“Did you wash your hands? With Soap?—mom”
Our kids should be old enough by now but we have this sign hanging in our downstairs bathroom. After five Sundays in John’s Gospel focused on Jesus as the “bread of life.” We return to Mark’s Gospel and we step into controversy. The Pharisees and some scribes “noticed that some of Jesus’ disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (Mark 7:2)” Jesus takes this opportunity to remind the Pharisees and the scribes that it’s not enough for them to simply follow the law in deed (eat with clean hands), but it’s what comes from their heart that matters.
This reminds me of the beginning of 1 Corinthians 13: If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Mark knows that our actions can show one thing but that we can hold very different emotion in our heart. Following the example, eating with dirty hands doesn’t defile a person; living with a dirty heart, on the other hand, is what is dangerous. If our hearts are filled with love for God and love for neighbor then maybe, just maybe, there won’t be room for the list that Jesus names as evil intentions: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.
Jesus says, “All these things come from within, and they defile a person.” Almost every Sunday morning of the church year, our worship begins with Confession and Forgiveness. Actually, this is considered outside of the worship service and was often done in the past the evening before worship or at another time. When confession and absolution happens isn’t as important as that confession and absolution happens. Sometimes things will come from our heart that are truly evil whether it was something we did or something that we didn’t do. Either way, we come to worship to acknowledge the sin within us and ask for Jesus’ forgiveness
Even during this COVID time when we are told to wash our hands multiple times a day, the cleansing that we really need comes from the forgiveness we receive in Christ Jesus. Our hearts are made clean, if sometimes only for a moment or two, so that we can enter into worship to hear again God’s Word and to receive of Christ’s body and blood, so that we are nourished for the week ahead. Only to return again the next week hungry, and in need of God’s forgiveness once more. “Has your heart been washed? With Jesus’ forgiveness?”
God’s Peace, Pastor Steve