Many of us feel passionate about church or family traditions. Years ago my family changed one of its Christmas traditions. Family members were very vocal about what we left out of our traditional celebration! Change is difficult.
The Pharisees believed that practicing their traditions kept them connected to God and the community. They believed in the correctness of their approach. Previous generations had passed down their beliefs to them. Sadly, many Pharisees were blind to the harm done to persons when the law excluded individuals from community. They did not understand the ethic of love that motivated Jesus to place people’s needs before religious practice.
Jesus bases his message of reconciling love on relationship, not rules. Jesus builds bridges between people, inviting everyone to the table—washed and unwashed. It is not religious practice that separates people; it’s what we carry in our hearts. When we harbor judgment, hatred, or deceit; when we objectify others, failing to respect the human dignity of each person, we defile ourselves. We cut ourselves off from others.
For centuries the church has focused its energies on defining who is included and who is not. It has sometimes acted more like the Pharisees; other times it has more closely resembled Jesus. When the church boldly welcomes others—as segments of it did during the civil rights era—it behaves like Jesus. Though racism still exists, we are learning what it means to set more places at the table.
What would it look like if the church were to embody Jesus’ reconciling love fully? Who would be welcome at the table?

God, grant us purity of heart to love as Christ does. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Matthew 15:10-28

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Lectionary Week
August 14–20, 2017
Scripture Overview

Genesis 45 portrays Joseph in a moment of triumph. The trials of the past are over, and his trembling brothers are now in his power. Joseph acknowledges God’s hand in the events of his life and is reconciled to those who attempted to do him harm. Psalm 133 is a brief but exuberant song to the spirit of unity and fellowship that can exist among the members of the family of God. Paul delivers a resounding “no” to the idea that God has rejected Israel. God’s election is irrevocable. The story of Jesus and the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15 illustrates the wide umbrella of God’s mercy. The woman’s faith and persistence serve in a curious way to minister to Jesus. As she becomes a means of God’s grace to Jesus, he extends God’s mercy to her.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

• Read Genesis 45:1-15. What relationship in your life needs reconciliation? How will you help bring it about?
• Read Psalm 133. How healthy is your church family? Is there need for greater unity among the members?
• Read Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32. What wounds in your life have brought you a greater understanding of God’s mercy?
• Read Matthew 15:10-28. The writer says, “The work of Christians is to love others, not to change them.” Is this difficult for you?

Respond by posting a prayer.

I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.” 

View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.