“God is Still Speaking – That was then, This is now” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell

August 30th,2018 Categories: Stephanie Kendell Letters, Weekly Letter

Beloved Church,

I am still filled with the love of last Sunday as we wrapped up looking at some incredible women who were preachers and prophets. Their lives and stories continue to inspire our faith today and I am so grateful. These next two weeks I am inviting you on a new experience, that I have never attempted before. These next two weeks we are going to use the same scripture, Mark 7:1-8. It is the lectionary text this week, so I didn’t pick it myself. And what I hope we can experience together is a new understanding of how our scriptures are still speaking to us. These next two weeks will be different in worship experiences but have the common thread of using the same text. I can’t wait to experience this with you. I hope you will join us Sunday either online or in person.

Each year, I pick a random book in my library that I loved as a kid, and I reread it. I will sometimes do this with many books throughout the year, but I specifically do it each summer, before school starts. This year I am reading the SE Hinton book, That was Then, This is Now. If you enjoyed The Outsiders or Rumble Fish, this book will inspire you in a similar way. It follows the lives of two boys Bryon and Mark as they grow up through their teen years. As the boys become older, their understanding of the world, and ultimately their friendship is strained by decisions that they make. Now I won’t spoil the novel, but I will share that the story of Jesus this week with some Pharisees and Religious scholars, and the wisdom he imparts on them, reminded me of Bryon and Mark. Read this week’s scripture from the book of Mark.

1 The Pharisees and some of the religious scholars who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus. 2 They had noticed that some of the disciples were eating with unclean hands—that is, without ritually washing them. 3 For the Pharisees, and Jewish people in general, follow the tradition of their ancestors and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow. 4 Moreover, they never eat anything from the market without first sprinkling it. There are many other traditions which have been handed down to them, such as the washing of cups and pots and dishes.
5 So these Pharisees and religious scholars asked Jesus, “Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of our ancestors, but eat their food with unclean hands?”
6 Jesus answered, “How accurately Isaiah prophesied about you hypocrites when he wrote,
‘These people honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me.
7 The worship they offer me is worthless;
the doctrines they teach are only human precepts.’
8 You disregard God’s commandments and cling to human traditions.”

Paying attention to what we do with our bodies is a great way to see God at work in the world. Things such as how we embrace another person, who we ignore when they ask us a question, and every interaction in-between. When we pay attention to what we do, we start to pay attention to why we do it. Do you have anything you do with yourself that has been passed down through your family or culture? Maybe you were taught to eat blueberries or grabes in the store while you shop so you don’t buy food while hungry? Maybe your cross your fingers when you drive past a cemetery for good luck? A secret handshake between siblings to remember your childhood? Or maybe (like me) you cross yourself at the end of the Lord’s prayer (My grandma told me to always do it, and now it’s just an unconscious habit). I imagine that the Pharisees and the Religious Scholars that met with Jesus, probably thought that physically going through the motions of their faith lives, things that they had been taught by their ancestors, were enough to get a pass with Jesus. But now we (and they!) know Jesus requires more than actions our ancestors taught us. Even if they truly believed that they were doing what God wanted of them, they are now in the possession of the knowledge of what God truly requires. That was then, this is now. Luckily, the “now” has Jesus.

Shalom Y’all.
Rev. Stephanie