August 30, 2015
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
James 1:17-27
Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9

Peanuts, Paste, and Pathways to God
Proper 17 | OT 22

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Mary Austin

In this week’s gospel reading, Jesus loses his patience (yet again) with a group of scribes and Pharisees after they question him about why his disciples don’t thoroughly wash their hands before eating. While the specific issue is excessive devotion to ritual, what really irks Jesus is the underlying problem of misplaced priorities, represented by focusing on outward appearances rather than inward reality and behavior. As he acerbically sums it up: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines. You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” What Jesus describes is a life out of balance, in which the façade of faith is more important than its actual manifestation. And in order to be absolutely clear, he spells it out in detail -- pointing out that “it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come” and providing a laundry list of the things that really defile a person. This week’s epistle text underlines that theme, as James describes the characteristics of a life devoted to the commandment of God -- chiefly, that faith is a matter of action, not of words. And the Deuteronomy passage stresses the importance of teaching all this to our children -- and posits that laws and rituals can be helpful in this regard... as long as they do not distract us from the ultimate goal.

Of course, lives out of balance is a major problem in the modern world -- and in the next installment of The Immediate Word, team member Mary Austin explores the various ways we focus on the wrong priorities, and how we might come closer to lives that exemplify our faith by being “doers who act.” Where can we look for guidance that keeps us from focusing on trivial matters (like the Pharisees’ sanitary ritual)? And how are we led down the wrong paths? As Deuteronomy reminds us, it is important for us to impart real wisdom -- so it’s vital for us to be able discern what’s really significant... and to embody that in our daily lives. Here’s a preview:

Peanuts, Paste, and Pathways to God
by Mary Austin
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

As students, teachers, and parents everywhere prepare for the start of school, we find Jesus taking the religious leaders to school in this week’s story from Mark’s gospel. Their question gives Jesus a chance to talk about what we should value in our lives. It’s easy to understand the importance of the spirit over the material, and very hard to live it. We know the names of the Kardashian sisters more readily than those of our neighborhood kindergarten teachers. The presidential race has us hoping for a chief executive with a principled character, but we are fully prepared to be disappointed.   

If we are looking for people who model the kind of inner life Jesus teaches, where should we look? If character counts, where do we find people who show us how to live that in our everyday lives? 

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Immediate Word Team
(Click on photo
  for author's bio.)

George Reed

Mary Austin

Ronald H. Love

Dean Feldmeyer

Leah Lonsbury

Chris Keating

Robin Lostetter