After a few weeks off from writing for the holidays I am looking forward to digging in and writing much more in 2010. I love when people leave comments or ask questions or share their own reflections so keep those coming. One of the practices I find helpful in reflecting on scripture is to avoid the temptation to, "make meaning" or to interpret the text as I read. My point in reading these texts each day is not "study." I do that too, but my goal in these readings is to be open to how God meets me in the text without the filter of my studies or my degree or my theological background. I can never escape that completely, but it is important to me to have time when I'm not looking for sermon material or deep exegesis. I need the opportunity to simply be free to read the text with all my flaws and questions and to wrestle with and reflect upon the places God takes me as I read… not worrying about, "getting it right" all the time. So with that in mind, today I begin a new year of reflection.
1 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked,2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” 3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 8 “ ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ ” 10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into your mouth does not defile you, but what comes out of your mouth, that is what defiles you.” 12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” 13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them.17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body?18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these defile you.19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile you; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile you.”
This is one of those texts where in my nature I am immediately prone to point a finger at the pharisees (along with their contemporary equivalents) and their traditions. Don't they get it?! It's not about tradition, it is about God! It's easy for me to point the finger at how everyone else is like the pharisees and I am not. How other church communities are stuck in the "old way" of doing things but ours is blazing new trails and following Jesus in ways that could never happen in some stone cathedral that seems more like a monument to a faith long dead than a living, breathing expression of the body of Christ. But to go down that road is the easy way out. It far too easily lets me off the hook. Sure, other people and other communities practice religious traditions that might actually be more like blockades than pathways to a relationship with God… but so do I. If I am being honest, I am prone to getting stuck in my ways just as much as the next guy. I could take the easy way out with this text or I could allow it to speak into my heart… asking the tough question of, "Where am I stuck in ways that ,'nullifies the word of God' for the sake of my own tradition?" I'm not sure I have asked that of myself in a long time. What are my own traditions that need to die for the sake of my relationship with God?
Jesus, may I be open today to the way your Spirit is moving in me and around me and through me. May I not be bound by my tradition. Free me to follow you in the way that you see fit… not me.