Rowan Williams, a former Archbishop of Canterbury has rightly pointed us to the dangers in manufacturing religion. In one of his sermons on Lent, Archbishop Williams said, in “Every Lent, we ought to be looking at the various ways in which we get involved in manufacturing the gods that suit us. Every Lent is a time to get that little bit further beyond the idolatry, that constantly keeps us prisoner and draws us back to the old world. When Jesus has cleared out the temple, when he has thrown out those people involved in manufacturing religion, there he stands with his friends in a great silence and a great space. And he says: this is the space where all people may feel at home; this is a space large enough for all to come because this is where God lives.”
Manufacturing in this context is not the production of goods through the use of labour, machine, tools, and chemical or biological processing or formulation. Manufacturing Christianity using the words of Archbishop Williams involve manufacturing “a marketplace” with the gods that suit us with empty promises of money, sex, and power. Life is about worship and there is no neutrality. You either worship God in response to His praise with gratitude, reverence, and holy fear or worship gods of things cherished above God.
In clearing the temple, Jesus stopped range of human activities, especially activities of the temple priests who have turned the temple to ‘a marketplace’ thereby promoting gods of money, power and greed above the true God. They turned God’s house of Prayer to ‘a marketplace,’ thereby manufacturing their own religion. According to Paul Blackham, the Lord God had made a specific prediction about the coming of the Messiah to the Temple through prophet Malachi. The messenger had been sent and now, the Messenger of the covenant – the Lord Himself visited His Temple (Jn 2). He had come to stop the priest and people involved in manufacturing religion and to purge away the corruption and renew all things. Lent reminds us of the time for renewal and restoration.
In their priestly duties, the temple priests had probably thought that they were devoted to the Temple, ‘but their own apathetic and inactive response to the money-changers showed them how little they really did care.’ Commandments shaped- Christianity is not based just on general moral law, but as instruction to gospel-people. For example, the first commandment is built on the fact that the people have experience redemption. The second commandment assumes that the Lord is their God and that He is jealous of their love and faith. The third commandment not only assumes that they know what His Name is ‘The Lord or YAHWEH,’ but that they know how to treat this Name properly. The fourth commandment is not simply about ‘having a day off,’ but keeping a day holy ‘to the Lord.’
Manufacturing Christianity, turning a Temple to ‘a Marketplace’ is based on a widespread tendency, in contrast to the attitude of the Reformers, to deny that the Commandments have any real applicability to the Christian. The argument by many even today is that the New Commandment, “that you love one another, even as I have loved you” has made the commandments an expression of that which has passed away. You do not need the Holy Spirit for manufacturing Christianity into ‘a marketplace’ just as Neville Isdell, a Chairman of Coca-Cola who retired in 2009 did not need the Holy Spirit to make Coca- Cola ‘the most recognizable brand in the world, one that extends across languages, cultures, and boundaries.’
Isdell accepted the position of CEO of Coca-Cola in 2004 when the company was in disarray; its business declining, it stock down, and its brand tarnished by a series of controversial incidents.’ |In the book he co-authored with David Beasley, Inside Coca-Cola: A CEO’s Life Story of Building the World’s Most Popular Brand, by 2009, Coca-Cola’s fortunes had return dramatically for the better. Manufacturing Christianity as ‘a marketplace’ resonates with the on-going commercials and manufacturing church. There is a story of a little girl ‘taken to the church for the first time. As she was leaving with her parents, the pastor asked how she had liked the Mass, “I liked the music,” she replied, “but the commercial was too long.” Manufacturing Christianity as ‘a marketplace’ is always shaped by sinful and immoral commercials of selling and buying, turning the grace of God to lasciviousness.
In contrast, we need the Holy Spirit for a Commandment-Shaped Christianity and Temple. The arms of flesh will always fail in manufacturing Christianity as ‘a marketplace.’ Lent warns us on the danger to create our concepts of God and Jesus Christ on the basis of passing idealisms or ‘let the artist, who need not be a Christian, create them for us by his painting or sculpture.’ Are you leading or just looking at the various ways in which you can get involved in manufacturing the gods that suit you, your church, or nations? Archbishop Williams reminds us on the essence of every Lent as ‘a time to get that little bit further beyond the idolatry, that constantly keeps us prisoner and draws us back to the old world.’ Lent is a time to stop manufacturing Christianity. Do not wait until the judgement day when Jesus will not only cleared out the temple, throw out those people involved in manufacturing religion and judge the unrepentant sinners. Lent assures us a great space, mansion, ‘large enough for all to come because this is where God lives.’