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Coins Poured Out
Christlike Anger on Deacon Sunday?
Context Is Everything
No matter how we read the Bible, context is everything. In the context of the gospels, John’s gospel is eccentric. Before you hear today’s reading, I want you to know that Matthew, Mark and Luke place this story at the end of Jesus’ public ministry, after what we call Palm Sunday. Matthew, Mark and Luke focus on the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth, a low christology, the human aspects of Jesus. Not so in John oddball gospel. If we used John to stage a Christmas Pageant, there would be no shepherd, no manger, no Joseph, no Mary. It would be more like Marvel or Star Trek franchise. A John-based Christmas pageant would be the coolest. Ever.
Origin Story: Logos
Picture it: the void of space. A being from another realm called Logos yearns to enter this realm. Logos, which means Word, echoes ancient Earth stories or creation and prophecy. The Word has always been. The Word finally breaks into this realm as Light, the source of all life, a life that began in another realm, a life that cannot end. And Logos—this Word and Light—becomes a red-blooded-flesh-based Earth creature and offers the people of Earth the realization of something bigger than their human circumstances. Through the Word, we share in the one life that exceeds time and space. And the people sense this is true, but they have no hard proof. The Light, The Word requires their faith in goodness of the Universe.
This life began in an explosion of Light, and in Light our existence in this realm will be completed. The Life offered by the Light exceeds our comprehension. So, while still here, you might as well love. While still here, live your life. And that’s how I read Christ’s origin story in John’s gospel. Everything else in John stems from this high christology focusing on the divine nature God-in-human-form, the Christ.
There is one more important lens to put on before interpreting the Fourth Gospel. At the center of the book, we encounter what many consider the thesis of John’s gospel. Jesus says:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
With that, and with Christ the Logos, Christ the Word, Christ the Light, Christ the Life we are ready to take in Chapter 2. With our new lenses on, Jesus turning water to wine is more than a party trick. (Thieves steal. Jesus gives life Live while you can.) This is carpe diem Jesus. We’re with you. Rock on! But, then there’s this.
John 2:13-22 Passover was near, and [being Jewish] Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, Jesus drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The [religious authorities] then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The [authorities] then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But Jesus was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that Jesus had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
John is referencing a prophecy.
Zechariah 14 On that day [the Big Day, when God rules over all earthly concerns] there shall be inscribed on the bells of horses, ‘Holy to God.’ …and every cooking-pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be sacred…not just the temple cooking pots…so that all…may come and use them… And there shall no longer be a marketplace in the house of the Lord…on that Day.
Christ the Reformer
Did you catch that to do God’s will, we will consider animals holy, sacred—an environmental message embedded in the text! John has Jesus driving out those animals, saving them from the sacrificial altar. Notice also that Jesus doesn’t play around. He doesn’t say let’s see if they can do better next week. No, he tears down the whole system. Traditions and customs are driven from the temple. Jesus is demanding the people (that’s us) do something new, something that requires faith.
Christ the Activist
Jesus challenges the economic system his religion considered holy. And this is how our Lord begins his public ministry, stating his purpose plainly. Happy party Jesus is now angry as hell, furious at the immorality of the marketplace. He knocks over the merchant’s counters and pours out their coins, drives them out of God’s house, like a caring parent scolding a child who willfully resists easy-to-follow rules like Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not have any other gods before me. Thou shalt not steal. Thieves come to steal from the poor, kill the animals and destroy the planet, but I come, says Christ, for them to have life abundantly. Like a good parent, God’s anger is the flip-side of God’s desire for us to know love.
Christ the Social Justice Warrior
Jesus was angry at the bilking of God’s people at the entrance of the temple. They had to convert their money into temple currency. They had to purchase sacrifices, when God tells us the sacrifice God wants is a contrite heart, but the merchants misled them into thinking that if they purchased these commodities, God would love them more. Nobody can buy their way into God’s favor, but people can sell their ways out of God’s favor.
This story takes place in the temple’s Court of the Gentiles, a place of meeting, where anybody—clean or unclean—could come and experience community, a place of embrace, but when they started charging for it, Jesus charged in. We prayed about that in our confession. There are still Christian faith communities that put limits on how far those they deem unclean or less than can come into God’s presence. There are Presbyterian churches that would never have a female head of staff let alone the likes of me. 
Re-engineering the Broken Economy
The Jews who dwelt in Roman-occupied Jerusalem were kept poor by design. The Empire needed them poor. The temple economy made them even poorer. Jesus demands a moral economy. Thieves steal, kill and destroy. Jesus wants to repair our economy of thievery.
I can get worked up over this. What makes you angry? I am allowed to watch the PBS News Hour until I have two outbursts. Then, Lou turns the channel. I never get to watch very long. I asked my Bible study what makes them angry. There was not much response at first. Could it be it’s because we’re at church that we assume emotions like righteous indignation are not okay?
