Today's Lectionary Text
While he was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you.
“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.”
One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.” And he said, “Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”
It was amusing a few weeks ago to hear about a cable news network anchor who, in on-air conversations with his co-hosts, claimed that he had never washed his hands.
He can’t see the germs, he reportedly told them, so how could he believe they were there? It’s uncertain whether this account was correct or if he was trying to make a point, but that was my first thought in reading the passage from Luke:
39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But now as for what is inside you — be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you ...”
It’s pretty easy to tell whether someone’s hands have been washed, but oftentimes tougher to tell whether his or her soul is clean.
I’m still old school when it comes to dressing up for church: good pants, good shirt, sometimes a tie, no matter if it’s a traditional or contemporary service. While the dress code of those around me – jeans on Sunday morning, even shorts during the summer – has changed, some of the people who wear those items have been some of the people in Christ that I respect the most.
When I saw our church’s youth leader wearing grubby older clothes in the sanctuary one morning, I found out it was because she had spent the previous hours delivering food and water bottles to the homeless population in the city where I was living.
From then on, it didn’t matter what she or anyone else wore – and that old cliché about books and covers became even more apparent.
Prayer for Reflection
Dear God, You know what’s in our hearts -- and you know that it might not match the clothes we wear or the dirt under our fingernails. Help us to see people like You see them, for the goodness inside them rather than the clothes on the outside. Amen.
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