Read Sunday’s Gospel. Jesus is against you washing your hands.
Okay, not really. When you read the text, Jesus is against the religious leaders setting these unimportant traditions as the benchmarks of holiness.
Clean and unclean is not caused by what you eat or do not eat. Cleanliness here refers to what matters to God, not necessarily health. The Pharisees and scribes had elevated purity to godliness, but Jesus does not agree.
He tells those listening that what reveals your godliness is what comes out of your mouth, not what goes into it.
Godliness is not a word we use very often now. I suspect this is because, as I have said many times, we have lost any real knowledge of what the God of Jesus is actually like and what God demands of those who love him: his character and the character of godliness.
To be like God is to be creative, bringing life, giving generously, forgiving others, providing help, and lifting up those who have fallen down. Those descriptions actually come from the law itself in the Torah.
We often think instead of the anger, wrath, and judgement of God, but those characteristics come about because God is offended by humanity’s injustice, death-dealing, stinginess, theft, and crushing of those who have stumbled.
When we lose that character of God, we fill in our preferences for what God wants and drift from the law.
In our moment, many people are clamoring to tell us as they always have what makes us godly, but Jesus has already made that clear. What makes the people who upset you unclean? What do you put in God’s mouth as a command that may not be? How does the law reveal the character of God and God’s care for his children?
Join us Sunday as we enter these questions together.
Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, and folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” – Mark 7:21-23
Thank you all for your generous welcome of Perry+ and his family, and your backpacks of love for the children of our parish who need a little lifting up.
The Very Reverend Daniel P. Richards
Rector, Christ Church of the Ascension