Psalm 84; Ezra 6:1–16; Mark 11:15–19
If you are unaccustomed to the lectionary (again, what is being used this year for the passages), it can seem odd, annoying, and definitely repetitious to see the same Psalm for multiple days. As I, too, am reading it each day, I try to glean something new from it each time. This time I thought of a mess.
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. There is a light rail system there (that was supposed to be for Seattle) called BART. As it was close, I could walk to the BART station and get to many places in the area.
One of the things I didn’t like was all the pigeons. They had found hard to reach (for humans) places to nest and congregate. BART did try to put up barbs to keep them from landing there, but it didn’t really work. So, it could be a hazardous trip to get your ticket or even wait for the train. You had to learn to look on the pavement for the telltale droppings of pigeons so that you could usually avoid being hit.
Even the sparrow found a place in the Temple. If you’ve seen sparrow colonies, they’re not much better than pigeons. The sparrow lays eggs beside the altar.
We read about temple purity laws. They were significant and had severe penalties for violation. The laws were almost impossible to bear. Yet the sparrow found rest and security in the Temple of God.
Jesus cleansed the Temple, not because of sparrow dropping, but because the hearts of humanity had turned from God to gain, and from God’s praise to humanity’s power. Although, if we think about it, if they were selling animals in the temple, it was probably much worse than a few sparrows.
Of course, the Psalmist might be taking some poetic liberty. On the other hand, if you read the Law, the rules almost all apply to people. This means that there may have not been a “purity” concern regarding sparrows in the Temple.
Sometimes our house is a mess. It could be your house. It could be God’s house. Truly, all of us recognize that at least something in our life is not as it should be, and it may be something completely out of our control…such as a sparrow in the Temple.
This shouldn’t discourage us, however. We are called to come to God in good times and bad. We are called to come dirty and clean, with both being relative. Was there something about ritual purity? Yes. However, as Jesus displays through his actions, ritual purity is not necessarily the heart.
- What things/thoughts/so-called “dirtiness” keep you from approaching God?
- How does being ritually pure (usually outside performance) differ from purity of heart regarding our relationship with God? How do we confuse them?
- What “sparrows” are nesting in your house?
Lord, all of Creation praises you. Let us not be distracted from praising you and seeking fellowship with you, no matter what the world throws at us. Amen.