Image Description: Two wooden tables and four chairs are turned over. One has a sticker of an American flag on the bottom.
A blessed Table Flipping Monday, y’all.
A few years ago, my friend and colleague Sarah Ross made a suggestion that the Monday of Holy Week ought to be considered Table Flipping Monday. Of course, that’s a pretty humorous title, but Sarah also helped me think about this . . .
During the last week of his life, when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, the very first thing he did was walk into the center of communal, religious life and hold it accountable. He went into the Temple, the most holy place, and was horrified to discover that some were making unjust money as they oppressed the Jewish people in their religious devotion. He turned over the tables and chased out the money changers, quoting Jewish scripture, saying, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made a den of robbers.’”
I want to be careful about how I talk about this story, in large part because throughout history, Holy Week has been an occasion when Christians have oppressed Jews and even caused violence. When I think about this day, I don’t aim to criticize the Temple or the religious heritage of which Jesus was fully a part.
Instead, I want to consider the ways in which my own religious tradition ought to be held accountable. That includes this painful history we have caused our Jewish siblings. And it includes a host of other abuses fully expressed in the present.
Religion can give life and meaning, and it can be twisted as a tool for oppression.
There are a multitude of ways in which tables ought to be flipped over. In fact, accountability and truth telling can be acts of spiritual devotion in and of themselves.
Jesus rages against the oppression and manipulation of others. Today, we need prophets and holy agitators to follow into this calling. I offer my gratitude today for people who hold my tradition and our actions to account.
One of Christianity’s foundational teachings involves a holy leveling – an inverted shift where the marginalized become the most empowered and the most powerful are brought into humility.
But too often, we fall far short of this vision. Today can serve as a day of confession.
May Jesus and a host of others flip the tables.