling it when people threw their coats and palm fronds down on the road in front of him like a red carpet. Could he have gotten this wrong?
The thing is, Jesus doesn't seem to be remembering that party as we follow him through the streets of the city today, straight toward the temple. This is one of the biggest, most important cities in the world and the place is currently hopping with so many people in town for Passover. We'd like to pause in the market just to see the wares, even though we didn't bring any money. At the very least it would be fun to get something to eat. This is the best middle eastern food we've ever seen. Hummus, anyone?
But Jesus is on a mission, apparently, and we could do worse than see the temple. It is an immense piece of architecture and it presides over the city like a pillared father. He doesn't give us time to stand back and admire it, though. Jesus stitches his way through the crowds of people carrying bleating lambs in their arms and cooing doves in cages and leads us straight inside.
And that's where things get really bizarre.
Some of us go to some pretty contemporary churches where the music is going full blast when we enter the sanctuary and there's a slide show going on up on the vid wall and people are talking and laughing. But this places makes that look like a funeral.
The entire huge area just outside the sanctuary itself is a sea of tables and booths that makes us think of county fairs, craft shows, school carnivals -- only we can tell from the intimidating looks on the faces of the guys doing the selling that their motive isn't "Let's have fun." It's more like, "I've got you between a rock and a hard place and I'm going to get every cent out of you that I can."
As for the people whose lambs and doves are being inspected for sacrifice and who are counting out their monetary offerings, they don't look like they have a cent to spare. Fear, anxiety, despair -- we can read those things in their stooped shoulders and downcast eyes.
This is a church? we ask each other. And not just A church but THE church all these people have traveled miles and miles to come to?
A deafening crash jerks us out of our conversation.
"Holy crow!" one of us yells. "Jesus just kicked over that table!"
We watch, slack-jawed, as our mild, tender, gentle Jesus uses his feet, his hands, his back, his shoulders to turn over every table and booth in the place. Lambs run, bleating like babies. Doves flap from cages and fly frantically to the rafters. Bags of money rip open and belch their contents onto the floor. With fire in his eyes, Jesus turns to the merchants and money-lenders themselves and literally runs them out of the temple, yelling, "My father's house shall be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers!"
Has Jesus lost it? This is horrible!
But as quickly as the chaos began, it stills into an uncommon peace. Space has been opened, now that the merchants and their tables are out of the way. Through the door a line of folks begin to trickle in. Some are on crutches or in wheelchairs. Others are being led because they're blind. Still other sightless people feel their way in on their own. Calm now, Jesus prayers over each of them and heals them.
We are far from calm. This. Is. Awesome. People need to see what's going on here -- that Jesus has in one "tantrum" turned the church entirely around, from a materialistic mess to a place of healing. We HAVE to do something.
We start slow. One of us takes off in a skip around the temple singing hosannas to Jesus. A few others follow. Slowly the excitement builds as we sing, dance, run, shout and pretty much stage a flash mob of joy. "This is the Savior!" we cry. "Do you not see him?"
Whether it's the healed people running in ecstasy from the temple or the glorious uproar we're causing, we don't know but something brings in a group of disgruntled looking religious people. These are obviously the big wigs because they're dressed in pricey clothes and disdainfully push people aside as they make their way toward Jesus.
We abandon the dancing and hurry over, arriving just in time to hear one of the men say to Jesus, "Do you hear what these kids are saying? It's blasphemy!"
"Blasphemy?" one of us says. "Are you serious?"
But as always, Jesus has it handled. Voice at ease, he says, "Yes, I hear them. Listen, have you never read this in Scripture? 'Out of the mouths of children You have prepared praise for Yourself'?"
Jesus searches their faces with his all-seeing eyes until they can't look back any longer. This is going to be good.
But Jesus doesn't seem interested in a showdown. He turns abruptly to us and says," Let's go."
In varying degrees of disapointment we follow. And follow. And follow until we're out of Jerusalem and in the small town of Bethany. Jesus takes us into a house belonging to some friends of his and leaves us to ponder what we've just seen.
As we comment among ourselves, we discuss not only our own churches and how holy they really are, but the temples within ourselves. Do we have a den of intimidating accusers going on in there? Or is it a house of prayer where there can be healing and joy?
It's a lot to think about. And tomorrow is another day ...