From the Lectionary readings for Morning Prayer today:
“Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgements are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O LORD.”
Psalm 36:5, 6
‘Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 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.”’
Mark 11:22, 23
Mark 11:22, 23
Jesus’ words are spoken in the context of his having passed judgement on the fig tree (one of many symbols of the people of Israel) for not having borne up fruit to him, and on the temple for having robbed the (gentile) nations of the courtyard provided for them as a house of prayer.
The sea, then, as in Psalm 36, represents God’s judgement, which is as great and mysterious as the deep. Nonetheless, that judgement is not necessarily the final word. Jesus tells his disciples that they can ask God to move the mountain of his righteousness—the sure and enduring image of relationship as it was intended to be—into the sea, or place (or act) of judgement.
Jesus clears the temple not to destroy the temple but to restore the Court of the Gentiles to its rightful purpose. (Though the withered fig tree warns us that one day it will be too late.)
Where do we see evidence of God’s judgement on our churches and on our society? Jesus’ instruction is that we take up God’s righteousness and throw it into those places: that these are the very opportunities for restored relationship with God and neighbour.