Proper 17, Year B: Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23: Rules of God vs. Rules of Men

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 17, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

In today’s passage Jesus is questioned by the Pharisees about his followers eating without following particular hand washing rituals. We know from previous passages that they aren’t asking this question casually but are no doubt trying to trap Jesus again. They are angry his followers aren’t following ancient tradition as they think it should be followed. (Am I the only one who wants to sing the “Tradition” song from Fiddler on the Roof every time I think of tradition?)

Jesus claps back as only Jesus can and calls them hypocrites and quotes Isaiah saying they only honor God with words and not in reality. He says they prefer man-made rules instead of God’s commands.

This reminds me of so many Christian leaders today who are vocal in our culture with rules that they think everyone should follow–such as rules regarding sexuality or gender. The hill they will choose to die on is whether or not homosexuality is a sin or whether or not women should be equal to men, rather than to care for the poor and to seek to correct injustice. They choose to follow narrow manmade rules that oppress rather than life-giving abundant rules to work for the good of all humanity.

Christ the King Sunday, Year A: Matthew 25:31-46: What You Do for Others

Vienna- The icon of Jesus among the apostles on the canvas in church Brigitta Kirche by unknown artist of 20. cent.

Source: iStockphoto.com

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Christ the King Sunday, Year A by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Matthew.

Today’s story is Jesus telling his followers about a judgment to come in the future. He says the Son of Man will be sitting on a throne and all the people will be gathered before him. He will separate people into two groups like a shepherd separating sheep from goats–the sheep to his right and the goats to his left.

“Then the king will say to the godly people on his right, ‘Come, my Father has great blessings for you. The kingdom he promised is now yours. It has been prepared for you since the world was made. It is yours because when I was hungry, you gave me food to eat. When I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I had no place to stay, you welcomed me into your home. When I was without clothes, you gave me something to wear. When I was sick, you cared for me. When I was in prison, you came to visit me.’  

Matthew 25: 33-36 (Easy-to-Read Version)

They will be surprised that they ever did hose things for him, but he will answer, “The truth is, anything you did for any of my people here, you also did for me.”

 

The reverse occurs with the goats to his left–they are the ones who never did any of those things for others and so he rejects them.
The question Jesus is asking in this story is what have you done and what will you do for others? Because how you follow Jesus and how you love him is to love others. Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the homeless, share clothes with those who need clothes, care for the sick, and visit those in prison. This is not just the task of the church, but of the individual. Whatever you do for God’s people (that is all the people–we are all God’s children), you do for Jesus Christ.

All Saints’ Day, Year A: Matthew 5:1-12: Blessings

The Sermon On The Mount (The Beatitudes), IsraelYou can see all the lectionary readings for the All Saints’ Day, Year A by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Matthew.

This section of scripture is usually called the “Beatitudes,” which means “statements of blessing” (probably loosely translated). Beatitudes were a sort of literary form in Judaism–proclamation of what behavior drew blessings. Another example is in Psalm 1: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked”, etc. 

Jesus goes up and sits on a hill and speaks to the people. I’m just going to share here the blessings here straight from the Easy-to-Read Version of the Bible:

Great blessings belong to those who know they are spiritually in need.
    God’s kingdom belongs to them.
Great blessings belong to those who are sad now.
    God will comfort them.
Great blessings belong to those who are humble.
    They will be given the land God promised.
Great blessings belong to those who want to do right more than anything else.
    God will fully satisfy them.
Great blessings belong to those who show mercy to others.
    Mercy will be given to them.
Great blessings belong to those whose thoughts are pure.
    They will be with God.
Great blessings belong to those who work to bring peace.
    God will call them his sons and daughters.
Great blessings belong to those who suffer persecution for doing what is right.
    God’s kingdom belongs to them.
Great blessings belong to those who work to bring peace.
    God will call them his sons and daughters.
Great blessings belong to those who suffer persecution for doing what is right.
    God’s kingdom belongs to them.

I think it’s worthwhile to meditate on each of these in turn for some time. So many of us who proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord fail to work to bring peace or be humble. So many of us want many other things besides doing right. So many of us do not strive to show mercy or to make sure our nation as a whole is merciful rather than vengeful. I like to read these in this version for a little way of seeing them in a new light. God will bless us if our hearts are right–maybe because right hearts can make the world a better place.