My homily for the 3rd Sunday of Lent

Third Sunday of Lent 2018 (c)

What stands out about this gospel is, I suspect, Jesus making some kind of whip and driving out all those who sold cattle and sheep and pigeons in the Temple, and turning over money changers tables and his shouting “take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market”. And yet this isn’t all that we heard in the gospel, later Jesus predicts his death and makes a most important statement that in three days he will rise again; which is much more important than the expulsion of the Temple, but it’s what stands out for us.

If there is one incident in the whole of the new testament that we can identify with Jesus this is it: when he loses his temper. We can’t identify with his fasting for forty days and forty nights, his miracle working and healing, but we can identitfy with what comes across as an apparent weakness; a human failing: to lose one’s temper. Who hasn’t lost their temper? And we can argue that if Jesus can lose his temper then why can’t I. I think anger must be one of the most common of human failings.

Some people get angry for reasons I consider stupid. Take football supporters for example; they get angry when their team loses. At worst they can fight with the opposing fans. I remember once, years ago when I was a teenager, getting punched because I said something degrogatory about Wimbledon Football Club; and this is before they became professional for goodness sake! But Jesus wasn’t getting angry about football, but rather about abuse, and in particular abuse of the Temple, “my Father’s Temple” he calls it. People were making money, taking advantage of the crowds, exploiting the situation, and paying little or no respect to the sacredness of the place they were in. All these marketeers were interested in was money; money had become their God.

To get angry is not good, but there are things we should get angry about: for example, we should get angry about corruption; it’s unjust, it’s greed, it’s wrong, and it can lead to all sorts of bad things. Look at Genfell Tower, just a few miles away from us, that went up in flames so quickly, costing the lives of 72 people. We know that it need not have happened had the right kind of cladding been used; someone was trying to make money. Money again.

I can get quite angry too about sunday trading. There is no need for it. For most of my life I have lived without sunday trading, and everyone managed. Except in few circumstances there is no need for sunday trading. It is just greed; big businesses trying to make even more money. Sunday should be a day of rest; people shouldn’t have to go to work on a day of rest. We christians are supposed to dedicate Sunday to God and to our families; to put our feet up, enjoy lunch together. The hour we spend in church should be the central point of our day.

I also get slightly angry about how sport has almost taken over sunday mornings for some families; I am mad keen on sport myself, but I think there’s something wrong about our priorities when football or rugby becomes the most important thing the family does on a Sunday morning. When I was in Preston, the famous football club, Preston North End, played football on Good Friday which began at 3pm. Now that made me angry. We are a christian nation and yet too often we let big business dictate to our society.

So Jesus losing his temper in the Temple can have echoes in our own time. The Temple was a place of worship, not a place for making money. I think Jesus would be angry with what’s happening today; when we’ve allowed Sunday to become a day like any other. As Christians we should not accept Sunday trading. Sunday is for us a day of rest and a day to be with the family, one day in the week when God and Church take centre stage. Now where’s my whip…?

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