Uncategorized

Every Son Is My Son

My head was pounding this afternoon. Learning a new work process can have that effect sometimes. So, I stepped away for a few minutes, put on my headphones, and took a walk around the block. I was listening to a TS10 from a few weeks ago, one that carried a mood of numbness, or maybe even despair. As I turned the corner, listening to these somber sounds, I was struck with a bit or irony.

My head was pounding, but it wasn’t due only to learning this new skill at work. No, my mind was troubled by something far more painful. This morning, I read about the senseless and shameful murder of a 15-year-old boy named Jordan Edwards. A black boy… just like my black boy. Shot by a police officer as the boy sat in the back seat of a car. Shot in the head with a rifle. A smart, athletic, sweet kid… snuffed out like a candle. No reason. No rationale.

My head was pounding… as I thought of the irony of me walking around the block with my hoodie and headphones on. Wondering… if my skin was black, would I be deemed suspicious by my white neighbors, by the police? Thinking about Trayvon Martin wearing his hoodie when he was targeted, armed with a bag of Skittles. And then thinking about the fact that I am (white) privileged enough to not have to worry about that.

My head was pounding as I thought about young Jordan’s family… when I thought about his grieving parents. Their beautiful and brilliant child was destroyed. I considered Nicholas Wolterstorff’s sorrowful Lament for a Son, in which the author lays his heart bare as he grieves the loss of his own son. I thought about my own precious Joshua. That he is not only precious, but he is also black. I thought about the fact that it could have been Joshua Hudgins named in that article instead of Jordan Edwards.

My heart was then pounding.

I am angry. I am grieved. If this was just some isolated event, it would still be sad, but maybe it wouldn’t have ravaged my soul this way. But it’s not an isolated incident. The list of such tragic, horrific stories seems to never end. Parents needlessly grieved. Children needlessly slaughtered. But it’s not just about racially-charged murder. Just this last weekend, a dear friend’s son was subjected to an ignorant, racist slur: “Run back to your slave master.” When my Joshua was three years old, a kid at the playground told him that he doesn’t like “brown people.” Racism is everywhere. It is pervasive.

I can’t say for certain that Jordan Edwards’ murder was racially motivated. But seeing this event in the context of the racism I constantly see around me and the long, never ending list of unarmed, unthreatening black people who have been shot by police over the years, it’s hard to imagine race didn’t have something to do with this.

I want to offer solutions right now. I want to offer hope. But, I feel devoid of solutions and low on hope. I have plenty of sorrow and a fair amount of rage. But more than anything, I am determined to grieve with Jordan’s family and friends. And, I am determined to fight. I will pray like I have never prayed. I will confront the dark heart of racism when I see its ugly head surface. And I will ask God to show me what remnants of racism still live in my fickle heart.

And now my heart is pounding again, because I know there will be another Jordan Edwards, innocently snuffed out like a candle. I pray my son is not the next son to be slaughtered. #everysonismyson

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General Thoughts, Music and Healing

It Might Be Over Soon (But It’s Not Likely)

It doesn’t matter that the album was released seven months ago. Nor, does it matter that I first heard these songs eight months ago at a concert. No matter how many weeks and months pass, all I have to do is start listening to the opening few seconds of 22 (Over Soon), from Bon Iver’s 22, A Million and I’m pulled right back in. I am virtually powerless against its tractor beam. It’s like an invitation back onto a musical and emotional rollercoaster. I have a feeling this dynamic isn’t going away.

 

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Album Releases, Artist Focus

Getting Swampy With Jessie Smith

A couple of years ago, I came across an EP on NoiseTrade from an artist named Jessie Smith. Having been raised on sweet tea and hot, steamy summer days, the southern vibes of Smith’s sound were immediately appealing. I especially connected with the rawness and grit of her single, Secrets in the Hollow. I felt so engaged by the song that I included it on one of Tomme Suab’s weekly TS10  playlists.

Normally, when I share an artist’s music on the TS10, I start following them on social media. For what it’s worth, Smith is a “fun follow” on Twitter; funny, self-deprecating, and honest. Last summer, she tweeted about performing in Wisconsin. I replied back to her, telling her she really ought to get up to Eau Claire next time she’s in this neck of the woods. Thankfully, she’s planning to come up this way in August as she tours the upper midwest promoting her newly released album, Like the Sun.

