Tenth Sunday after Trinity
July 31, 2016
Old Testament: Ecclesiasticus 1: 1-10
Epistle: I Corinthians 12: 1-11
Gospel: Luke 19: 41-47a
"House of Prayer or Den of Thieves?"
In our Gospel lesson for today, we read of Christ’s entering the Temple in Jerusalem and encountering the money-changers and buyers and sellers of sacrificial animals. The money changers were there to make things easier for all the people visiting from different countries, so they might have proper “temple” money. Also, the sellers of animals were there to make things easier for those visiting the Temple to make their proper sacrificial observances.
Now have you ever been to a ball game or perhaps gone to the airport recently and needed to buy a drink or food? Recently, at the airport, I went to buy a bottle of water – one I can usually get at an over-priced convenience store for $2. The same bottle of water was $5 at the airport. When you have a captive audience, you can charge more for you wares than the market value would normally require.
Likewise, in the ancient temple, the buyers, sellers, and money-changers had no competition for their wares. Most likely, they overcharged and probably even took some of the money for themselves. Regardless, they were using the Temple grounds to draw profit – to get things for themselves.
But the Temple, the preeminent house of prayer in the world, was the place made for men to come and fall before a Holy God, to worship and adore Him, seeking to offer themselves and their sacrifices for His glory, not for what they might gain.
The question then comes to us: Why do we come to Church? Do we see it as our house of prayer, or are we seeking what we can get out of it, making it a “den of thieves”?
Some people come to church for what they can get out of it. For example, they want to “feel good” or “be happy.” Some people think that by coming to church on Sunday they get to take home a “blessing” and their life will be better because of that – Church attendance/worship becomes a tit-for-tat exchange where those in attendance are there to receive goodies.
Worship though is not about what we get, but what we give to our Lord God. He, who created the Universe and who reigns as Lord of All, deserves and demands our complete respect and worship. The function of our communal worship is to come before God and offer Him the glory He is due. We gather to give Him ourselves together in obedience to His call to seek His face. We may leave with joy but that is only because of the grace and mercy of a loving God whose praise provides us its own inherent joy.