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John 2:13-22

Earlier this week there was a story trending out of Scotland. A Willy Wonka-themed immersive experience pop-up attracted the attention of hundreds of families bringing their kids for some fun. Except there was something a little off when families arrived. The advertising promised enormous splashes of colour, candy, and revelry much like the Wonka books and films. Instead people who bought tickets instead were greeted with a mostly empty warehouse and a handful of props, a couple actors hired at the last minute for the gig, and a bouncy castle. It was the kind of thing you might expect would be offered for free at a local rec centre. Not something people paid significant money for tickets and drove potentially long distances to visit. Photos of the dystopian flop began to flood the internet. And with it screenshots of the online registration page for the event which were AI-generated. Even the words used in the advertising were AI-generated, had not been proofread. The event was described on one registration page as “Enchering Entertainment, Catgacating, live performances, catchy tuns, exarserdray lollipops, a paradise of sweet teats.”It sounds like copy that was written by a robot that gotten drunk. People have also started asking questions about those who bought tickets after visiting this website. How were they so easily fooled?


Some people call examples like this Willy Wonka scam a new phenomena of late capitalism. It’s the effects of a market economy that becomes disconnected from serving people. Just a new way to take people’s money. Others may argue that ever increasing bank fees are also a scam, although perfectly legal. Finding ways to skim something off the top without adding any new value.

          To be sure there have been shoddy business practices for a long time, much of it perfectly legal. Take for example the story in today’s gospel reading in which Jesus approaches the temple marketplace. There was a need in the Temple for people to sell animals for sacrifice and others to serve as money changers. There was a requirement for Jewish people to visit the Temple in Jerusalem at least once a year. The people working in the market outside the Temple helped the local economy function. Although there were also stories of excessive fees, in another sense they were fulfilling a needed role. —>

As Christians we need to be careful to avoid anti-Semitic interpretations of this text, which is why we will save critique primarily for our own context today.

          Stan Duncan of the Jubilee Justice Blog reminds us that Jesus doesn’t come to reform the Temple practices. His act of flipping over the tables questions the validity of the economy itself. It calls into question religious and social structures. Thinking about our own context today, the Wonka immersive experience is an obvious example of a scam. But much of our economy is structured in ways that make it very hard to unravel. We want to shift to a green economy while realizing how reliant we’ve become on extractive industries in BC and Alberta on which our daily lives depend. These same industries bind us to the climate crisis and we often feel at a loss how to unravel this mess.

          Increasingly our governments are unable to regulate increasingly large companies. And instead the companies end up being the ones who direct regulation. Take for example Meta or Facebook when the federal government in Canada tried to make them compensate Canadian  news sources, Facebook simply turned news sharing off for all Canadians. American friends can share Canadian news stories, but we can’t. We can’t even click no the links they post. A multinational company is able to turn off the taps of communication within our borders. And it’s perfectly legal.

          What does it look like for Jesus to be flipping over tables in times like these? While we can’t say for sure, we do know that like the original disciples Jesus makes us uncomfortable. They would have felt uneasy around a Jesus who was out of bounds, out of control, not playing by the rules. We may wonder don’t people need to earn a living? Not everyone gets to decide who they work for and if they agree with the ethics of a company in order to care for their family. And yet Jesus reminds us that we don’t have to sit by passively as powers lord it over us.

          We know we’re descendants of a long line of table flippers starting with Jesus and extending to Martin Luther. In the Reformation Luther flipped over tables when he argued people didn’t need the Pope or church hierarchy in order to pray to God. Indulgences were a scam, bilking people of what little money they had through a theology of fear.

          Closer to home Louis Riel flipped tables by declaring himself the head of the church and leading a political rebellion on behalf of the Métis people in what is today Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Someone Boston pointed towards during his talk on Thursday. We livestreamed and recorded it. You should listen to it. Canadian history is only now getting corrected to credit Riel as a leader worthy of being praised.

Riel recognized that the political autonomy of Métis people was being erased and their land stolen by the Canadian government.

          As for what we interpret Jesus’ table flipping today, it’s less important that we all agree on precise examples of what this looks like. What’s more important is that together we recognize the Holy Spirit remains active and alive in our midst. The Spirit continues dreaming dreams not only within prophets recognized on a larger stage. Rather the Spirit is dreaming dreams within each one of us. And perhaps it’s not our personality literally to flip tables. But whether we are advocating for refugees, providing community here at Church of the Cross or partner organizations like the Shelbourne Community Kitchen, we are offering a buffer against the crushing wheels of a world that is indifferent to our neighbours’ survival. As a church we remind one another that the people we walk around sleeping outside downtown Victoria are more than an inconvenience. That they are humans who deserve to have their basic needs met. That everyone deserves a life of flourishing. Not that we as a congregation can do all this ourselves. But that the Holy Spirit is enlivening us in 2024 Year of Our Lord to do this work together.

          Broad View Untied down the street is participating. St. Luke’s across the street is participating. Our friends at Multifaith Centre Uvic. Our friends at the BC Synod and National church of the ELCIC. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. Together we are listening to that call of the Spirit. Together we are rising up.

          Last week we heard the story of Izzy who helped unionize the first Starbucks in Victoria and North America. Seeking better working conditions and compensation for people who were working on the frontlines in the middle of the pandemic.

          Keep in mind that in our gospel reading, Jesus was also ministering to a people who were reeling from trauma from the destruction of the Temple. First Century Jewish people were trying to grasp why God would let their Temple be destroyed. Today as we turn the corner of the pandemic and find ourselves dealing with increasing cost of living and climate crisis, we also need comfort and care. God’s grace is at the heart of the gospel.

          So while some of us may be excited about the possibilities that the Spirit is bringing, it’s also okay if you feel tired. Because that’s also an effect of a world that is too busy. Too often we get too little sleep and rest in a world in which more of us need to be working harder and longer hours to make ends meet. And yet we persist. God is at work in our midst. God is doing great things through us.

          A story, on the church social media we shared a photo of Dorothy Day, Catholic Worker icon and theologian. With the photo was the quote, “Everyone wants a revolution. But no one wants to wash the dishes.” This quote and note thanking everyone at church who helped with menial tasks resonated with one of you. And that’s true. In order to witness Jesus flipping tables, we also need to do the dishes. We also need to set up tables. We also need to balance the books, share in ministry together. We’re all connected in doing this work together.

          Now I’m going to invite you to a time of conversation for those of you gathered here in the church space. Those of you online can join in conversation in the chat on the livestream at…

Questions for Conversation:


  • What stands out to you in the gospel story?


  • What are things in our lives we need Jesus to overturn?


2) Jewish people in the gospel story are emerging from a traumatic life event, the destruction of the temple. What are ways God is leading us through trauma into mutual flourishing?