Blessed… A House of Prayer and a Hideout for Crooks

Then Jesus went into the temple and threw out all those who were selling and buying there. He pushed over the tables used for currency exchange and the chairs of those who sold doves. He said to them, “It’s written, My house will be called a house of prayer. But you’ve made it a hideout for crooks.” People who were blind and lame came to Jesus in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and legal experts saw the amazing things he was doing and the children shouting in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were angry. They said to Jesus, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” “Yes,” he answered. “Haven’t you ever read, From the mouths of babies and infants you’ve arranged praise for yourself? Then he left them and went out of the city to Bethany and spent the night there (Matthew 21:12-17, Common English Bible).

One day, early in the morning, while serving a former church, the church secretary called me. Vandals and/or thieves had broken into the building over night. It appeared that there was more vandalism damage than things that were missing. Still, it was rather unsettling.

When I arrived at the office and first walked into my study, the first thing I noticed was, the guitar I kept in the corner was gone. The second thing I noticed was, my computer monitor had been overturned.

An interior office door had been kicked in but nothing appeared to be missing. When we walked to the sanctuary, we found the lead guitar player’s guitar sitting on a few steps. They left the guitar but stole the case. We walked to the parlor and found a television was stolen. Down in the preschool at the other end of the building, most of the damage was vandalism. It was in the nature of shaving cream the vandals found in a supply closet that was sprayed all over the office and hallways.

Without question, things could have been worse. No one was hurt. Not too much damage was done and not too much was stolen. My guitar nor the guitar player’s case were ever recovered.

For a short period of time, our church was a haven, we didn’t know it and would never have allowed it had we known, but it was a haven for thieves and vandals. Thankfully they were long gone before the arrival of anyone on the staff.

At the same time as this happened, our congregation was in the middle of a prayer vigil. People were coming to the church during the day and evening to pray and still others would pray at night. It was also close to Easter time. When I read this passage back then, the irony of a hideout for thieves and a house for prayer all in the same building.

While I know Jesus meant that the priests and the Pharisees were cheating the people or allowing the people to be cheated. Jesus wanted those same people to be able to come to the temple to pray. Because we are all sinners, even if we remove the money changers from the equation, there were still thieves and other sinners occupying the temple.

We are no different today. Our churches are filled with paradox as we have thieves and sinners coming to our worship centers to pray. But friends, I don’t think that would bother Jesus as much as it bothers some of us. Jesus’ complaint wasn’t against your average sinner who was working, praying and trying to find change. Jesus complained about those who would take advantage of a situation. If we are on our knees, it is difficult to take advantage of a brother or sister.

Does your prayer focus ever target the changes that need to be made in you? Which will your church be, a hideout for thieves or a place of recovery and prayer for sinners? The answer is up to us.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Author:

"The Pastor Ponders" is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. Bishop and I live in Sweeny, Texas where I am the pastor of First United Methodist Church. I have served here for the past two years. For the past 27 years I have served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

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