Like the Sun is more of what drew me to Secrets in the Hollow (which is included on the record). As I mentioned above, having grown up in Dixie, I love the southern soul I hear throughout. That sound is what Smith would call “swampy.” I’ve been curious about that label and recently asked Smith about that as well as other aspects of her music and new release.

EH: Where does the “swampy” vibe come from? What drives that sound for you?

JS: I grew up in the hot, marsh-y, traditional south. Music in that neck of the woods was bendy, dirty, soulful, and used acoustic instruments. It was all about coming together and playing together. Though my immediate family was not musical, all the influences outside of them were there. In college, I tried on many different “styles” of music, but this swampy, messy, soulful thing was always what clicked with me the most. It also fit with my personality. I love the messy, darker life stuff, and I write from that place a good bit. And swampy-sounding music allows me to be the messy-deep chick I am on the inside. 

Image from Jessie Smith’s website

EH: What are your lyrics based on? What inspires them?

JS: I don’t write songs one particular way. The one thread that stays the same, though, is vulnerability. I figured if I’m going to write something, it better at least be real. I am always trying to understand the meaning of things. “Sitting Pretty” is my attempt to understand the culture of money and the pressures around it. My song, “Here With You” is about marriage and what I am trying to understand about love. I also have written songs about my struggles with depression, and “In The Morning” and “Lighting Up The World” shows this. I basically lay myself bare for my songs.

EH: What song on the record is the most meaningful to you?

JS: SUCH a hard one to answer! It’s a tie between two. “Been In The Storm” because it was one of the first songs I had written in my beloved “swampy” style, and it really solidified the theme of my music career. And “Take A Chance On Me” because that one was the first song I wrote that kind of wrote itself, and I still get chills singing it.

EH: How has the album been received thus far?

JS: It is doing well! I had some great album reviews on No Depression and a few other music blogs, and that was a great surprise. My favorite thing has been hearing from people who appreciate my rawness – it’s scary putting yourself out there on a stage, but there’s just no other way to do it, in my opinion, and to see it being well received makes me have hope in the world again, ha.

EH: Do you have any specifics yet on your potential visit to Eau Claire?

JS: I am currently looking to book shows in Eau Claire and surrounding areas for the first week of August. I am already booked to play for Band On The Sand on Crater Island in Brownsville, MN, August 4th and 5th.

You can catch some of her swampy vibe by checking out Like the Sun for yourself. You can stream or buy it by clicking the appropriate links on Smith’s homepage. And, if you’re in Wisconsin or Minnesota, plan to see Smith play live at the event in Brownsville (close to LaCrosse) or in Eau Claire.

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Music and Healing, Poignant Songs

Leon Bridges’ River: An Invitation Into Truth

There was a time, not that long ago, in which I was pretty sure I was the crap. I mean, I was right about everything, knew better than everyone else, and was fairly invincible. At least, that was the lie I put out there about myself. I lived according to that lie. And even though my performance of that role may have been fairly convincing to some, if I was honest with myself, I knew it was a lie. Inwardly, I was a mess.

The older I get, the more I learn about God and myself, the more I embrace that mess. That doesn’t mean I’m satisfied with it. I just recognize it’s the truth. And I try not to pretend so much anymore. The truth is this: I am desperately in need of mercy.

I think that’s why Leon Bridges’ River speaks so deeply to me. In it, I hear a deep desperation. I hear a man coming to an understanding that he is extremely limited and faulty. That he is in need of mercy… of grace… of salvation. Hey Leon, me too. Thanks for sharing this beautiful song. I see it as an invitation for all of us to see ourselves in the protagonist’s story. To stand in his shoes. To recognize our own need.

 

Been traveling these wide roads for so long

My heart’s been far from you

Ten-thousand miles gone

 

Oh, I wanna come near and give ya

Every part of me

But there’s blood on my hands

And my lips aren’t clean

 

In my darkness I remember

Momma’s words reoccur to me

“Surrender to the good Lord

And he’ll wipe your slate clean”

 

Take me to your river

I wanna go

Oh, go on

Take me to your river

I wanna know

 

Tip me in your smooth waters

I go in

As a man with many crimes

Come up for air

As my sins flow down the Jordan

 

Oh, I wanna come near and give ya

Every part of me

But there’s blood on my hands

And my lips aren’t clean

 

Take me to your river

I wanna go

Go on,

Take me to your river

I wanna…

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Uncategorized

Death Gives Way to Life… WORTHY IS THE LAMB

Yep, he was dead. Gone. No heartbeat. No air pumping through his lungs. He was cold and lifeless as he lay there in that tomb. But, what seemed impossible was actually inevitable. He did not stay dead.

