This homily was preached during an ecumenical worship service at Humboldt Park United Methodist Church on Sunday, April 9, 2017 in advance of the Logan Square Ecumenical Alliance’s 6th annual #OccupyPalmSunday rally. This year’s rally called on the City of Chicago to expand the Welcoming City ordinance and demand reforms to the city’s contract with the Fraternal Order of Police.
Text: Mark 11:1-11, 15-19
“Is it not written: ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers!” The implication is clear: the Temple is the house of God, intended to be open to all people, but a system had sprung up that economically exploited the most vulnerable people. Those who had travelled the farthest. Those with no family connections or personal favors to cash in. Those with no higher authority to whom they could appeal.
We know all about these kinds of systems. The kinds that work one way for locals, but another way for visitors. One way for citizens, but another way for immigrants or refugees. One way for people that look White, another way for people who clearly aren’t. One way for people with extra money, another for people working hard to pay the bills. We know all about these kinds of systems.
We know about systems that will tax your paycheck and in exchange fund schools and hospitals and police departments — but no guarantee that every neighborhood and every community will get the same benefits out of that exchange. Some schools will be well-funded. Some neighborhoods will get level one trauma centers. Some police departments will come when you call 9-1-1.
But some neighbors will never call 9-1-1. Because the moneychangers of this day and age will take their hard-earned income, but in return they get racially profiled, treated with excessive force, or maybe shot 16 times. Some neighbors run drills at home with their children about what to do when there’s a knock at the door. Who to call if Mom or Dad don’t come home from work.
People made the long journey to Jerusalem expecting sanctuary. They were coming to the Temple, after all. Shouldn’t they have been able to expect to be treated with dignity and offered hospitality after coming all that way?
Shouldn’t all people, from every nation, be able to expect to be treated with dignity and offered hospitality however far they’ve traveled? And not just in our sanctuaries, not just in our churches and temples and mosques — but everywhere! Don’t we remember that we are the ones who decided to build a temple to house our God and not the other way around? We wanted to hem God in, define the place where God would reside, where God could be colonized.
But God, who made the heavens and the earth, created all land to be sacred, and all people to be holy, and called all nations to worship God by caring for one another.
So it is time to expand our ideas about sanctuary. We’re not talking about hiding behind our church walls. We’re talking about taking to the streets, showing our holy outrage at the ways we are dehumanizing each other, and ourselves in the process. We’re talking about exchanging a dead legalism for a living, daring faith that risks all for the sake of our common humanity.