Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity:
Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Read: Psalm 106:1-6, 13-23, 47-48; Deut. 4:21-40; and Mark 7:9-23
Jesus is having another run-in with the Pharisees, this time over traditions. It is part of the episode we read about on Sunday. Jesus is trying to tell them that people are more important than their traditions.
Jesus cares deeply about the heart. In the Sermon on the Mount, for instance, Jesus keeps telling his listeners that although they’ve heard some legalistic way before, he is telling them a new way. Over and over he demonstrates that we are to have pure hearts, not just follow the letter of the law while going against the spirit.
Jesus challenges us to put aside our traditions in order to follow him. Traditions are comfy. They’re predictable. They are a lot less scary than the alternative. But “the way we’ve always done it” is a bad way to make decisions. Sacrificing people at the altar of our tradition is a bad way to treat them.
Take the film and play “Fiddler on the Roof” as an example. Tevye and his family are Jews who live in Russia in the days before the Revolution. They are very poor, but their whole world is made up of, and governed by, traditions. Tevye makes a deal with the butcher to give his oldest daughter’s hand in marriage, but she begs him to let her marry the poor tailor instead. Tevye isn’t sure what to do about this. It goes against tradition! But he looks in his daughter’s eyes and sees that she loves him, so he allows it. The next daughter also wishes to break the tradition, marrying a stranger, a student from Kiev. This time they don’t ask Tevye’s permission, just his blessing. Again Tevye is conflicted, torn between what his daughter wants and what their tradition demands. But in the end, Tevye looks in his daughter’s eyes and sees that she loves him, so he allows it.
Finally, his third daughter, Chava, wishes to marry a Gentile, a soldier. This is too much for Tevye. He cannot bend any further. He tells her that she is never to see nor speak to the man again. Instead, she goes and marries him. Tevye tells his wife that she is dead to them, that they are never to speak to her again. Tradition was more important than his daughter. In the final scene, as the townspeople are leaving Anatevka, Chava and her husband come to say goodbye and perhaps find forgiveness and blessing from her beloved Papa. But he refuses to speak to them, to acknowledge they are there.
Sometimes our traditions get in the way of loving people. Traditions are comfy. They’re predictable. But “the way we’ve always done it” is a bad way to make decisions. Maybe it’s time to set aside the traditions and follow Jesus. Maybe it’s time to show love to someone that we ordinarily wouldn’t acknowledge. Maybe we need to forgive that old feud and move on. Maybe Jesus is calling to us from the cross, telling us to reach out our hands in love.
Ask God to help you to put aside your traditions and follow him. You may find the following prayer helpful:
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen.