By: Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge
“Gamble everything for love,
if you’re a true human being.
If not, leave this gathering.
Half-heartedness does not reach into majesty.
You set out to find God,
but then you keep stopping
for long periods at mean-spirited roadhouses.”
In our Jesus story (Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23), we find Jesus spending a little time in a mean-spirited roadhouse of sorts. He’s teaching and preaching at a little town on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee and some scribes and Pharisees have followed him over to see the show. They’re not there to be gushing Jesus fans, though. Instead, in their mean-spirited ways, they search around for something to attack Jesus over, and they find it, when they see his disciples eating without first washing their hands.
Now, as classmates in this Cosmic Kindergarten, we may think that the scribes and the Pharisees have a pretty good point. One of the many important things we learn early in life is to wash our hands before we eat. Not only is it good hygiene, but to these old time religious leaders, this is an ancient tradition of the elders that is not to be disregarded.
Jesus firmly rebukes the religious authorities, accusing them of abandoning God’s laws for human tradition.
Then, he hits them with the zinger: “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, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
In other words, we cannot judge people on whether or not they wash their hands, or observe some ancient law. Instead, we can only see another person’s true nature by watching what they do, not what they say they believe.
In his own way, Jesus was telling the scribes and the Pharisees, “watch your mouth,” because out of their mouths they showed what was truly inside their hearts. They put more emphasis on religious rules and traditions than they did mercy and compassion. They honored God with their lips, with their rules, but their hearts were far from God’s commandment to love everyone unconditionally, and to welcome everyone at the table – whether they have washed their hands or not.
The lesson here is clear – we cannot speak words of love, unless we embody love. We cannot speak words of compassion, unless we embody compassion. We cannot speak words of justice, unless we embody justice. We cannot speak words of mercy, unless we embody mercy. We cannot speak words of peace, unless we embody peace. We cannot speak words of grace, unless we embody grace.
Nothing from outside of us can defile us – those mean-spirited roadhouses we stop at and stay for awhile are not outside of us – they are inside of us. When we live in those mean-spirited roadhouses in our own souls, others see it. We are full of theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.
Jesus invites us to get back on the road to the Holy, to leave that inner mean-spirited roadhouse and get on with learning the deep lessons of love, mercy, peace, justice and compassion. Until we embody the qualities of the Holy, we will be just like those scribes and Pharisees, seeing nothing but dirty hands all around us.
To hear this week’s celebration podcast, go here.
To hear past Jubilee! Circle celebration podcasts, go here.