Lent Three – Our modern clergy, secular and religious

In John 2, in Lent Three, Jesus drives the traders out of the temple. In other readings this Lent and throughout the Gospel of Mark in Year B of the Lectionary, the Lord drives demons and alien spirits out of Israel. Access to Christ is free, not for sale. The whole creation is God’s free gift to all; no one should reduce access or charge for access to it. The Lord cuts down all the middle men who have inveigled themselves in and make a living charging the people of Israel for what the Lord makes available of them for free.
How is our own national temple? How is the mechanism of our nation’s economy? How successful is it at allowing formal economic participation and giving hope of prosperity to those at the bottom? How much economic freedom and consequent social mobility does it allow? Who are our intermediaries, and what sort of job are they doing?
First, we need to say something about clergy.
Clergy were those who could read, and were appointed so that the rest of us, who had no bible or could not read, could hear what was written. They would read it, we would learn it, and attempt to learn it off by heart. We preserve our memory of scripture by singing or chanting passages of it. Of these priests not all reserved themselves for the liturgy. Some taught and became teachers and did so in schools and universities. Some dedicated themselves to the care of the sick and so to medicine and became doctors and scientists. Some studied church law, and worked its principles out into secular law and political jurisdiction. They became lawyers who worked in courts of justice and as they oversaw the preservation and transfer of property, they moved into in commerce as contract lawyers. All the members of these professions were once referred to as clergy, the class of the literate, made powerful by the records they studied and added to. All these are our modern secular clergy. We call them public servants or civil servants or accountants, analysists, administrators, managers, financiers and IT people. As they identify new areas of responsibility these professions create sub-divisions, proliferating a thousand career paths. They are all agents and intermediaries. Our forebears used the word ‘priest’ for all such intermediaries. These professionals are the priestly hierarchies of our age. They divide and re-divide resources so that they may be shared as widely as possible. As they offer us this service, each takes their own share just before they pass us our share. They offer us a service, but sometimes the cost is more than the total economy can support. Then when a population has suffered many years of immiseration as a result of these professions and a bloated public sector, it undergoes a spasm in which many of them are thrown off, and the burden on the lowest classes is temporarily lightened enough for them to recover confidence and enter the formal economy again.
The Public Sector and Professions are the clergy of our age, and church clergy are just a small sub group indistinguishable from the rest of the public sector. What is always needed, now as then, is a Reformation, in which all the self-appointed agents, intermediaries and their hierarchies are warned, have the opportunity to make redress, or if not, are cut out from the body of the Church and nation