Saturday, March 26, 2022 | Mark 7:1-23
The Rev. Bonnie-Marie Yager-Wiggan
This first part of Mark chapter seven may take a few readings to begin to understand–at least it did for me. At first glance, it reads as if it may be a debate about ancient near east hygiene habits or maybe elderly parent care? If you, too, are left wondering what the conversation Jesus and the Pharisees are having is really about, you are in good company. The disciples are confused too.
It seems especially far removed from our context today. Ritual purity acts and teachings from the Law and early Scriptures may seem to us unnecessary, strange, unjust, and distant. What was once about building a relationship with God in a context of holiness had become a complex system of human traditions and means of power for the religious elite. It’s much easier to know who is in and who is out when there are strict guidelines for what makes a person clean and unclean. Power comes with deciding the lines between clean and unclean.
Yet, Jesus did not adhere to the rules. He did not care about the human traditions that had been added to the Law of God. He had no time to keep accounting books on what is clean and unclean, who is in and out. Jesus tells the Pharisees that it’s what’s in your heart that matters – not whether your hands are dirty before you eat.
Mark’s gospel, and all of the Bible, is full of the least, the last, the lost, and the little being invited IN. Those that were unclean and on the outs are welcome in this kingdom Jesus is building. The Shepherds at his birth, the lepers he heals, the tax collector who becomes his disciple, the women who fund his itinerant ministry, the hemorrhaging woman who touches his prayer shaw, the poor, the widowed, the blind, the lame, the demon-possessed living in caves, the gentile, the slave, the Roman centurion, the deniers, and the doubters – just to name a few.
So I guess the question for us today is: If Jesus doesn’t keep an account book, why do we? No amount of ritual purity will make us clean, but Jesus welcomes all who come with open and contrite hearts…even the Pharisees.
The Rev. Bonnie-Marie Yager-Wiggan serves as one of the Assisting Priest at Trinity Cathedral. She enjoys a good latte and trying new, local coffee shops in the Pittsburgh area. She is always looking for a good recommendation!