Thought for the day – Tuesday 16 June

Thought for the day - Tuesday 16 June

Dear All

We’ve all heard and used the phrase ‘the tables have turned’, or ‘turning the tables’ and we all know what it means, but where does the saying come from originally? It crossed my mind that it might have something to do with Jesus in the temple overturning the tables of the money-changers and merchants, but this is quite wide of the mark. The saying has nothing at all to do with Jesus in the temple, this, however, is what we are considering in our thoughts for today. Why did Jesus do what he did in this ‘table tantrum’?

The origins of ‘turning the tables’ has more to do with peoples’ position at the table, rather than the table itself. The table never moved, those seated at the table did in a manner of speaking. It refers in short, for a change of position as was a custom and practice in some17th century board games. Some dinner party etiquette required that no one be left out of the conversation so each person had to engage in conversation with a different person at some point. We still do this today, we arrange the seating eg boy, girl, boy, girl etc. ‘Tough luck’ if you get landed next to…….

To get some idea of why he did what he did we need to see his actions in context. Throughout Jesus’ life, as we read in the gospels, he often quoted from his ‘bible’ much as we might today. Jesus’ understanding and interpretation of the Jewish writings (The Old Testament) sometimes led to heated exchanges with the Pharisees and teachers of the law. He would in his general conversation with ordinary folk speak about the teachings of the Law and the Prophets and what they meant.

They would discuss and question their meaning and application for everyday living. For example, what you could, and could not do ‘legally’ on the Sabbath, was often a contentious point for debate. Jesus upset many of the religious authorities because of his ‘liberal’ views. He healed and his disciples ‘worked’ on the Sabbath.

At the time of the Passover when the city was crowded with people from all regions, what he saw in the temple provoked his actions and his stern words. Jesus’ words to the money changers were direct quotations from Isaiah and Jeremiah.

The temple in Jerusalem was a large ‘complex’. It had various courts eg the court of women, the court of men, and the court of the gentiles. It may have been in the court of the gentiles that the table-turning scene occurred. It was a hotbed of commerce, profiteering, extortion and certainly not what it should have been. This is what disturbed Jesus. The place of prayer and refuge was being used for dodgy religious enterprise.

When we are eventually able to return to our church buildings they will be ready for us to continue where we left off so to speak. Perhaps though, our return from ‘exile’ will mean that we have to do things differently. What will not be different, however, is our purpose. For many who use our buildings, they are no more than convenient premises for their leisure and/or business activities. For some, the buildings are a centre of community and for us, the church is primarily a place of worship.

In consideration of all who use our buildings, it is a place of welcome and acceptance, a place where the gospel is preached and heard, a place where the rites of passage are performed and celebrated. The church is a worshipping community within a community. In our absence from our church buildings, it is right to contemplate our return and re-emphasise that it is first and foremost a place of worship. The worship of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit and all are welcome in his house.

Today I ask you to think/meditate on these things.

God bless you!

Jim

JBoag@churchofscotland.org.uk

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 my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

JEREMIAH 7:11

Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord.

MARK 11: 15-18

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

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