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.
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I have just recently returned from an out-of-town trip, and as I read our selected passages for this week, I find myself reminded of the days leading up to that trip. With a few exceptions, most of the traveling that you and I do is known in advance and planned. And therefore the days leading up to our departure are filled with deliberate preparations.
Mark Ellingsen Ron Love Bonnie Bates Bill Thomas Frank Ramirez Bob Ove
2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14 In an economy like ours that values flexibility, experience and loyalty matter less and less (Alan Wolfe, Moral Freedom: The Search for Virtue in World of Choice, pp.23ff .). The loyalty to legacy is what this story of Elijah and Elisha’s loyalty to the former’s prophetic legacy is all about.
Faith involves this kind of loyalty to roots. What Pope Paul VI once said about the liturgy could be applied to Christian life in general:
I think that we are in a battle for the soul of the church. I'm not just talking about my Presbyterian denomination, although it certainly has its problems. I'm suggesting that we are in a battle for the soul of the whole church in our time.