Knotted Up

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Today’s readings:
Psalms 34; 146, Deuteronomy 9:(1-3) 4-12, Hebrews 3:1-11, John 2:13-22


All four gospels include the story of Jesus cleansing the temple of money-changers and merchants. That coin with Caesar’s likeness that Jesus was willing to render unto him? It wasn’t welcome in the temple. The money-changers charged exorbitant exchange rates to trade the currency of the empire for the currency of the temple. The merchants sold sacrificial livestock to travelers and charged typically inflated tourist prices.  Jesus was furious God’s house of worship had been turned into a center of exploitative commerce, so he drove out the animals and flipped the tables.

Only John’s gospel tells the part of the story about Jesus fashioning a whip from cords. Doing so would have taken some time, enough for people to notice what he was doing. With all the livestock nearby there were probably whips handy, yet he took the time to make one himself. As he knotted the cords in the crowded temple, somebody – probably several somebodies – must have noticed. Did they brush it off as business as usual? Did they take moment to wonder why it was happening? Did they think he couldn’t possibly be about to do what it seemed he would? Maybe there were even a few people thinking, “It’s about time.”

How many injustices being perpetrated right now, right in front of us, right in the hearts of our communities, do we ignore because business is booming? While we buy and sell, while we mingle our economy and empire with our faith, what retribution builds? While we fail or refuse to see the impending repercussions, the knots multiply. And our daily lives our casual attitudes towards “that’s just how business works” or “you can’t expect me to risk my security over someone else’s injustice” can’t be untangled from living our faith.

People might have left the temple peacefully had they stopped for a minute to ask if the man in the corner was the face of justice delayed. Let’s take some time this Lenten season to step back and look at how our own business as usual exploits our neighbors. The consequences of injustice are inevitable, but injustice itself is not. Perhaps Jesus doesn’t want to finish that whip any more than we want him to, and that’s why he gives us time to turn the tables before he turns them over.

Comfort: It’s not too late to do better.

Challenge: Pick one consumable item (coffee, chocolate, etc) and for the remainder of Lent buy it only from direct trade or fair trade sources.

Prayer: Open my eyes, Lord, to where I have been blind to injustice. Amen.

Discussion: What is the difference between feeling guilty and feeling accountable?

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Do Unto Others

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 93; 150, Isaiah 32:1-8, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17, Matthew 7:7-14


In everything do to others as you would have them do to you;
for this is the law and the prophets.
– Matthew 7:12

These words from Jesus are often called “The Golden Rule.” The concept transcends the Judeo-Christian tradition; many (most?) cultures have some variation. One might think such a universal idea must be common sense, but it really isn’t. Have you ever heard of “NIMBY?” It stands for “Not In My Back Yard.” For example, we want the convenience of cheap petroleum products like plastic and gasoline, but nobody wants the toxic waste dumped in their neighborhood. People of means can take legal action to prevent that, but aren’t generally bothered about where it does end up.

It takes moral and spiritual maturity to value the needs of others as importantly as our own needs – and it’s a lifelong process. In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey writes: “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour.” At least until we exercise our ability to empathize. When we realize our intentions are invisible to people who suffer from our actions, and our suffering at the hands of others may not be their intent, we achieve a more balanced perspective. If, for example, we are made aware a remark is racist or sexist, we can defend it by explaining our intentions were not so – which tells the other person our intention matters more than their reality – or we can be accountable and do better in the future. If the situation was reversed, which would you prefer? Do that one.

Perhaps the trickiest part of observing the Golden Rule is admitting we don’t always know how we want to be treated. It’s possible your response to the racist/sexist remark question was something like, “I’d brush it off; no big deal.” If so (assuming you are white and/or male), ask yourself if you’d accept being treated as women and people of color have historically been treated.

Self-awareness and empathy are inseparable. Take time to learn what other people need, and you’ll learn more about what you do.

Comfort: Being considerate of others makes you stronger.

Challenge: It’s easy to empathize with people who are similar to us. Ask friends who differ from you in gender, race, religion, age, sexual orientation, ability, or other ways what they wished you knew.

Prayer:  Forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Amen.

Discussion: When do you have trouble empathizing?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group  or visit comfortandchallenge.tumblr.com. You’ll  have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!