top of page

Say to this Mountain

Rev. Harry Currie

Mar 3, 2024

Jeremiah 7:1-7, Mark 11:12-25

When I was a teenager an attended a Pentecostal Church in New Brunswick, worship was quite different than worship in First Presbyterian Church today.


       They did have hymnbooks, but a lot of things that were sung were, off the cuff or choruses… and that time of praise could go on for a half an hour or more, chorus after chorus, with people raising their hands or dancing.

       There also was a time of testimony where people would stand and talk about the power of God in their lives. Some would say that God had healed them.

       The beliefs of the Pentecostals were and probably still are… that anything that happened in the bible back then happens exactly the same today. Speaking in tongues, miracles, raising from the dead, casting out of demons…


       And every once in a while, a faith healer would come to town and lead the worship service. They would stand at the front of the church and commune with God and announce that someone who had stomach troubles or eye troubles or back troubles, was being touched by God. They would ask that person to come forward and pray for them.

       People would say that they were healed.


That is part of where I came from, and some of my family is still Pentecostal today.

       I am not trying to put anybody’s faith down. I know that there are different Christian traditions, and I try to respect those who believe in supernatural healings. We Presbyterians have a bit of a different tradition.


       We do not say that everything in the bible happens just as it did back then.

       We freely acknowledge that in a pre-scientific world, in a world that believed in magic and miracles, they would not see things the way we do today. They would not do story or history the way we would today. They would not do theology or understand scripture the same way we would today.


And so, one of our Presbyterian Standards, the Living Faith reads in part:

The writing of the Bible was conditioned by the language, thought, and setting of its time. The Bible must be read in its historical context. We interpret Scripture as we compare passages, seeing the two Testaments in light of each other, and listening to commentators past and present. Relying on the Holy Spirit, we seek the application of God's word for our time.


      The whole subject of if and how and when God heals is a pretty large one. My personal experience in the Pentecostal Church is the Pentecostals got sick and died just as much as other Christians… and atheists too; and personally, I saw basically no incontrovertible supernatural healings. I even have a couple of stories of awful stories about people claiming to be healed of cancer and dying of cancer after they came out of remission, which really shook my faith in healing.


      It isn’t that I don’t believe in healing, I know that there is a connection between body and soul, body and spirit, body and emotional well-being. I know what it is like to enter a room and feel physically sick because someone was there who didn’t like me. I know what it is like to get physically sick because I was so excited about a girl I was going on a date with. I know negative emotions can make a person sick, and positive emotions can help with health.

      I also know that millions more people are healed today than in Jesus’ day. It is just that most of these people are healed thorough doctors and the medical system and by medicines and treatments that didn’t even exist in Jesus’ day. Healing happens.

      And I believe that healing the soul or the spirit is one of the primary tasks of the church. To help people be healed of guilt, sin, sadness, depression, abuse or other traumas that affect the soul.

      For me. I do not believe there is no God, or God does nothing.

      Nor do I believe that the primary way God acts is by supernatural intervention.

      I believe that the primary way God works in this world is through people. Through parents, through ministers, teachers, doctors, those who seek justice, and through those who follow the way of Jesus…disciples.


      The reason for this long healing introduction is that one of the scriptures I used to hear quoted in the Pentecostal church is a scripture in our gospel today:

Jesus answered them, ‘Have faith in God. 23 Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, “Be taken up and thrown into the sea”, and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. 24 So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.


      When I went to a Pentecostal Bible School they used to talk about something called: Name it and Claim it. If you have enough faith, you can have whatever you want, including millions of dollars…that is if your heart is pure and you truly believe, but you have to ask for it. You have to name it and then claim it.


      I wonder if any of you have ever seen someone pray and a mountain literally be cast into the sea?

      I doubt it.


      So, I suggest to you that the mountain is a metaphor and Jesus is not talking about literal mountains.

      Then what is Jesus talking about?


In Mark’s gospel Jesus is always struggling and in conflict.

      He struggles in the wilderness.

Jesus struggles with temptation.

      He struggles with Satan.

      He fights against disease.

      He is in conflict with the demons.

      He is in conflict with his own misunderstanding disciples.

      He even is in conflict with the forces of nature and tells the storm: Peace be still.

      Jesus in is conflict with the authorities.

      The culmination of that struggle is his death, as Jesus struggles with political authorities and religious authorities.


And our gospel lesson for today is about Jesus in conflict with The Jewish Temple System, and with the entrepreneurial class operating within the Temple System.


      And may I say that this is maybe the biggest mountain Jesus takes on and tries to cast into the sea.


      Jesus has just entered Jerusalem. He comes riding on a donkey, reminiscent of Zechariah’s anti-military image from Zechariah 9.

      “Shout aloud, daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding upon… a colt, the foal of a donkey. He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem… and shall command peace.”

