Fellow Passengers: This week’s Primary Passage* (Matthew 21:1-17) transports me to the good, bad, and ugly of the Holy Land, where a pale rider mounts an ass and rides to the Temple. The crowd’s hosanna soon turns to hang him high after the high plains drifter turns the tables on the den of robbers who were exploiting the faithful for a fistful of dollars.
The Preacher pulls a length of rawhide out from under his poncho and starts whipping the swindlers into shape, reminding them why the temple was ever built in the first place – to be a simple place of prayer. This mysterious outlaw quickly becomes hero to all who had been banned from the inner sanctum of the house of prayer: the blind and lame and the children, who chanted praise to him as if he were a King come to save the day. These most vulnerable were the ones who needed God’s presence most. They were the ones who prayed for deliverance, for salvation, for healing, for sight. And the place where they thought they could most access that holy presence had become an unholy circus of con artists and gatekeepers.
Holy sites, be they temples or churches, often fall prey to those who want to turn them into something else, who want to restrict access to the wrong kind in order to create a comfortable climate for a classier crowd, so that some phony goods and services can be marketed and traders can turn a buck. Deep down, the traders and marketers and all those who benefit from such a system are afraid of Jesus, afraid of what such a free spirit might do to wreck their game. But as a Stranger once said, It’s what people know about themselves inside that makes ‘em afraid. And that strange Savior Jesus brings grace to all, to the fearful and the vulnerable alike. To some it’s a whip-cracking grace that wreaks havoc and overturns tables of injustice to liberate people from their exploitive lifestyles. To others it’s a healing and nurturing grace that welcomes the excluded folks, bringing them from the margins of life into the center of his embrace. For all of us, it’s the kind of grace that will turn us every which way but loose.
How about you? Where does this Primary Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.