Episcopal Diocese of Rochester
Joy in Christ, a way of life

Lent 3 - Cleansing the Temple



Watch video


"Cleansing a culture is much more difficult than cleansing a Temple,

but the process is the same: to see the corruption and to stand against it."


Corruption is an interesting thing, because rarely do people set out to be corrupt. They set out with good purpose, with good intentions, and then they get caught in the exigencies of their circumstances, and find themselves in a place they never intended to be – and they can’t escape. They rationalize, normalize, and even legalize the corruption so that it simply becomes part of the culture in which they live.

That’s what happened in the Temple. The Law of Moses required that every faithful Jew make a pilgrimage to the Temple and to sacrifice an unblemished animal, perhaps a firstborn animal. While they were there, the pilgrims needed to pay the Temple tax that supported the Temple. But not everyone raised animals, and so they needed to buy one. And the Jews could not accept coins with the Emperor’s likeness on them, so they needed to be exchanged for different coins. And pretty soon there was an enormous business of buying and selling the finest animals and exchanging coins. A little profit needed to be made. The tax collectors took their cut. Suddenly, the Temple court was more big business than a place of worship and everyone was caught up in it. You couldn’t make your pilgrimage and stay clean. It is estimated by some scholars that something like 40% of the wealth of Israel passed through the Temple precincts.


So Jesus overthrew it, not because the people were bad, but because the purpose had been corrupted into something it had never been intended to be.


We in America don’t have money changers in the Temple, but we do have systemic racism. We fought the Civil War to end slavery, but we never dug out the root of racism. It took one hundred years to pass the Civil Rights Act. And now the new Jim Crow is reinforcing the systemic inequities that oppress people of color and which many white folks can’t even see. Because we’re all part of it. Because we’re caught up in whether we want to be or not. Because white folks benefit from it even if we don’t intend to. It’s simply part of our culture. It’s normal. It’s sometimes legal. And it’s wrong.


Cleansing a culture is much more difficult than cleansing a Temple, but the process is the same: to see the corruption and to stand against it. What does it mean that God’s House of Prayer belongs to all people? What does it mean that Beloved Community is unity across difference? What can we study so that we can see the systemic racism of our culture and stand against it, so that we can love everyone as God loves us? Perhaps some repentance and a deep dive into the teachings of Jesus is just where we need to begin. A list of resources is attached to the text of this video. I invite you to reflect with me about how we benefit from the corruption of our society.




 Becoming Beloved Community Webpage
Sacred Ground Curriculum



DiAngelo, Robin. (2018) White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk About Race. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.


Headlee, Celeste (2021) Speaking of Race: Why Everybody Needs to Talk About Racism – and How to Do It. Harper Wave.


Kendi, Ibram X. (2019) How to Be an Antiracist. New York, NY: One World.

McGhee, Heather. (2021) The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together. New York, NY: One World