Ponte Sant' Angelo Methodist Church
Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates
Words by Georg Weissel;
trans. by Catherine Winkworth
Music from Psalmodia Evangelica
Christ was in Jerusalem for the week of the Passover. While He was there, the Gospel according to Matthew tells us:
Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. "It is written," he said to them, "'My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it a 'den of robbers.'"
What a scene! All around the temple were Jewish pilgrims who had come to worship. Sellers were there with animals that could be purchased and sacrificed. And in the midst of this scene you have the money changers.
The money changers in the temple were a special bunch. Rome was the world power of the day, and it minted coins with images of Roman leaders--graven images! An animal purchased with Roman coins would be tainted and would be unfit for use as a sacrifice. This is where the money changers come in. A temple coin could be purchased with Roman coins, and the sacrifice could be purchased with the temple coin. Obviously, these temple coins were special, and consequently they came with a "special" price--a high special price. In fact, the coins cost more than the value of the animals to be purchased. The practice of exchanging temple coins for Roman coins had changed in character. Although it had originated as a service that was intended to promote worship, it had become a business that was motivated by profit.
Christ made his views on this practice clear--the people participating in this scheme were thieves. The original effort to avoid tainting the sacrifices with images on Roman coins had been transformed into process that tainted the temple itself, making it into a den of robbers.
We know that the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, but there are other "temples" that must remain houses of prayer. These include chapels, churches, and our own bodies. All of these are places of reverence; places of sacrifice; places of dedication. May we always remember the purpose of the temple, and live in a way that Christ would not "turn the tables" on us and drive us out of the Father's house.
This week's featured hymn captures this theme. The second verse goes like this:
Fling wide the portals of your heart; make it a temple, set apart from earthly use for heaven's employ, adorned with prayer and love and joy.
Georg Weissel wrote several hymns of the Protestant Reformation in German, and his works were used by Martin Luther. Catherine Winkworth translated many German hymns to English, and the current United Methodist Hymnal contains ten of the hymns that she translated.
Psalmodia Evangelica was published by Thomas Williams in 1789 under the title Psalmodia Evangelica: A Collection of Psalms and Hymns in Three Parts for Public Worship.