Thursday after Ash Wednesday
And Jesus entered the temple of God and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. [Jesus] said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you make it a den of robbers.” And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. (Matthew 21:12-14)
It would be tempting for us to read the account of Jesus cleansing the temple and give thanks that we are not like them! Although we receive offerings each week in worship, we are not buying and selling in the church, and we are certainly not making salvation available for purchase! And yet, is the church—our congregations—fulfilling God’s will for His people? Is the church a place of prayer and worship? Are the blind and lame being healed? Or do our congregations sometimes become something other than what God intends?
Sadly, congregations and church-bodies do lose their way. Pastors, lay leaders and members often forget that God’s house is to be a place of prayer, praise and thanksgiving, where people are set free, healed and restored by Jesus Christ, God incarnate, truly present in Word and Sacrament. What then becomes the focus, when we lose our focus on God dwelling with us full of grace and truth?
Too many congregations are still preoccupied with the church as an institution—focused mainly on paying the bills, maintaining the furnace and air conditioner, having monthly fellowship activities, making sure people keep the cozy, family feeling. These are not the main things in the Body of Christ. Neither is power, control, pushing your agenda or getting what you want! We may not be buying and selling salvation in our congregations, but all too often we spend too much time fussing and fighting over who’s in charge, who gets their way, who should be running the church! Congregations caught up in tension, conflict and fighting are almost always losing members and in decline—because that is not what God intends for the Body of Christ!
Lent is, above all, a time of honest, sincere, heartfelt reflection on our current reality, aimed at repentance and renewal as we prepare for our observance of Holy Week and Easter. This is important for us as individual Christians, as well as for congregations. Just as each follower of Jesus asks, “Am I fulfilling God’s will in my life?”, each congregation might be asking, “Are we fulfilling God’s will for us in our life together? Is the Word of God central in our congregation? Are we a place of healing and care, or are we a place of pain and conflict?” By God’s grace, Lent can be a time of reorientation and renewal!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us be people of love, care and healing—and let our congregations be places of prayer, praise and thanksgiving! Amen.
Lenten Response: Pray for healing and encouragement for all in your congregation.
Video Devotional: From Ashes to Easter
Additional Daily Readings: Genesis 32; Psalm 42; Matthew 21:1–17
Weekly Reading: http://bit.ly/2DgeswJ
Today’s devotion was written by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism.