Sermons

Summary: The problem in America is greed. Things haven’t changed!

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. John 2:13 - 22 (NRSVA)

Many things drive us to do the things we do; money is one of the strongest motivators, and it usually tends towards evil or greed.

A very old rich skinflint in declining health finally gets serious about his eternal state. He goes to the local pastor and asks what he can do to account for the fact that he’s never given God much time or given the church a dime. The pastor just looks at him with that knowing expression that says, "Well, you finally got around to it, eh?" Convicted, the old miser finally says, "OK...how about if I give the church every cent I’ve got? Will that do it; will that guarantee I’ll go to heaven when I die – if I give my entire fortune to you?" The Pastor paused a moment, then replied, "Well, it’s worth a try!" [1]

The abuse of position in order to get money has always been big news – in church or out! The former Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich tried to sell former Senator Obama’s place in the U.S. Senate. It didn’t work!

The name Bernard Maddoff is big news right now. His “Ponzi” scheme promised double-digit returns to investors. His smiling face was trusted as he convinced folks to give him their life savings. He would take their money, but the only investing he did was in yachts, villas and private jets for himself.

He would pay off 15-20% to the first investor and then brag to the next prospective investor – meanwhile he had 80-85% in his pocket. His scam/swindle totals somewhere near $50 billion.

Another familiar name is Stanford Kurland. He ran Countrywide Mortgage through 2006. Then, after the mortgage crisis began (for which Kurland may be partially responsible) he opened up PennyMac, a company that says they will help bail out the mortgage industry by buying the troubled mortgages at a reduced rate to help the homeowners. Such a philanthropist!

So, let’s get this straight – Kurland, over a 27-year career helps Countrywide (with irresponsible lending practices), become the big bubble that will cripple the mortgage industry and become possibly the biggest factor in the American/worldwide economic crises. He bails-out just before the bubble bursts, showing up a year later to ride in on his white horse named PennyMac, buying up the putrid mortgages he created, at pennies on the dollar to save us. Wow…what a guy!

On CNN this week a professor of economics at the business school of Southern California University said of Kurland, and the whole affair, “It’s completely legal…it just doesn’t pass the smell test”.

• Some have said Maddoff, et al, are just the tip of the iceberg in corporate America.

• Is the picture in focus? Can you hear me yet?

It’s not hard to figure out, in the wake of these accounts, why Americans do not go to church any more. They have switched religions; they now attend the Temple of Greed!

The temple in Jerusalem was not a whole lot different. It was like Spring Break at Daytona Beach, Florida…a tourist trap! What Jesus saw was the ancient equivalent of carpetbaggers, trying to turn a quick profit at the expense of the poor who had come to worship.

How did they do it? The Temple tax was important. Roman coins had Caesar’s picture on it. A coin with an image of the Emperor’s face was forbidden in the Temple. Roman coins had to be exchanged for Jewish Temple script; it was big business, and subject to abuse.

Whenever any system is in place, the lower nature in humankind will find a way to abuse the system for a profit. The money changers were making a “killing” so-to-speak. They were raking-in huge profits in the name of religion, and driving the poor into the ground.

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