What has the final word in how you live your life? Is it the things you’ve learned from the authority figures and traditions of your church and community, or is it the word of God? At the heart of this passage from Mark is the reality that we can so easily get lost in human-made rules and rituals that we lose sight of following God from a faithful heart steeped in the word of God. The Pharisees came to question the validity of Jesus’ ministry. To do so was natural; there were many false prophets going about at the time, claiming to be sent by God. But in this instance, the leaders had already decided to find fault with Jesus’ teachings, so they came looking to pick a fight.
They confront Jesus about how his disciples eat without first performing the ceremonial washings, a part of oral law that began as an interpretation of the written law of the Hebrew Bible. Over time, this practice took precedence over the written law in the worship life of certain Jews. Jesus points out that by focusing so much on these traditions, these leaders are more invested in their rules than in abiding by the word of God. They are more concerned about the appearance of faith than about the condition of a believer’s heart. They have become like those who glance in the mirror and forget what they look like. They have forgotten who they are—children of God.
When we forget who and whose we are, the only natural progression is to live our lives based on false guidelines. You can’t follow the words of your parent when you no longer remember whose child you are. Choosing human teachings over the word of God is like forgetting who your parents are. We may claim we know God, but the condition of our hearts is what steers us either toward or away from the things of God. If you want to know who or what people most identify with, watch their actions.
Lord, help me remember whose I am. Yours. Amen.
The poetry of Song of Solomon is thick with romantic imagery, and most scholars agree that these lines mean what they say on the surface; they are written from the author to the beloved. Psalm 45 echoes the refrain of admiration and desire. Such desire is not wrong if it is awakened at the proper time, as the author of Song of Solomon says elsewhere. James argues that ethical living is done not in word but in deed. True religion is not putting on a show but displaying mercy and controlling the tongue. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus rebukes some of the religious leaders on this very account because they talk of obedience to God but do not live it out. What we say and what we do should match.
Read Song of Solomon 2:8-13. The narrative poetry of Song of Solomon invites us into scripture in a different way than other texts. How does God speak to you through this poetry?
Read Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9. How do your relationships honor the gift of love?
Read James 1:17-27. When do you find yourself as merely a “hearer” of the word and not a “doer”? What motivates you to act on God’s word?
Read Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23. What human traditions or rituals do you tend to make too important?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.