      Jesus enters Jesus as an anti-Messiah… A peaceful humble Messiah and sees a fig tree and curiously curses it, pronouncing no fruit will come from that tree.


      Jesus enters the temple and drives out the money changers and those who sold doves.


      The Temple industry was big business. The High priestly class were wealthy and controlled the Temple industry and made lots of money.


      Money changers charged a premium for changing Roman currency into Jewish currency. But the temple would not allow Roman currency, and so you would be charged a fee for changing your Roman currency into Jewish currency.

      Of course, many of the poor people actually worked in agriculture for Roman interests and didn’t get paid in Jewish currency. So, these poor peasants and farmers would lose some of their hard-earned, barely sufficient money in fees to money-changers.

      The scriptures also mention those who sold doves. Doves were the sacrifice of choice for poor people. Rich people sacrificed cattle or sheep. Poor people sacrificed doves.

      And these weren’t voluntary sacrifices. They were demanded by the law. For instance, there were specific sacrifices for the purification of women, namely two doves.


      So, it is interesting that when Jesus drives out these buyers and sellers from the temple, it seems as if Jesus really worried about how these practices adversely hurt the poor, and yet made the rich lots of money.


      And then in Mark’s gospel it says that Jesus wouldn’t let anybody carry anything through the temple. Jesus had a protest and shut down the temple that day.


      Jesus does appeal to scripture though. He first of all quotes from Isaiah 56 where eunuchs and foreigners and outcasts are all included in worship, whereas they are not in Jesus’ day. My house shall be a house of prayer for all the peoples.

      And then Jesus quotes from Jeremiah 7 where the prophet harshly rails against the people for saying they have the temple, the temple, the temple, but they do not practice justice toward, the foreigner, the orphan and the widow, and Jeremiah says the temple will be destroyed.

Jesus calls them “den of thieves” the same words used by Jeremiah.


      And now as Jesus leaves the temple the fig tree that Jesus has cursed has withered to its roots.

      It reminds of us the scripture from Micah 7

Woe is me! For I have become like one whom….    there is no first-ripe fig for which I hunger.

 The faithful have disappeared from the land,    and there is no one left who is upright;


Jesus’ curse is really a parable or a metaphor. Temple worship and temple sacrifice is dried up and lifeless and is providing no fruit.


      Jesus takes on the very centre of Jewish religious life, the Temple and says it is dying and dead.


      It is dying and dead because it does not care, it does not include, it does not forgive, it is self-righteous.

      It is dying and dead because it is just another way for the rich to take advantage of the poor.

      This mountain of the Lord’s house is a mountain worthy to be thrown into the sea.

      And what shall be the replacement for Temple sacrifice? What shall replace the system of Jewish Government, Religion and Business?


Jesus ends the section by saying: 25 ‘Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.


The good news is that God forgives us and so we should forgive one another. And we don’t need priests or Jewish currency or turtle doves or sacrifices or money. God loves us and we don’t have to appease God. We just accept God’s forgiveness and forgive one another.


       That is so central to the good news. That is so healing.

       God forgives me and forgives you. And God invites you to live a life of forgiving.


      I don’t know about you, but there a few mountains I would like to say to: “be thrown into the sea.”






      The Inequalities in this world that really disadvantage the poor and make the rich even wealthier.

      I’d like to throw into the sea, any Religion or political group or church that promotes violence, or hatred, or discrimination, or injustice.


I’d like to throw into the sea, most of our weapons, Laissez-faire capitalism, dictators, sexual and child abuse, human trafficking, fake news and economic systems that let billionaires avoid paying taxes.

And so, I read that scripture again:

       ‘Have faith in God. 23 Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, “Be taken up and thrown into the sea”, and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. 24 So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.


And what I have come to believe is this. Having faith in God doesn’t mean that if we have enough faith God will magically end hunger and war and injustice… and throw bad politicians into the sea.


       But if we have enough faith and believe it is possible, then we can trust Jesus enough to actually do what Jesus tells us to do, and work towards the end of hunger, and the end of discrimination and injustice.

       We can organize, and we can vote, and we can protest, and we let our voices be heard, and we can raise money…. for justice, equality, freedom, and compassion


       Having faith means trusting and believing Jesus enough to start casting those huge mountains into the sea.


We have made huge strides in casting racism into the sea. We have made huge strides in equality for women.

       We have made huge strides in acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community and for people with disabilities.

       We are repenting of our actions towards First Nations and Indigenous peoples, and trying to partner with them in a better future for all.

We have a long way to go, and mountains to climb and cast in the sea.


But mountains can be cast into the sea, when we believe it is possible, when we have the faith to actually do something about it

       And when forgiveness is the heart of what we believe and practice. Amen

bottom of page