Why? Because death could not keep it’s icy grip on him. Death’s bony hand waved the white flag in surrender to the Author of Life. Jesus defeated the grave. And his victory over death paved the way for those of us who trust him to share in that victory.

It’s time to celebrate, my friends! Jesus has risen and he is Lord!

The songs below celebrate the life that could not be held down. I invite you to worship the Lamb with me. WORTHY IS THE LAMB!

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General Thoughts, Music and Healing

A Day of Grief and Tension

Silent Saturday. Jesus is dead. His broken and mangled corpse has been removed from the cross, wrapped up in burial clothes, and sealed up in a cave. There will be no miraculous healing today. No poignant teaching. No confrontations with the religious elite. No, today marks the time in which the world experienced life without Jesus. And for the first time in three years, his closest friends and followers experienced life without Jesus.

Perhaps they had faint memories of him saying something about coming back from the dead. But it seems as if such memories faded in light of what they’d just seen at Golgotha. Jesus, the One to whom they had pinned their hopes, the One to whom they had committed their very lives, who they believed was the Son of God, was dead. Like any other human being subjected to the treatment of the cross, he died. He was gone. It would seem their hope had been extinguished.

The grief must have been overwhelming. Perhaps they felt lost. Destitute. Left wondering how things were allowed to happen the way they did. Again, they likely remembered Jesus’ multiple predictions regarding his suffering and death. But hearing him talk about it and then seeing it or knowing it actually happened is another thing entirely. Now that Jesus has actually been humiliated, tortured, and executed like a common criminal, their worlds have been turned upside down.

Some of them likely were feeling grieved not only by Jesus’ death, but by how they had abandoned him as he faced into the ordeal from the previous day. When the temple guards came to arrest Jesus in Gethsemane, his closest followers ran away. He was left alone and walked through the rest of the events of Thursday night and Friday by himself, isolated from everyone who cared about him. One of his inner circle, Peter, had even verbally denied he knew Jesus at all, not once but three times. And the whole ordeal was initiated by the betrayal of one of his friends. As the disciples sat there on that silent Saturday, maybe they were thinking about how incredibly unjust it was that he willingly endured the shame and pain of the cross for them, in the wake of their infidelity to him.

In hindsight, knowing how this story ends, those of us who know Jesus know that his death and burial is not the finale. We know the cliché: “Sunday’s coming.” We have the great benefit of knowing that Jesus would rise from the dead on Easter Sunday. But, his first disciples did not have that luxury. They were left in the tension of their grief, the knowledge of their own unfaithfulness to Jesus, and, if they were even thinking about the possibility of resurrection, wondering if it could actually happen. In their minds, there had to be great doubt. And so, on that silent Saturday, they were left to their grief and attempts to muster enough faith to believe that it wasn’t all over.

You and I know it wasn’t over. Jesus’ story was still being written. So, we don’t have to sit in that tension today. However, we still have the opportunity to consider the injustice of the event we remember on Good Friday. Jesus, blameless and perfect, took on the humiliation and punishment that was on the docket for me… and for you. He set his will toward suffering the shame, pain, and separation from God that I deserved… that you deserved. Despite our vast infidelity to him, his faithful love drove him to suffer and die to make a way for us to know God.

So, perhaps before we quickly jump into the celebration of Easter Sunday, let’s take a moment to reflect again on the injustice of the cross and what it really means for you and me. Let us consider the great love of Jesus that moved him to suffer and die for unfaithful you and unfaithful me. Let us reflect upon the unfathomable mercy of God on full display as Jesus died on that Roman cross and was laid to rest. Indeed, worthy is the Lamb.

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General Thoughts, Music and Healing

The Injustice of the Cross

I can’t get the sound out of my mind. The forceful clang. The clash of hammer and nail. And as I hear the banging in my mind’s ear, I mumble curse words under my breath. This is wrong. This is just wrong.

He gave himself over to the authorities. He endured mockery, humiliation, and false accusation. He was flogged. And, he was nailed to a cross. This is wrong. This is just wrong.

He did all this, endured all this, suffered all this… for me. It was my sin that led him to the cross. I am responsible for what he went through on that hill outside Jerusalem 2000 years ago. I should have been the one on that cross. This is wrong. This is just wrong.

