Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. John Forbis, OHC
Feast of The Dedication The Monastery Church, October 4, 2016
This wonderful church that has been part of the prayer life of this Order for over a hundred years. And we are to give thanks for the fellowship of those who have worshiped here for all of those years including now. We can think of this structure as a safe place to find God and be filled with God’s joy and peace, but we would be in denial if we didn’t recognize that right at the doorway of this place there is the threat of injustice, exploitation and wide divisions between races, between the haves and the have—nots, and other discriminations against those who are the other, due to gender, sexual orientation, beliefs and simply those who experience life differently from ourselves.
The Church is to be a place of vigilance and perhaps even the first line of defense against the moneychangers, whose only goal is to gather as much and make as much profit as they can at the expense of many, to block the entrance for the other to enter and be filled with God’s joy and peace. The symbol that this building represents is sometimes a space that confronts us. If we are truly praying and seeking to find God here, we may have to face and become sensitized to such discomfort and astonishment before we are filled with God’s joy and peace. There is not a more appropriate day to remember this than on this Feast of the Anniversary of the Dedication of this Church.
When Jesus enters the Temple after entering the city of Jerusalem riding on a colt and causing enough turmoil in the city, the first group he seems to zero in on are those who are exploiting people during a religious ritual in what is possibly called the Gentile court. This is the entrance where the foreigners and “outsiders” are to enter, but the moneychangers are blocking their way. Jesus’ anger is directed at them, certainly, but maybe even more directed at the authorities of the Temple who allow this kind of travesty to take place.
Perhaps their motives are to keep the Gentiles, those who are unclean, out of the Temple. His turning over the money-changers’ tables clears the way for the “impurities” to flood into the Temple. But in and with Christ, there are no “impurities”, no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, no man or woman, no black or white, gay or straight, rich or poor but all have a place in this “house of worship”, not only in fellowship but as one.
Christ makes the mountains level and rough ways smooth. He is the great leveler and any kind of duality has no more place here. In this “House of Prayer”, there is only room for unity, not injustices or exploitation.
In this “House of Prayer”, Christ is also the great leveler within each of us and a challenge against our own dualities, our own prejudices and unjust attitudes against others or ourselves. Otherwise, each of our Temples, either in the midst of our community or within ourselves, are just another “den of robbers” and therefore nothing to celebrate at all.
The way is now clear for all of us to enter, to have access to God’s abundance and love. And if we are to receive this abundance and love fully, we are to become mere children, and yet no less than children of God, heirs of God’s promise. However, that fact demands a certain responsibility. The Church is to be alive in us and through us. The Church is to be the flesh and bones of who we are as God’s own. We become the very stones of this Church itself.
The heart of the Church is to beat with our heart and still beats with the hearts of all the children that have entered here to worship and to find God. Its voice of praise has to be our voice of praise, even to have the audacity to say, Hosanna, to the Son of David to the threats of all who act unjustly, who exploit, who block the way for some to enter. And at the very foundation, the cornerstone of this Church, must be Christ, where our heart ultimately beats with his heart because we are filled with his life through the Spirit which breathes with us, through us and in us.
So we act, not with guile, insincerity, envy or slander, but with the righteousness, mercy and justice to clear the way and even drive out all that blocks some of the doorways so that all who desire to seek God may find him here in these walls, amongst all of us. It may even mean having more audacity to knock down tables and disrupt business as usual.
This action may be out of our comfort zones, but we can also thank God that, depending upon our motivations, such a deed, is what can keep us alive as a Church in Christ and with Christ, no matter what the consequences might be. For Christ, the consequences, of course, led to the cross, and yet he is still alive within us and we are alive through him and in him, particularly if we are to follow him. Amen.