“Knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door. The times, they are a-changin” (literally today!!!)
“Well, I’m pressing on yes, I’m pressing on
Well, I’m pressing on
to the higher calling of my Lord”
If your feet aren’t tapping, your fingers snapping, then, hang on. The offertory yet to come is entitled “Tell me, when we gonna wake up.”
Here we are in the middle of Lent. Finally coming out of a long, cold winter looking for the sun, stretching our bodies to the music that takes us out of our usual places of comfort.
Sometimes we need something to wake us up; something that can perhaps help us get a deeper handle on what our Lenten pilgrimage is meant to be.
Earlier this year I was driving to church on a Sunday Morning, as usual listening to NPR, when the news story broke about Pope Francis. He was on the final leg of a tour in the Philippines. He was getting ready to offer Mass to six million people who were gathering in the midst of a rain storm to hear his words, to receive his blessing. Just before the Mass was to begin he was approached by a 12-year-old girl. She was a homeless child who had been taken in by Catholic Charities. She approached him; speaking into his ear she asked why it was that God allowed children to become prostitutes?
Pope Francis was overwhelmed by her innocence, by her tears, by her question. On the edge of tears himself, he took her into his arms and hugged her for a few moments. Six million Christians erupted with empathic cheer.
Francis threw out his prepared remarks. He told the crowd that there are certain realities in life we can only see through eyes that are cleansed with our tears.
As he spoke I felt my eyes being cleansed.
He called on the crowd “to think, to feel and to do.” He repeated “Think, Feel Do. Follow my namesake St. Francis. He died with empty hands, with empty pockets, but with a very full heart.”
What a moment. I almost had to pull the car to the side of the street. On the way to church listening to NPR, hearing the Gospel being lived out. Worship put into action, empty hands, a full heart.
At a recent conference of the Episcopal Church, I’ve since learned that the Pope has joined with religious leaders from around the world to begin a campaign to defeat human trafficking, bringing a word of hope to the 35 million people around the world who are caught up in human slavery.
Kids who have no passports, have no money of their own, people who are not free.
It starts simply with the innocence of a twelve-year-old girl. Why does God allow children to become prostitutes????
It begins with a priest who does not try to put her aside. He gives her a hug. He joins his tears with hers. He invites the worshipping community to join in. The Anglican Communion/the Episcopal Church is joining with the Catholic Church, with religious people all over the world. Become a force for good. Think, feel, do – empty hands, full hearts.
This is the Jesus that we meet into today’s Gospel. Jesus comes into the temple. It is the midst of Passover. The market outside the temple is filled with people selling animals for sacrifice, exchanging coins for the purchase of those sacrificial offerings. Greed had turned an act of worship into acts of usury. Certain coins were required that could only be had for an additional fee. Animals that had to be perfect in order that a person could make their offering. Those animals came at additional costs. The leaders of worship were taking advantage, using their position, their connection to the temple in ways that abused people.
Jesus is filled with anger. He fashions a corded whip. He drives the money changers, the people of deceit, out of the temple area.
“Stop making my Father’s house a market place.”
“Zeal for your house will consume me….”
Think. Feel. Do
This is not the Jesus we usually meet. We are accustomed to seeing Jesus as teacher, requiting disciples, telling revealing stories, opening insight with parables, healing the sick, casting out demons.
The Jesus we usually see is caring. He has compassion for those he encounters; until we get to the Gospel for today. John’s story about Jesus’s day in the temple. A different Jesus. He is filled with righteous indignation. What should be a good thing –coming to worship; offering sacrifice; poor people, who want to express their love for God, find their actions turned into a transaction taken advantage of, abused for profit.
Sometimes our Christian faith can come across as being passive. Love your neighbor, turn the other cheek, judge not. But, that is not the whole story. Jesus was fully man. He celebrates at the wedding feast. He weeps when his friend Lazarath dies. He is confounded when his own disciples don’t seem to get it. He is angry when worship is violated; when those who would worship are abused, taken advantage of.
It is good for us to have this experience of Jesus. To see his humanity expressed in anger, to know that all of our emotions are part of what it means to be human and faithful people. It gives insight into the creative spirit that is part of who we are. We are invited to listen to that spark within that gives birth to what we can become.
What a unique moment it is to be here. In the middle of the somber time of Lent. To take a break to come together as one congregation, to share in the combinations of music from an American icon.
Bob Dylan is said to have been on a continuous road trip for over 50 years, a reclusive man who has found ways to express his faith in his art, in the music that he writes and performs. He provides an opportunity for our choir to express their art, their talents in rhythms in music that open our eyes to another way to see Jesus. Jesus bringing his zeal to the moment. As the music fades at the end of this service we re-enter the Lenten spirit, moving on toward Palm Sunday, Easter.
Today we are reminded of the spirit of creation that resides in each of us. Think, Feel, Do. Empty our hands, fill our hearts.