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us… God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God…

Thank you, Jesus. WORTHY IS THE LAMB.


The playlist below is loosely based on the “Stations of the Cross.” If you would like to know more about this tradition, click here. I invite you to put on some headphones, shut out the rest of the world for a bit, and engage with the moods, flow, and emotion of this set of songs/pieces. As you listen, consider what Jesus willingly and courageously endured for you and me.

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General Thoughts, Music and Healing

The Heart of Jesus’ Courage

When I was in college in the mid-90s, I discovered the wonder of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar for the first time. It had always been a bit taboo because of some serious doctrinal issues. Regardless, once I began watching the 1973 movie adaptation, I was enthralled. The music is funky, some of the individual vocals are amazing, and the creators’ take on the last week of Jesus’ life was pretty intriguing.

For me, the penultimate moment in Jesus Christ Superstar happens when Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane with his disciples. This particular part of the movie incorporates the three elements mentioned above: funky music, incredible vocals (Ted Neeley’s voice, especially when he belts out the “Why?!”… still gives me chills), and “interesting” doctrine. Take a moment and watch the video below:

Jesus Christ Superstar‘s version of Jesus knows he is heading toward suffering and death and he is struggling with this reality. Now, as compelling and emotive as that scene may be, that ain’t the real Jesus. In this scene, the identity crisis Jesus seems to be having throughout the movie comes to a head: “I’m not as sure as when we started.” When pleading with God to change the plan, he leans on how well he has performed in his role: “Could you ask as much from any other man?” But the real Jesus knew he was not just “any other man.” And he was certain of his mission that night in Gethsemane 2000 years ago.

However, the largest divergence between Ted Neeley’s Jesus and the real Jesus is his attitude toward God the Father. Superstar‘s Jesus is defiant, blaming the Father for everything. He sings of finishing what he started and then his attitude noticeably changes and he accusingly alters his statement to “what you started.” This defiant spirit may make for compelling drama, but it is a far cry from how that evening in Gethsemane actually played out.

As Jesus looks ahead to the cross on the night he was betrayed, the Gospel of Mark records the following (Mark 14:32-34):

They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

About the only thing doctrinally correct in Superstar‘s “Gethsemane” is the deep emotional struggle Jesus experienced that night. The real Jesus felt that struggle too. He was “deeply troubled and distressed.” The following words from Jesus pierce my heart: “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.” I’ve tasted a glimpse of such grief before. It was almost unbearable at times, but nothing compared to what Jesus was experiencing that night. But, in response to that almost debilitating grief, Jesus does not turn to defiance.

Instead of getting angry with his Father, Jesus is honest with him about how he feels. He shares his heart with his Father, asking if there is any other way to accomplish his mission. Is the cross really necessary? The picture I see here is one of intimacy between Son and Father. Theirs is a relationship of deep trust. Jesus knows he can bare his heart. While we don’t know what the Father was thinking or may have said to him in those moments, my guess is that he grieved with his Son. He is not the taskmaster holding “all the cards,” standing back unaffected, pulling puppet strings. He is a loving Father who shares deep intimacy with Jesus.

It’s in the context of this intimacy, this deep love, that Jesus determines: “Not my will, but yours be done.” Jesus knew he would suffer and die, but then he also knew he would take up life once again. But in that moment, with betrayal, humiliation, suffering, and death nipping at his heels, he was feeling through the reality of what was to come. No human being can ever truly stand in his shoes and feel what he was feeling in that moment, but I can imagine it would be hard to see what’s supposed to happen on Sunday when your Friday looked like his would. I think it would be natural for trust to be challenged in that moment. Sheez, my trust has been shaken in the face of much lesser adversity.

But Jesus, standing on the foundation of his intimacy and experience with his Father, acquiesces to his Father’s will. And he doesn’t do so in some kind of backhanded “I guess you can have it your way” manner. No, the Jesus I see in Gethsemane, according to the Gospels, actually wants to do what his Father wants him to do. If his Father wants him to die on our behalf, to take on all of our sinful baggage, then Jesus wants to die on our behalf and take on our sin. Such is the seamlessness between Jesus’ heart and his Father’s heart.

I hope to experience more and more of that seamlessness with God’s heart. When I  consider what Jesus was willing to endure based on his intimacy with his Father, it makes my heart ache for such intimacy. My prayer (for both you and me), is that, no matter what our circumstances are, no matter if we feel great or our souls are being crushed, we will find the closeness with God that lends itself to deep trust in him.

