1Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, 2they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3(For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6Jesus said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; 7in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ 8You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
14Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.
21“For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passages teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
Take a look at the picture above – that is one happy dog rolling around in the sunshine and warm grass! This is a picture of Belle, our beloved beagle who died of cancer this past January. If there was one thing Belle loved it was being outside. When we would let her outside on a beautiful day, she would flop down, roll on her back, and just lie in the grass with the biggest, goofiest smile on her face. In fact, on sunny, bright days we will declare to one another in memorial to her that “Today is a Belle-Belle day!”
But one thing about Belle was that, since she enjoyed being outside and rolling around, she was dirty and smelly. We would oftentimes call her Pigpen, in reference to the classic Peanuts character. And just like the cartoon character, she would bring a cloud of dirt and mud and smells with her wherever she went. Once she went wandering for three days, and when she returned she carried with her the most disgustingly pungent and putrid smell that had ever filled my nostrils! But she came back with a big smile, bounding toward me in excitement and ready to cuddle up. You see, also like Pigpen, Belle had a heart of gold. There has never been a sweeter, more affectionate dog than Belle. She was dirty on the outside and pure on the inside.
Aren’t you glad that God looks on our insides more than our outsides? As we read in the book of 1 Samuel, “the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we did the same for others? We so often judge others on the dust and dirt our lives can kick up and attract and we forget that the way people think, feel, and love is more important. We can’t always avoid the mudholes and grass stains of life. But we can choose to be loving and compassionate to all.
We often say that God sent us Belle to teach us how to love indiscriminately. She just wandered into our life one day and stayed until she died just a few years later. She was probably four or five years old when we got her. We wondered where she had lived before then, not knowing if someone else had abandoned her or if she was just a lost soul looking for someone – anyone – to love her and care for her simply for who she was.
Embrace someone today who might be a little different than you are. Reach out to the “undesirable” in holy friendship. Love someone who might even be a little rough around the edges and difficult to love. Practice judgment free relationships. You might just find a lifelong friend, somebody who will love you without judgment for who you truly are. You might also discover a deeper experience of God’s love and presence in the “other”.
What does it mean to have a pure heart? Having a pure heart is strongly connected to having pure motives. As you journal this week, consider a time in which you acted from pure intentions and another time in which you acted out of ulterior, impure motives. What were the results of your actions? How did you feel after each experience? What can you do to weigh your intentions before you act?
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
Cloud of Witnesses:
Saint Teresa of Avila
Saint Teresa was a 16th-century Spanish nun who was a contemporary of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Saint John of the Cross. She wrote about the need for Christians to cultivate an inner sanctuary of the heart, in which the presence and power of Christ could dwell. She taught that such an inner experience of Jesus would guide Christians in their outer devotion to God. Her great written work is the book Interior Castle. You can read more about her life and ministry here. Let Teresa inspire you to continue building that inner sanctuary that can house the altar of your heart we explored in last week’s Meditation Focus.
Listen to the song, Create in Me a Clean Heart by Keith Green, a song based on the words of David from Psalm 51. You can download the song here if you’d like. As you listen to this song and sing along, pay close attention to the passion of this song and imagine what God’s response might be to this prayer. David wrote this psalm in response to a grave sin that he committed. Do you think God answered this prayer? What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
Pray for those who are oppressed and judged for no other reason than the color of their skin, or their gender, or their ethnicity, or their religious beliefs. Ask God to use you to battle the evils of the “-isms” (like racism and sexism) through your compassionate, kind, and gentle words, attitudes, and actions. Trust God to move within the Church, so that it might be a leader in our world in promoting true justice – the justice that echoes Paul’s words to the Galatians: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
What are some of the nonessential elements of faith that we use to judge others by? Do we judge others based on the worship style they prefer? Or the version of the Bible they use? Or their denominational affiliation? What about the way they dress or how they affiliate politically? By the same token, what are the essentials of faith? What makes someone a true Christ-follower? Ponder these questions in the quiet spaces of the week and ask God to reveal to you what really matters when it comes to your practice of the faith. How might you allow these nonessentials to fade away in their importance and how might you maximize your attention to the essentials?
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- In what ways have my actions reflected my inner attitudes?
- In what ways have my actions conflicted with my inner attitudes?
- How is God affirming or challenging my inner attitudes?
- How have I experienced God’s work within me?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
Jesus mentions that the things that come out of our lives determine whether we are spiritually clean or not. This is in agreement with what Paul teaches the Galatians when he writes: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). These traits are indicative of a person who keeps their hearts, minds, and spirits connected to God. Consider one of these spiritual fruits and write that characteristic on the top of a sheet of paper. Brainstorm five to ten ways that you can display that spiritual fruit during the week. Then pray for God’s guidance and anointing to live in those ways!
Breath Prayer: LORD God, search us and know us.