March 2018 From The Minister's Relative
I can remember a conversation with a member of the family in my early twenties. It went something along the line of “I’ve never done anything wrong, I don’t need to go to church”. He had and he eventually did go and became a Christian after a time. But his view was not unusual. Wrong doing doesn’t carry quite the same debate these days unless you are in politics and even then people often brazen it out or say my personal life doesn’t affect my job.
I notice the Methodist Prayer Book, which also gives the lectionary for each day starts March with the call to righteousness. Righteousness means the quality of being morally right and justifiable. There are thoughts and sermons a plenty in that phrase but I think quite a few have already been preached (many by me). Are you any more righteous for hearing them, come to that am I? Theology suggests it should be on our bucket list.
The reading for the first of March (John 2:13-22- Jesus clears the Temple) is the story of Jesus upsetting the Temple bookings officer and some traders. It’s an interesting choice for righteousness as Jesus is furious with what he finds going on in his Father’s house. He is not only furious but a little violent. It spells trouble and for Jesus it makes the authorities think he has to go; within days they make their wish come true.
It’s all very human and many of us see ourselves in that moment of anger. The most interesting conversations have come from looking at this passage. I’ve heard the view frequently ‘well if Jesus can go bananas so can I. Asking Jesus to justify your red mist is rather missing the point. The focus of his outburst is not the hapless traders in full retreat but the religious leaders who have made religion to suit their views and not the hopes of the Father. In nearly all his encounter Jesus has found them wanting and this is his frustration. His outburst is justifiable, their use of a holy place is questionable. They are all too willing to argue their case.
However, the bigger picture is an understanding many actions of the world are not God’s idea of what should be happening. We live in a fallen world and everyone is called to make choices. The problem is many don’t see the need of being on a path that someone else has in mind; even if it’s God’s mind. No amount of rage and abuse is going to defeat the actions of ‘the World’ here on earth.
Righteousness is highly recommended because ignoring it is not without consequence. There will be a reckoning. The religious leaders engineer a plan to get Jesus off the scene. Death is usually a final terrible solution to trouble but he’s back within three days. From that point on the religious leaders keep a low profile. From this Easter event people, even Peter, even Paul find a different way of living their lives. Righteousness makes a difference.
It can make a difference for all of us, even if ‘we have never done anything wrong’ and do go to church. We just need to make better choices each day. And its a daily challenge for ALL of us.