And, as we look forward to Good Friday, I am grateful that the real Jesus was willing to take the penalty for all my sin. His willingness to endure the cross is what affords you and me the opportunity to not only know God, but to experience deep intimacy with him, the kind of intimacy that leads to deep trust.

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General Thoughts, Music and Healing

Being the “Amen” to Jesus’ Prayer

I’ve always been an idealist. As a child, I was told  I would grow out of it, but as it turns out, that wasn’t the case (at least not yet). Recently, I took the StrengthsFinder assessment from Gallup, and the results only confirm that orientation… “strategic”, “ideation”, “futurist”… No wonder I get discontent easily. My heart is always longing for things to be better, to be the best they can be.

Even so, like everyone else, my senses can be dulled and my vision of the ideal can be diluted. It’s kind of like how a pitcher in baseball will intentionally throw balls that are high for the batter, just to change the batter’s line of sight. That way, the pitcher can throw a pitch that’s lower in the strike zone to the hitter and the hitter will think it’s too low to hit. The hitter’s perspective on the strike zone has changed and he or she cannot clearly discern when a pitch is a strike or a ball.

This happens to me on a regular basis. Life throws me some high heat and I lose sight of the strike zone. When disappointments come my way consistently enough, if I am not vigilant, I will lose focus on the ideal or the goal. I think this happens to all of us from time to time. When it does, we are in need of calibration. We need our vision reset to the standard. My hope is, as you read this, our vision will become more aligned with Jesus’ vision.

On the night before Jesus was executed, he shared a meal with his disciples. In that context, he prayed for them and for all the disciples who would come after them. Now, before I mention any more about that prayer, let’s be reminded of the context. Jesus is in the middle of a very intense week. He entered Jerusalem to the praise of people who wanted him to be their political liberator and leader, people who would soon be disappointed. He wept over the fickle hearts of those people. He violently confronted the ethnocentric money-changing and animal sales practices in the Temple. More importantly, he knew where the week was taking him. He was about to be betrayed, humiliated, tortured, and executed.

It’s in the context of all these significant and emotive events, surrounded by his closest followers, that Jesus prays about a variety of things. But there is one element of his prayer I specifically want to hone in on in this moment. These words are recorded in the Gospel of John:

I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me… May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.

“I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one…” Church friends, let’s let that sink in for just a moment. Theologians and pastors will tell you that Jesus and his Father have lived eternally in perfect harmony with each other. Jesus’ words and actions, as described in the Gospels, bolster that claim. He was always about his Father’s business, seeking do only his Father’s will, speaking only what he heard from His Father. That relationship is typified by oneness.

In this moment, as Jesus is looking forward to the cross, one of the most urgent issues on his heart is unity in his church. He longs for his followers to be one, to love each other so fiercely that we would lay down our lives for each other. He longs for us to experience real harmony. And why? Based on my understanding of Jesus, I am sure at least part of that longing is based purely on his love for us. He wants us to experience real deep connection with each other as he has experienced such with his Father. In and of itself, such a connection is rewarding and a worthy end. However, there is another compelling reason: “May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me…”

“…that the world will know…” Jesus regards unity among his people as such a big deal that the world will take notice. In fact, such unity would be convincing evidence of who Jesus is to an unbelieving world. It doesn’t take much consideration to recognize why unity within the church would be such a powerful force of conviction. It’s all about those fickle hearts of ours.

Human beings will divide over anything… political persuasion, border walls, ethnic background, denominational background, gender,  sports team allegiances… this list could go on and on. It’s not that we shouldn’t be able to disagree with one another. Certainly, diversity of opinion on non-essential things is good, and frankly, almost everything is non-essential. It’s not about that, it’s about letting our disagreements divide us. It’s about letting such things create “us vs. them” dynamics. Our selfish natures and fickle hearts lead us that way on a regular basis, to our shame.

I think this is why Jesus prays for unity. He knows that “perfect unity” in his church would be unique and miraculous, dare I say even holy. It would be set apart from anything the world has ever experienced. As such, this kind of oneness would be an incredible testimony of who Jesus is to those who don’t yet trust him.

In recent weeks and months, I’ve been considering these things quite a bit. I’ve come to a conclusion, one based on my own very limited human understanding, but I believe it is valid nonetheless. Here it is: Perhaps the largest barrier to people coming to Jesus is the lack of unity in the church. Ouch. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” and yet our lack of oneness hinders the world from experiencing that love. And when it comes right down to it, we don’t have unity because we don’t really love each other very well, at least not enough to disagree without separating from each other. Just like the rest of our human compadres, we divide over any and every little thing that comes between us.

