A big, complicated, and audacious Gospel selection from Matthew today. Jesus rips apart the temple market, argues with the temple authorities, curses and causes a fig tree to wither, and tells his amazed disciples to not doubt - have faith and whatever asked in prayer will be received.
This entire account is symbolic and metaphoric of so much, and is one of those Gospel accounts that can cause tremendous heartache. Jesus' temple cleansing is symbolic of his death and resurrection: the old and set ways of doing things will, and must, be changed. The fig tree, bearing no fruit, is symbolic of all those things in life that have started and stopped, tried and been unsuccessful, gifts given that have not been utilized. And the moving of mountains is metaphor of all those teachings Jesus has given in the 20 chapters preceding the one we are reading today. If we take to heart those things Jesus teaches, things that seem impossible, are impossible, become do-able - what we ask for, need, desire will be different than those things we ask for, need or desire now. Our priorities, and understanding of what is important, changes when we truly work toward making God's Kingdom a reality now.
Literalism kills the Gospel, shuts out God from these holy words. These accounts are meant to challenge our perceptions and our understandings of how the world should work, skewing and helping us refocus on that which is truly important.
Copyright 2012, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.