Summary: Lent 3: A narrative sermon from the perspective of a seller of doves and pigeons. It is based on the account of Jesus first cleansing of the temple.
[Note: This is a narrative sermon told from the perspective of, Yoseph, a seller of doves and pigeons at the Temple on the day that Jesus came and threw out the sellers and money changers. I put on a ‘costume’ as I changed into the character of Yoseph. The message begins with a brief opening introduction and prayer followed by the story as told by Yoseph.]
Today we meet Yoseph. He lived in the time of Jesus. Yoseph and his wife Miriam lived in Jerusalem, as had their families for many generations. Yoseph will tell us what he saw at the Temple on that day – a day like no other. But first, let’s pray.
[Narrative as told by Yoseph]
The day began like most any other. Before the sun was up – I heard my wife, Miriam, already working. She was preparing our morning meal. I got up and washed as had been my custom since childhood. I went out and up on the roof. The air was crisp – the sky clear. If you’ve been in Jersusalem during the month of Nisan – then you know this. What’s with me? I’m talking to Gentiles… Let me tell you about Nisan. It comes around in what for you westerners is the start of Spring – March and April. It was a lovely Spring day in Jerusalem!
Miriam and I - we are not wealthy by any means. But we are able to survive year after year. We’ve lived in this humble home for many years. It was my father’s house before. And I expect that my children will see many beautiful sunrises from my rooftop in the years to come.
Ahhh - but now isn’t the time to enjoy the day or to spend time in deep thought. I came up here to get the cages ready. Some of the doves and pigeons are still roosting. But some are already beginning to move. Their gentle cooing is almost mesmerizing. After breakfast I have to get my bird cages to the Temple.
Why, you ask? I mentioned the month of Nisan earlier. Nisan is a special month for us Jews. It is the month of our most important festival – Passover. It comes right in the middle of the month – on the fifteenth. And it lasts for a full seven days. People from all over the empire will be here – in Jerusalem, at the Temple – to celebrate this Passover. Most have come from far away and because of this – they haven’t brought their own sacrificial doves, pigeons, lambs or other animals. So they have to buy them. And I’ll be more than happy to sell.
More than that – these visitors will need to exchange their money. Why? I’m glad you asked. You see, Jews think it is sacrilege to have an image of a person on a coin - and these Roman coins have the emperor on them. These can’t be accepted as a Temple offering. So the moneychangers will exchange these foreign coins for shekels – coins that can be freely offered and exchanged here. But this doesn’t come cheap. For changing a Roman coin – a foreigner has to pay the “agio” – a surcharge that will cost half the value of the money. Some call this robbery – but to us it’s just business.
Passover is an important time for us. It will either make my year or break me. The same for all the other sellers and moneychangers. Maybe it’s like your Christmas season where many of your sellers say that a good season of sales makes their whole year. Or maybe like the Superbowl or like those Spring-break cities that I’ve heard so much about. Very profitable – no?
Anyway – selling and changing money at the Temple has been going on for years. I inherited the family business from my parents. Most of the people who work around the Temple – same thing. This is the way that we make a living. The priests and leaders in the temple know about it. What they know? - We pay a part of what we make to the Temple.
So after a morning meal with my wife – I took my birdcages to the temple. I set up as I had for so many years. You have to be there to understand what happens at the Temple. It’s part church, part market and part slaughterhouse. The noise and commotion is amazing. If I hadn’t been doing this all my life – it would be overwhelming.
Ah – but let me tell you about that day. The sales were brisk. The wealthy were buying oxen and sheep. The poor came to buy my doves and pigeons. The moneychangers were doing amazing business. Yes – it seemed as if it would be another good year.