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Everyone welcome…Overturn the tables

Joanne Cox-Darling

There’s an ancient story told about the best of people, who one day walked into the temple grounds and lost his temper. It’s a story of a past time, where worship was divided between the honest, the holy, the holier than thou and the holy of holies. This particular hot Palestinian day, the streets were filled with people all coming together – some to declare this stranger as a King; some had come to receive the healing that they had heard so much about; and some had come to silence the matter for good. One nail at a time.

So why, when the people were gathered, when the songs were being sung, when the scriptures were being fulfilled, and when everything seemed to be so right…did it all go so wrong.

Why did Jesus, the best of people, but the stranger in the midst, make a scene, cause a stir, create havoc. And what on earth does a Biblical Account of civil unrest, teach us about welcome?

12-14 Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants. He quoted this text:

My house was designated a house of prayer;

You have made it a hangout for thieves.

Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them.

Am I welcome, Jesus?

Shouted from the strewn tables.

Shekels shaken to the floor.

As I reach to pick up my thirty pieces of silver

Is it me you are reaching out towards.

I may not be the most honest, I may have bent the rules

But you don’t know my backstory,

The people who rely on me to be here.

And they don’t notice the corners I cut. It’s my cut afterall.

As my table is overturned

My life, like my livelihood, laid bare before you,

You overturn my tables so that I can turn over my life.

For if I am welcome – with my corrupt hands and my creative view of maths

Then I have some work to do…as do you

Am I welcome, Jesus?

I’ve paid them all I can.

I’ve nothing left to give you,

I don’t have enough, they said.

I can’t go any further, I’ve reached the end of the line.

But I need you. I have nowhere else to go.

There’s a sickness I am living with, and only you can help

But I can’t get any closer

I don’t have what they say I need. But that’s my point, really.

I need what lies within the walls I can’t get through.

As the tables are overturned

I see the cracks begin to show.

The walls are only as paper thin as the regulations printed therein.

I need you to be close

And yet you came closer still – in ways I never imagined, never hoped for, never dreamed.

The healing that came later was an added gift

For what you taught me with your welcome was that I was enough.

Even then.

Even now.

I was. I am enough.

Am I welcome Jesus?

I’m trying to keep it together

Discipline is the answer

For the rabble and the chaos, the questions and the dramas and the toddlers screams.

I know the scriptures and the rule books, and I’ve written editions for times such as this.

Prayer is to be done right and reverently, richly and beautifully.

Everything in its right place and in its right time.

And hopefully in tune.

Those that get it right, who have born with the right rights,

Those with privilege and knowledge and those who’ve done the intellectual mileage

Can pass on through and meet their God

Until you tear the curtain in two.

As the tables are overturned

more chaos enters my world

The order of disorder cannot be reordered by rule.

You crack the whip, and look right at me

Knowing that everything I have lived my life for is crushed beyond recognition.

And you still welcome the broken fragments of my ordered, disciplined life

And you pick up the shards of my shattered bureaucracy

And you call me free.

No longer enslaved, but a child of your grace.

No longer confined, but released to live the scriptures I had held so tightly.

Your welcome breaks my heart.

I needed the shackles to come off somehow.

And then you spoke my name

Whispered over the cacophony,

Calling me to life again and again and again and again

Am I welcome Jesus?

I’m not from around here.

I found this place on google maps, and trip advisor said it was good for the view.

I don’t fit in this place, Jesus.

I don’t know how to pray.

There’s an app called 365, I downloaded the other day.

Everyone is looking at me,

As if I’m dressed to kill,

But all I want is a selfie and the chance to change the world.

There’s a pandemic happening, if you haven’t heard. It’s got a bit of news.

So I understand if you’re a bit busy right now.

I don’t really know what to say or where to stand.

I don’t really know what I stand for anymore.

So overturn the tables

Take away my shame

Grace me with your grace

And help me move beyond this game

Help me see that you take all the broken pieces of my heart

That you treasure all my questions and that my jokes might make you laugh

Shape my vision of the future as something I want to grow up to see

Let me grow up.

Or at least let my kids grow up knowing that it’s Ok to hug a stranger on the park bench because they look sad, and that the haribos in their pocket, slightly sticky to the touch, are able to be offered open handed– a communion of community – which rings into the heavens and brings delight in the gift because they too noticed that broken hearts need both them and you in order to be fixed.

Overturn the tables

Again and again

When religion gets all pompous

Or when the bible study rhymes

Overturn the tables

And may mercy

And justice

And love

And compassion

Roll down like rivers

Through streets and through temples; into churches and chapels – open or closed, for now or for good.

Overturn the tables

And welcome me in

And then help me to see all the other’s you’ve let in

Let me dance on the tables

Let me sing into the night

Let me notice your glory and all of your might

Overturn the tables

Sweep away the rot

Tear down the curtain

And let your holiness reign.

For everyone is welcome

Online. Or not.