Our late pastor Dr. Jim Emerson told me in his final days, “Don’t let the church hem you in with the expectation that you should always be at peace and prayer. Why do people expect that of their pastors? That’s not how it works.” Dr. Emerson had come through many trials thanks to Word. And here’s a paradox. I never knew anyone that felt, to me, more peaceful and prayerful than him. He thought he wasn’t.
Deacon Sunday’s Call to Action
What coins do you feel called to pour out? What tables in our life need overturning? Don’t go around feeling sick and tired of being sick and tired. Don’t suffer loneliness. You can find a way to give back, in a big or a small way, to the work of repairing this world. The task is not ours to finish but neither is it ours to neglect.
Today, during coffee hour in Calvin Hall, meet your Board of Deacons. Presbyterians are the oddballs of Reformed Tradition in that we ordain deacons and elders with the anointing that pastors receive. The Deacons are leaders in the struggle to find meaning in this world. They offer opportunities for prayer, community-building and social action. And yes, they can also deliver a mean casserole.
The Deacons invite you to engage with their ministries through The Three Pillars of our ministry: Faith, Community and Action. Our Deacon co-moderators are Kei Fujimura and Lisa Bottom. If you find God best through peace and prayer, see Deacon Kathy Smolen. If you find God by doing something fun and relational, see Deacon Anne MacKenzie. If you want to flip some tables and do justice, see Deacon Tripp Mickle. Each pillar has a table in Calvin Hall offering two ways for you to get involved. That’s six ways total.
Christian ministry is overwhelming only if we go it alone. Together, we claim the power of the Book of John by taking Jesus at his Word, by walking in the Light of God, and by relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. You can make a difference. We began the service with the Prayer of St. Francis. Hear now a modern version by Franciscan theologian, Daniel Horan.
Lord, make me an instrument of your holy discomfort
Where there is privilege, let me sow equity,
Where there is violence, let me work for peace,
Where there is division, let me seek unity,
Where there is racism, let me pursue racial justice,
Where there is environmental degradation, let me care for creation,
Where there is political discord, let me seek the common good,
And where there is economic inequality, let me seek justice.
O God of Justice, grant that I may not so much seek comfort,
as to welcome hard truths,
To be heard, as to listen,
To hold power, as to empower,
To seek control, as to follow,
For it is in humility, that we learn,
It is in seeking forgiveness, that we are reconciled,
And it is in dying to self, that we are born to new life. Amen.
 The Oxford definition of logos: the Word of God, or principle of divine reason and creative order, identified in the Gospel of John with the second person of the Trinity incarnate in Jesus Christ.
 The style John 1 is reminiscent of the monologue of the goddess Wisdom in Proverbs 8, yet another account of what happened at the time of Creation. Perhaps the writer of John takes inspiration from Proverbs’ chokmah, and transforms her into the male logos. The literary styles are closely-related.
 Buried i the book of Proverbs, chapter 8, the story of Lady Wisdom (Chochmat) written in an Egyptian style, tells a similar tale as John 1, well worth examining.
 Pádraig Ó Tuama’s poetic refrain: “You might as well love, You might as well love, You might as well love…”
 “Chirstology” by David Scloss, Patheos, August 14, 2022, accessed online at < https://www.patheos.com/blogs/summacatholic/2022/08/christology/> (March 20, 2023)
 John 10:10
 NRSV, altered to decrease the problematic language in John that is often used to justify anti-Semitism. Reminder: Jesus was Jewish and did not speak English.
 Zechariah 14:20-21
 My amalgam of several translations
 I am an out gay man.
 Join the fight for a Moral Economy with PICO California’s local chapter, Faith in Action Bay Area. If you are interested, please contact me at VictorFloyd@CalPres.org. For more information visit: < http://www.picocalifornia.org/campaigns>
 But that’s another sermon.
 Fannie Lou Hamer, speech, December 20, 1964, accessed online at < https://awpc.cattcenter.iastate.edu/2019/08/09/im-sick-and-tired-of-being-sick-and-tired-dec-20-1964/>
 Tikkun olam or repairing of the world, is a central concept in judaism. See < https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/tikkun-olam-repairing-the-world/>
 Rabbi Tarfon,, accessed online at < https://www.sefaria.org/Pirkei_Avot.2.16?lang=bi>
 Thank you forever, Arnold Low.
 To contact the Board of Deacons, please write to the co-moderators at KeiFujimura@CalPres.org and LisaBottom@CalPres.org. Thanks!
 “Peace Prayer for the Privileged” by Daniel P. Horan, OFM, October 98, 2020, accessed online at <https://medium.com/@DanielHoran/peace-prayer-for-the-privileged-363b94578aeb>
The [Jewish Passover] was near, and [since he was Jewish] Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, Jesus drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The [Temple authorities intervened] then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The [religious leaders] then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But Jesus was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that Jesus had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.
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