By Rob Tomes
Questions! When my daughter was younger she was always asking the question, “Why?” Why is the sky blue? Why do we pray before dinner? Why are we going to Oma’s house? Why? Why? Why? She was inquisitive and wanted to know Why things were the way they were. I never minded answering these questions, because it really brought some clarity to the world around her.
Recently, I received the following question about our Sacred Grounds café that serves food and drinks at our West Lawn campus.
Regarding the cafe’ – Do you charge for the food and drinks served there? If so, how does that comply with Christ at the Temple when he removed the vendors?
“It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” – Matthew 21:12-13
So, by using my daughter’s example and inquisitive format I paraphrased this person’s question to the following, “Why does GT Church charge money for items at the church when Jesus said his house should be called a house of prayer?”
Here was my response to this great question:
“The passage of scripture that you notate from Matthew is also documented in Luke 19:45-47 and Mark 11:15-18.
In all three of these passages, Jesus quotes a portion of the passage from Isaiah 56:7. “These I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on the altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
In this passage of Isaiah, the “these” that he is referring to are the non-Jews or “Gentiles” that believe in God and want to worship Him. In Isaiah 56 God is saying that he will honor these gentiles, their sacrifices, and their prayers will be accepted. He goes on to say in Isaiah 56:4-5 that God will give the gentiles a place within the walls of the temple to worship.
Fast forward 700 years to Jesus’ life and the scripture that is quoted above in Matthew. Jesus is getting ready to lay his life down for the whole world and he arrives in Jerusalem and the temple mount to see the “vendors, money changers, and those selling doves, etc.” The place in the temple where these vendors were doing these things was located in the “outer courts” or better known as the “Court of the Gentiles.” This area was set up to be the place that the gentiles could worship God since they were not allowed to go any further into the temple. Jesus was upset by the money changers and vendors because they were inhibiting the gentiles from coming to worship God.
I believe that it would be sinful for us at GT to setup an area in the worship center that forced people to pay an admittance fee to come into the church to worship God. This would be wrong and I would agree with you that we have made the worship area a “den of robbers.” However, we do not require people to pay anything to come to GT and we do not disallow people to worship God by having coffee and resources for sale in the atrium of the church. Everyone is free to come into the church to worship God, whether they are believers, seekers, atheist, agnostics, our doors are open to all that want to know the Truth.” (end of response)
Albert Einstein once said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning.” I applaud those that have the courage to ask what sometimes can seem to be a hard or tough question. I encourage all that have questions about anything we do as a church to let us know what those questions are. This type of open dialogue encourages a healthy environment of trust and respect for each other. For those that are not willing to ask the questions my answer is simple, “Why?”
What is your biggest pet-peeve?
Question 1: Read Matthew 21:1-17
Does Jesus flipping tables fit your image of Him? Why or why not?
Why do you think Jesus got so angry over that particular situation?
In this passage, we can see that God can be both good and angry at the same time. Can you think of a time where it would be comforting for you to know that?
Have you ever turned a blind eye to an injustice in front of you? Looking back, how did that make you feel?
Have you ever had a “table flipped” in your life where things were just turned upside down all the sudden? What happened?
What “table” in your life needs to be disrupted so that it can be replaced with God’s best for you?
For further study and insight on this passage of scripture, check out this great commentary from Blue Letter Bible: https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Mar/Mar_11.cfm
Let’s join together in praying for Berks! Let’s turn this week’s prayer theme on its head and ask God not to bind something negative, but to pull us together as a united people. Sometimes this is messy. When God brings people together, there are a lot of different personalities and preferences present. While it may be even be painful to be bound together as we bare one another’s burdens, it is also life-giving to us as individuals and a community. This is why we pray for God to ‘hold US together, even if it tears ME apart.’ May God turn our ME into a WE that builds His kingdom here in Berks & the world.