Mark Day 7: What Defiles?

Gospel of Mark Reading Plan
Day 7 Reading: Mark 7

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Jesus said, “In vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines. You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
– Mark 7:7-8 (NRSV)

The Pharisees and scribes confront Jesus about some of his disciples not keeping the traditions of washing hands in a specific way before eating. Jesus responds that the leaders are missing the point. They value and teach following rules rather than encouraging people to follow the deeper motivations and practices of truth faith. For example, the leaders promote giving to the temple over persons caring for their aging parents. Jesus finishes the debate by stating “there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” (v. 15)

Look within, Jesus says, to the heart.
The truth and glory is not in outward appearances,
not in the circumstances of your life,
the conditions of your body.
The failure of your flesh, or even of your mind,
does not defile you or make you less sanctified.
It is in your heart that evil or goodness lives.
– Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Live that

Jesus was very clear: no law was to be used to exclude another person, and no law was to override compassion, forgiveness, and a welcoming inclusion into the community. – Megan McKenna, On Your Mark: Reading Mark in the Shadow of the Cross

As a leader in the church, whenever I see Jesus correcting the Pharisees I must pause and ask myself if I am falling into the same traps. Bishop Peter Storey states, “It is easier to do church than to be church.” It is easier to follow rules, maintain rituals, and create programs than to be Christ-like in our words, actions, and thoughts.

I’ve found it humbling to ask what “outcasts” do I sanctimoniously spurn as impure, unclean, dirty, contaminated, and, in my mind, far from God. The mentally ill, people who have married three or four times, wealthy executives, welfare recipients, people who hold conservative political opinions, or maybe people with AIDS? How have I distorted the self-sacrificing, egalitarian love of God into self-serving, exclusionary elitism? What boundaries do I wrongly build or might I bravely shatter? I pray to experience what (Marcus) Borg calls a “community shaped not by the ethos and politics of purity, but by the ethos and politics of compassion.”
Dan Clendenin, The Journey with Jesus: Notes to Myself

Jesus, you bring people together to be your Body, your Church. Save us from everything false, distracting and enslaving. Heal us from legalism, prejudice, and short sightedness. Help us build communities instead of institutions. Empower us to make disciples instead of members. Cleanse us within so that everything that pours forth from our lips, hearts and hands are full of your grace and salvation. In your name we ask and pray so you alone may be glorified. Amen.


Click here for a thought provoking post by Steve Garnaas Holmes entitled Clean and Unclean.

For more information on the Gospel of Mark Reading Plan, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

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