From Reverend Pat Kriss: Jesus' Common Sense Theology
(Posted June 1, 2018)
This week, more than most, has illustrated the very words Jesus left us in the New Testament that still instruct us about how to live our lives today. Our gospel this Sunday shows how he teaches that “common sense theology” is required of us, instead of blind adherence to human-imposed law. His is a rule fashioned by compassion for others, not by what the power brokers say is right.
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This Sunday in Mark, Jesus is traveling on the Sabbath with his disciples when they come to a mostly picked-over field of grain. They are very, very hungry. We must note here that it was part of Jewish tradition that farmers were to leave a little bit of grain in a field after harvest so that the poor and any widows or children could pick it. (Any woman without relatives who was widowed was not supported by the community and had to fend for herself and her children.) But … Jewish law also said that no one can work on the Sabbath, and gleaning leftover grain was “work.” Jesus and the hungry disciples began eating what was left, were seen by the Pharisees, and they scolded the disciples for breaking Sabbath law. It was at this point that Jesus pointed out the folly of blind adherence to law: “The Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath.”
Compassion and respect for others is what God expects of us, far more than dotting the “I’s” and crossing the “T’s” of manmade law. There are many times when the need to be kind trumps the need to be right. This particular passage also reminds me of another, this time in Matthew. It reminds us that there are consequences for the words we choose to launch at one another. The disciples were eating, and the Pharisees, again seeking to trip up Jesus, noted that they had done so without washing their hands first—a violation of Dietary law. Jesus replied, not in defiance of basic sanitation, but by pointing out how the Pharisees were missing the REAL SIN of the way they treated others… by the vile, devious things that they held in their hearts and which spilled out of their mouths toward others.
Jesus said: "So, for the sake of your tradition, you make void the word of God. You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said: '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.'" Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, "Listen and understand: It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles..."
And, when Jesus’s own apostles didn’t comprehend what he was saying, and they were more concerned that his words had upset the pharissees, he spoke to them personally. “Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile."
This, indeed, has been a week when there were terrible consequences for someone who, in an unguarded moment, revealed what REALLY lived in her heart about others. The truth of the matter is, we may pretend all we like about how unjudgmental we are toward others. But unless we truly have allowed God to cleanse our hearts of our prejudices, it’s just a matter of time before the truth spills out. This week we will look at those moments when honoring God’s rule of compassion has meant “breaking” the laws of human authority or convention. Please join us to look at some very current issues facing the church and the world. - Pastor Pat Kriss