Skip to main content

Open the Circle


Our narrative lectionary reading for this upcoming Sunday is from Mark 7:14:23.  Jesus has just finished defending his disciples when the Pharisees asked why they did not follow the tradition of washing before meals.  Jesus uses this to launch into a discussion of what actually makes us unclean.  It is not what we put in our body, but what comes out of it. 

The disciples don't get it, so they ask him about it later.  Jesus, exasperated, says "are you being willfully ignorant!"  before launching into an explanation.  He points out that our digestive system takes care of cleaning the things we put into our body, but the words and deeds we put into the world are not filtered in the same way, those things do indeed defile us.  It is here that a scribe makes an addition.  According the scribe this put an end to the debate over clean and unclean food, but Paul and the disciples argued about this later in Acts, it was not a settled issue at this time.  This leaves you to wonder how the disciples understood Jesus' words. 

When reading this, I am struck by the use of the world "defile".  It is easy for us to just read sin into this list of things we should not do, but the word choice was a religious term used to state that a person was unfit for the community.  Someone who was defiled was not allowed to participate in the Jewish community life.  "Defile" was not always about sin, the same word was used about women on their menstrual cycle, or a man who had just buried his father.  This can change the meaning of this story quite a bit.

What if Jesus was pointing out that it is not what we eat, or the religious rules we adhere to, but what we say, what we do, and how we treat people that makes us acceptable to the community.  He was rebuking the Pharisees, who had made the rules so difficult that the average person could no longer participate in community life.  They had missed the point.  Jesus was interested in the reconciliation of the ostracized to the community.  He was tearing down the walls, and making the "in crowd" larger with his every action.

It reminded me of the following poem by Edwin Markhum:

“He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In!”


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Death Will Lose it's Sting

Our reading from the Narrative Lectionary this week is 1 Corinthians 15:51-57. In these verses, Paul reveals a mystery, that in the end some will be transformed, given a new body, instead of facing death.  In other words death is not one of life's two certain terms.  It seems taxes may be the only guarantee.   "...in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except  death and taxes ." - Benjamin Franklin. Ok, all jokes aside, these verses are difficult to read.  Paul looks forward to a time when death will have no victory, it will have lost its sting.  But today, we are in the middle of a pandemic, surrounded by death.  Many are scared for their lives, or their loved ones, and too many have already been lost.  Death does not seem to have lost its sting at all, it feels as if it is closing in. When I worked in wilderness therapy I remember holding a child who was desperately trying to kill himself.  We cried together as he struggled to end it, and I struggled

Fool for Christ

Our reading from the Narrative Lectionary this week is 2 Corinthians 5.  Verse 13 stood out to me. If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. - 2 Corinthians 5:13a (NLT) John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard churches did a famous sermon called "I am a fool for Christ, whose fool are you?".  Reading this week's text reminded me of this wonderful sermon.  Wimber's sermon reminds us that, as christians, we are called to something truly radical.  The christian walk is strange and counter cultural.  Jesus once explained this to his disciples in John 15 "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. You don't belong to this world, I have chosen you out of it.  That is why the world hates you."   Peter, in a letter to the church, later referred to all of us as strangers just passing through this world.   Do you feel like a stranger?  Do you feel like the world hates you?  Are you a fool for Christ? Here is the thing, you are going t

Looking Back?

"Remember Lot’s wife!  "   -  Luke 17:32 This is one of the shortest verses in the Bible.  Jesus was talking about the terrible circumstances that will be present when he comes back.  He was warning people that they would not see it coming.  People will be going about their business and then suddenly, without warning, chaos will take over.  People will need to flee, and he warns them not to go back for their possessions, for anything.  This is where he says "Remember Lot's wife!".  In desperation he pleads with them to remember the fate of this woman.  To his listeners it would bring to mind the story of Lot and his family fleeing the destruction of Sodom.  They too were warned not to go back for anything, not to even look back, but Lot's wife did look back.  And when she did, she turned into a pillar of salt.   Metaphorically speaking this is often what happens when we look back.  We get frozen in place and we cease moving forward.  I have a childhood frie