They say, there’s no place like home. If only we knew what our home, Port Elizabeth was called! Once the Mayor and the Ministers have agreed, maybe the Mlungu’s will learn to pronounce Gqeberha?
It’s clearly karma for making second language English speakers struggle for decades with Fort Beaufort!
Yet, despite the name, there’s no place like home, as young lockdowners from all over the planet discovered as they returned to their parental nests.
If you are a Christian in the Anglo-Catholic tradition, this Sunday you will hear the gospel reading of how Jesus went to his Father’s House and wrecked the place!
John 2:12-22 records that Jesus went to the temple to celebrate the passover, but found a lucrative business in operation. Jews from all over the known world dreamt of Passover, “next year in Jerusalem”, and like Muslims to the Haj, or Christians to the Camino de Santiago, they pilgrimaged to Jerusalem.
The business of the temple had two profit centres – foreign exchange, to convert the pilgrims’ currency into Tyrian shekels (the only currency permitted in the temple, because it had no engraved image on it), and the second business arm – the sale of bulls, sheep and pigeons (for worshippers on a tight budget).
It is estimated that in Jesus’ day the entire economy of Jerusalem was based on the sacrificial throughput of the temple.
Finding forex stalls set up in the only space where non-Jews (Gentiles) were allowed to stand during rituals so enraged the inclusive Jesus, he chased the livestock out of the court and upended the workstations of the money changers.
“Do not make my fathers house a place of business”, he shouted. “Father’s house” is the conventional translation of “Oikon tou Patros” and “place of business” translates “emporiou” (the English emporium), so “shopping mall”, would a be a fair translation.
Jesus had clearly lost faith in the temple, which is why when interrogated by the Jews about his permit to do what he did, he said “Tear down this temple and I will build it up in three days”. John records how the disciples later realised Jesus meant his body and not the building, which suggests the home of God is no longer a building. The temple is wherever our heart is.
There’s no way to make money from that, Jesus’ priority was people not profits, so religious businessmen killed him.
Interestingly the next time Jesus speaks about his parent’s house it’s in John 14, where he says “In my Father’s house there are many rooms”. Again a little digging reveals that the phrase “many rooms or monai pollai” in Greek can also read “multiple abidings”.
So it’s not a building, and not a business, neither an exclusive, mono-cultural, single room; but a diverse, multiversal home of tolerance and hospitality.
Jesus also says in the very next chapter 15, “meinate en emoi”, Greek for, “Stay here with me.”
That’s ultimate hospitality. Welcome home everyone!
No exclusive identity, nor tongue testing language skills required!