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Palm Sunday Peace immediately leads to confrontation. Jesus returns to the Jerusalem Temple and starts flipping over tables. He declares, “The Scriptures say, ‘My house shall be called a place of worship.’ But you’ve turned it into a place where robbers hide.”

The extortionate practices of exchanging Roman money for Temple money in order to purchase animals and birds for sacrificial rites was a long way from the kingdom of the heart and mind that Jesus was announcing. Such illustrates the continuing tension between Church and State, always an uneasy relationship.

The Church must necessarily don its institutional garb to negotiate with the descendants of Caesar. Sometimes it has sold its soul, and more often it has negotiated salvation for the common good in terms of public health, education and welfare.

This seems to work best when the relationship is collaborative rather than coercive – “wet” rather than “dry”. I note the contrast between the effectiveness of the earlier collaborative Community Refugee Resettlement Scheme and the failing draconian off-shore detention system. I note the Church, having been side-lined, is being called to the rescue as government authorities seek mainland accommodation and services for the overflow.

The Church is always going to be in the situation where it must decide to speak with the voice of the Temple or the voice of the Prince of Peace. When bureaucracy, institutionalism, and the “bottom line” are in the ascendancy, we hear the voice of the Temple. If the voices of compassion, generosity, courage, empathy and grace are to the fore, we can be sure we’ve heard the Prince of Peace.

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