Thursday, July 28, 2011
Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash.And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches. And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,“‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me,teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ that is, given to God)— then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?”(Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Mark 7:1-23
One of the traditions in this part of the world is the annual fall lima bean festival. A Saturday in October is usually set aside and folks come from all over to sample lima beans dishes, buy arts and crafts and listen to music. It's a very popular festival with almost a cult following. What is strange is although people like us grow limas in their gardens, limas are no longer a cash crop in this part of the world, nor have they been for generations. When I was very small, many local farms raised limas, and I can vaguely remember being taking to watch the "shucker" machines at work. A carcass of one of the old processing places still stands, but that is about the only remnant that is visible. We are people who hang on to traditions, long after there is no tradition to hang on to. I imagine that most people who attend this festival never experienced West Cape May limas in their heyday, and have no idea that such production existed.
Jesus confronts the religious leadership with their ability to be trivial and traditional when compassion and care were required. They would judge and dismiss others by their expectations without examing their own hearts and without examining their own traditions. They lived by some rules and ignored others - as most of us try to do. Jesus, who is rarely stern and judgemental, is thoroughly annoyed with their shallow and tedious behavior. If they spent even a small percent of their time caring for others and following real tradition, the world would be a much better place.
Today, I ask God to help me examine those things I hold close and dear, to make sure that my habits and traditions do not stand in the way of compassion. May God's compassionate work flow through each of us, and may our habits perpetuate compassion and care this day.