Yes, this is heavy, friends. I’m sorry… It’s heavy for me personally, because the truth is I’m part of the problem. I have let non-essential things come between me and my brothers and sisters. And I believe the reason I’ve done this is because I’ve lost sight of the strike zone. I’ve seen (and contributed to) so many dividing curveballs and sliders over the years that a fastball right down the middle is out of my scope. I haven’t seen things clearly and I’ve lost sight of Jesus’ vision for his people. I need calibration. We need calibration.

My hope for you and me, today, is that we will join with Jesus in his prayer from the night he was betrayed. Let us pray for unity along with him. May we go humbly before the Father and plead with him that we may experience the oneness he experiences with Jesus. And once we have said our “Amen”, let us then become that “Amen”. Let us live out the vision Jesus casted for real unity in his church. Let us learn how to disagree well, and love each other fiercely and self-sacrificially, honoring the One who sacrificed himself for us.

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General Thoughts, Music and Healing

Turning Tables and Attitudes

Jesus was on fire. He was downright angry. His anger was directed at the commerce taking place in the Temple during what we call Holy Week. Jesus had arrived in Jerusalem just shortly before this moment to great fanfare and excitement. But just moments later, he was weeping as he considered the hard hearts of that city’s inhabitants. He knew they had missed the point of his arrival. And now, he storms the Temple grounds with a whip and ferocious zeal, virtually decimating the currency exchanges and animal markets that had set up camp there.

In the first century, Jewish worship was oriented around the Temple in Jerusalem. It was the hub for prayer, sacrifice, and connection with God. The Jews traditionally saw the Temple as God’s house, meaning, in their minds, God actually resided within the confines of the Temple to some extent. The Temple was “holy ground”.

But, there was something those folks missed about the Temple. Access to God in the Temple was not intended only for Jews. There was a section of the grounds devoted solely to those of non-Jewish descent who desired to worship God. It was known as the Court of the Gentiles. From the very beginning of Temple-centric worship, God carved out a place for all people, regardless of their ethnicity, to connect with him at his Temple. Unfortunately, by the first century, God’s chosen people, the Jews, had forgotten or ignored God’s heart for non-Jews.

We know this because the exchanges and markets Jesus railed against were set up in the Court of the Gentiles. The exchanges were set up for Jews who had made pilgrimage to the Temple from other lands and brought with them foreign currency. The sales were to facilitate animal sacrifices by those same people as well as local Jews. And it is likely those moneychangers and animal salesmen were corrupt. But, aside from any corruption, the fact that they had set up shop in the only space in the Temple grounds which Gentiles could enter seems to be the real issue. As Jesus turned over tables, he proclaimed, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves,” according to the Gospel of Mark.

My guess is that the practice of selling animals for sacrifice and offering currency exchange likely started out from noble intentions. Like most good things, selfishness can get in the way and corrupt. And, sometimes we can be distracted by something seemingly good to the point in which it becomes more important than what is essential. I believe this is what happened to the Jews. And this “missing of the point” is was led them to become the object of Jesus’ righteous anger that day.

Perhaps the saddest part of the story for me is how they responded to his confrontation. Jesus spoke truth to them. He loved the people of Jerusalem enough to confront them with the truth of their egregious behavior. Repentance would have been the appropriate response. However, their hearts just got harder. And it is very likely that this event, Jesus’ confrontation of this offense to God, was a flashpoint moment in the transformation of attitudes toward Jesus that week.

I have compassion for those folks. Certainly, I hate that they were shutting non-Jews out of communion with God in order to conduct business. But, frankly, like them, I am a professional at missing the point. I too can get incredibly distracted by something which seems good, but is only diverting my attention from what matters most. More poignantly for me, I can relate to their hard-hearted response to Jesus. Honestly, I’ve responded in the same way.

Jesus loves you and me enough to point out where we are missing the point (or the mark). He longs for us to embrace his way, so we can experience real peace and a better life. When he tries to correct our courses, he does so from that longing, knowing the more our lives are aligned with the way he built them to be lived, the more we will experience such peace and life. The question for you and me, in this moment, is will we listen to him? Will we trust his heart for us and align ourselves with him? Peace and life await on the other side of that choice.

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