I don’t like to think of an angry or violent Jesus. I prefer the laid back quiet version who just passively wanders the earth bestowing love and healing. But the Bible has Jesus cleansing the temple at least twice. The first time is recorded in John and is as he begins his ministry. Jesus is in Jerusalem for Passover. He walks into the temple and sees animals for sale to be slaughtered for sacrifices right where people should be there repenting of their sins. He doesn’t say those words many of us were taught to associate with the cleansing of the temple about making it a house of prayer. He does refer to himself as the temple and alludes to the fact that there are different portions of reality – the reality we know, the spiritual world we don’t know well enough, and our bodies/ our own lives that are to be our sacred temples, the gateway between the two. During the first bout with removing the money changers and sacrifices from the temple, he does throw the money tables and takes a whip to run the animals out of the areas that were supposed to be just for prayer and for coming to terms with things they had done not in keeping with the Passover. The second time he does this same thing, however less violently, he has almost finished his ministry, and again it was Passover. It is one of the last things he does before he is arrested and taken away to be judged and given the death penalty. After he cleanses the temple the last time he announces, “My house shall be called a house of prayer, and you have made it a den of thieves.” Pretty much everything in the New Testament is allegory to our souls. The temple is our soul. We are supposed to allow it space for attrition but not let anyone take advantage of our feelings of guilt like the money changers were doing the people going into the temple.
When I first started out in Quaker Seminary, I was at a church called Bethesda Friends Meeting in Dunn, NC. The church had been there as a church to hide Coharie or Core Indians after they had done something the Germans found unforgiveable. It was 1782. That church had folded board window coverings that were original to the church. I don’t know how old the church building itself was, but it was at least antebellum. And when I went into the church there was this feeling of sacred space like the window coverings had absorbed the prayers of all the decades and maybe centuries it had stood there. Just taking in the goodness of people’s hearts.
At the last committee meeting I was in, we were talking about how I could help in making this space feel more sacred. My first reaction was to push back because we as Quakers are not supposed to try to do anything sacramental but to let our lives preach. But I thought about that church in Dunn and how sacred it felt. And I know that when we are silent and in prayer our energy is here with us. We feel the energy of the other. Maybe this is a house of prayer and it is very sacred. So my question then as a Quaker isn’t if this space is sacred or not, but shouldn’t all places be? Shouldn’t all places be our places of prayer? And what can we do to make these places of prayer? Or avoid situations where we can’t be prayerful? How can we make our lives, the places in our lives and in our souls feel and be more sacred and make them places of prayer? How does your life become a temple, a place of prayer?