Thursday, June 14th. Mark 11:12-19

On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.


Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written,‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”


And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.  Mark 11:12-19


I remember a woman who had been consumed her whole life by these verses about the fig tree.  She had heard them as a child and they rooted themselves, not in a good or helpful way, in her memory.  Worse, they rooted themselves in her identity.


She was the barren fig tree.  She was the one cursed by Jesus for her failure to bear fruit in her life.  She was a wife.  A mother.  A teacher.  She was a faithful volunteer.  But still she could never get away from that deep-rooted sense of worthlessness that she had carried her entire life.


I’m a pastor, not a psychologist.  As clear as it was to me that there were much more complex things going on inside of her, she came to me to talk only about the fig tree verses.  She felt cursed.


In a not so weird way, I feel equally convicted by Jesus raising a ruckus in the temple.  I still feel convicted by the idea I read earlier this year – that Jesus began a faith movement in Israel, that became an institution in Rome, a culture in Europe, and big business in the United States.  I know that we need money every week in the church.  And we always need, or at least have places for, more money than we receive.  We’re raising money for projects outside of the church every month; at times, every week.


Now I know that Mark didn’t include the fig tree story for the purpose of binding the soul of a woman two thousand years in the future.  And I trust that Jesus understands that our gathering and using money in the church is a far cry from the purchasing of God’s favor that was going on in the temple.


Yet I also can appreciate how these words and actions of Jesus – who wasn’t fooling around and meant everything he said and did – created a spellbound crowd and a fearful power structure.  They still do.


Not to bind us but to free us.


Let us pray:  Dear Lord, forgive us for making the faith about us, for turning your love into a “thing” to be bought and sold and earned and lost.  Forgive us for doing life on our own terms, under our own power, rather than relying on you.  Forgive us for acting like the church is a family business rather than a port in the storm, a hospital for sinners, and a light on a hill.  Bring comfort and healing to those tormented by long ago heard yet misunderstood Bible verses.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


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