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Sabbatical, Day 65: Jesus Clears The Temple, We Visit London And The Lolly Stick Cross

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Here is the second Damaris Trust video for Holy Week. Tony Watkins talks about the surprising display of anger shown by Jesus as he cleared the temple courtyards of merchants. He discusses why Jesus took such offence to what he saw, and what that might mean for us.


A belated birthday treat for Rebekah today. For months, she has wanted to visit London, and today was the day. Leaving the car at the main Methodist church in town, we walked to Chelmsford train station, caught a connection to Liverpool Street and a tube to Victoria.

Once we arrived at street level, we asked around to find the bus stop for The Original London Sightseeing Tour. This company is one that offers open-top double-decker bus tours of London’s sights. You buy tickets that are valid all day. You can hop on and off. You receive earphones for a detailed commentary. Children also get a special fun pack.

Knowing that Mark would be young enough to go free, we calculated that two adults and one child would cost us £56 for the day. We used some Tesco Clubcard vouchers towards the tickets. For every £2.50 in Clubcard, you receive £10 in vouchers. Therefore we exchanged £12.50 to get £50, and expected to pay the balance of £6 in cash. But I was charged £60: I didn’t realise the prices had increased on 1st April. We could have exchanged a further £2.50 in vouchers and not have had to pay a single penny. Dang, to quote my American friends.

It was an ideal day to sit on top of an open bus. 15° Celsius (59° Fahrenheit), and sunny, so great weather but not hot. The tour would take us all across central London. We saw Hyde Park, Marble Arch, Park Lane, Oxford Street, Marylebone Road and ground to a halt on Regent Street. With Mark getting extremely bored and both children struggling to keep the adult-sized earphones in their ears, we elected to jump off. Using McDonald’s for the only thing it’s worth (their toilets), we dived into Oxford Circus tube station and headed for St James’s Park station, from where we headed for the park itself and enjoyed a picnic. The park squirrels were tame, and the ice cream from a kiosk was good. (There is no connection between the squirrels and the ice cream.)

From there, we walked down to see Buckingham Palace, which was the place Rebekah most wanted to see.  Despite being a Londoner, I’ve never seen it in the flesh before, either. Neither Debbie nor I are avid Republicans (the thought of a President Blair or – worse – President Mandelson is scary enough), but we are both instinctively ambivalent about royalty, so it is never a place I have been worried about seeing. However, Becky was delighted, and from there was content to head home.

While in St James’s Park, she repeated a question we’d had to defer the other day: why was Jesus crucified? I tried to give her a simple answer on two levels. One was about how good people can upset bad people. The other was about the kindness of a friend who takes the blame for us. (Yes, I know that latter one can be pushed too far in some models of the atonement, but it was a place to start that she could understand, but I’m following people like Tom Wright here who accepts a form of substitutionary atonement while rejecting the ‘Pierced for our Transgressions‘ school. I also know there are problems with that particular article of Wright’s, but I’m interested here more in what he affirms than his attitude to certain partners in the debate.)


Once home, Rebekah wanted to show me something she has been making since yesterday. She has wanted to make a model of the Cross on which Jesus died. I have to tell you it is made out of pink and purple lolly sticks from a craft set, but don’t be put off. At one stage yesterday, she wanted to make a Jesus to go on it, using furry balls, but that part of the project had evidently foundered. Nevertheless, the cross was decorated with the words ‘Jesus was crucified’ and a series of hearts.

But while there was no body of Jesus on the lolly stick cross, there was something else: a montage of triangles, soaked in glitter. 

“That’s the star,” she told me, “the star that led the wise men to Bethlehem.”

She gets it. At the age of six, she knows in a simple way that the incarnation and the atonement cannot be divided. Oh that more of us would.



I am a Londoner. Although neither I nor any of my relatives live there any more, today’s vile news has hit me hard. My father used to take the train each morning to Liverpool Street and then a tube to Aldgate East. My sister used to commute to Edgware Road. Friends used to go through King’s Cross to work. I once went for a job interview at Tavistock Square. When I came in at lunch-time and saw the TV news, I just said, “Evil.” I wanted to say something far worse. It was certainly in my heart. Only the presence of my small children stopped me.

I wanted to wish evil things on Osama bin Laden. Like a British judge sentencing him to life, but the prison warders allowing other prisoners to inflict a tortuous, slow death upon him. I had to fight to tell myself that I believe in a better way as a Christian. What that inner fight would have been like had I lost any loved ones in the atrocities, I don’t know.

I’ve offered up the odd prayer about what I shall preach on Sunday. What words, what hope can I give? Must there also be a challenge, with the risk of causing deep offence?

Then I stopped thinking about myself. I thought about Mr Kahn, who runs our little neighbourhood sub-post office. And I prayed that no-one would take it out on him. I prayed, too, for the Sikhs who now own the former Methodist church building nearby. After 9/11 British Sikhs were attacked. I pray for their protection now.

I pray, too, for those trained to help at times of disaster. Last night I was at a District Council meeting where we lamented a lack of volunteers among ministers to be undertake Critical Incident Volunteer training in Kent. London already has people trained – thank God.

And naturally I pray for the injured and the bereaved.

But I must pray, too, for the perpetrators. Yet it’s too easy to parrot the words of Jesus, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing,” because to some extent these people do know what they’re doing.

Lord have mercy on us all.