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Stop Making my Father’s House a Marketplace: the gospel in a neo-liberal culture

March 10, 2015

(homiletical input for Cafe Church last Sunday)

John 2:13-22 “Stop making my Father’s house a market place”


This phrase stands out for me…


Today’s service is going to be a reflection together on this thing Jesus called the

‘marketplace’… What is that?


On the other hand we have what Jesus called ‘my Father’s house’ – the temple. But in the way he describes it you hear that word ABBA (Father) and Jesus conception of God’s grace.


So on the one hand you have this ‘marketplace’ and on the other hand this oikos (Greek for house) of God’s grace… Interesting from the Greek word for house (oikos) we get words like: economy, ecumenical (church), and ecology…. I wonder if all of these might in some sense be houses of God’s grace. But don’t let’s get ahead of ourselves.

“Don’t make this oikos of God into a Marketplace”


Q What do you think of when I say the word ‘market place’?


Farmer’s Market … Supermarket … Stock Market … different connotations.


What kind of idea of market place might Jesus have in mind when he is concerned that the temple is becoming a ‘market place’?

What is a marketplace?

Here’s my attempt at an informal definition

 A place where we go to get something we want and we pay for it and we leave. No one is really personally involved (or at least they don’t have to be). No one really loses anything, or gives anything away. It is all comfortable exchanges between people who keep their distance from each other and get out of it what they want.

Are markets a bad thing? Should we never trade?


Perhaps Jesus is saying that we should divide our life into two parts – the market part and the temple part…the money part and the church part. Is that what he has been saying?


I don’t think so. To understand this we need to see Jesus attitude to the temple in the rest of his life. For Jews the Temple is the centre of their religion… it is the place where the divine and the human intersect – the sacred meeting place.


Jesus has been a offering a radical alternative to the temple for some time. He has been going around the streets of Israel dramatically declaring forgiveness (by-passing the role of the temple). As Tom Wright suggests it’s like someone going round Dunedin streets issuing passports and drivers licences on their own authority… It helps you understand why the man got himself crucified.


Jesus has been taking God out of the temple and into everyday life (not separating the market from the temple) … He has been letting God change the marketplace of everyday life rather than the Market determine God.


Jesus sees the opposite happening in the temple of his day … Not just that God is being kept in the temple (in a separate part of life) … but that in the temple God is becoming a commodity.


You can’t sell God! You can’t market God! Is Jesus message.


So the Jews are outraged… How dare you challenge the temple practices! What sign do you have to prove your authority?


The sign that authorises his critique of the temple is his crucifixion and resurrection. The sign that verifies his right to critique the temple assumes that his own life/body in its crucifixion and resurrection is a new ‘temple’ (the place of the intersection of divine and human).


“Destroy this temple/body and I will raise it again in three days”


Jesus suggests that his body is the true temple! (place of divine/human intersection) and his life is the true life (for us)!


His body which will be killed…. is the true temple.


In his body… Jesus doesn’t sell God… he gives God away… Or better God gives           God away – in the middle of everyday life, politics, history, economics


In other words… through his body… through his death and resurrection God intersects with our every day lives and effects the marketplace exchanges of life… our economy… our ecumenism… our ecology.


Q: Any comments/responses?


Jesus lives out the life of Abba… Jesus brings the ‘house of Grace’ into our everyday lives… and that’s where we come slap bang up against this thing he calls the marketplace


Q: Where in your life do you find yourself influenced by ‘market’ thinking?

see above definition of market [on screen]


Q: How does it challenge your spirituality and your sense of God’s grace?


Examples for discussion follow-up

· Do I think if I live a good life God will reward that?

· Neo-liberal economics – market must control all things

· ‘I didn’t get much out of it’ after a service

(what do you expect, some kind of religious supermarket)

· We can’t deal with global warming cause it will challenge our lifestyle too much it will ruin our economy – our growth – the market controls the natural world.

· Perhaps we should have more feel-good sermons and bouncier music to attract more people to church, to market ourselves or God better

· Is the church a business?


If Jesus is to be believed, none of our life can be lived as if it were an isolated exchange between individuals for the sake of our self-interest – such a life is not being lived ‘in the Father’s house’.


By the death and resurrection of Jesus the Father’s house has ‘hit the street’.


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