Monday, October 24, 2011

Gospel Text for Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Matthew 23:1-12

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father-- the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted."


  1. I fear that anything I write would slip into the categories of wishing to impress or pushing the message onto you, dear reader. I say only, Spirit of God, imprint this word on my mind, that I might continually take refuge in the hiddenness of humility.

  2. For reasons that I cannot explain, and long before it was the socially conscious or the politically correct thing to do in some circles, I have been obsessed with health and fitness – eating well, exercising, meditating – those kinds of things. So naturally, when I was raising my daughter Leela I obsessed about her eating and health as well. And then one day – she must have been 6 ½ or 7 years old – I was being relentless – refusing to let her eat processed foods or refined sugar –“No, I will not take you to MacDonald’s, ” she called me out... hands on her not yet hips “Mama, how can you make me be healthy and you smoke those cigarettes?” Ouch!

    And there it was – Jesus teaching the people not to imitate the hypocrites “Do what they teach you but do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they teach.”

    Jesus’ words to the disciples and the crowds spoke directly to me – to my lack of integrity. How dare I teach my daughter the value of taking care of her body – her life and then mistreat my own body – my own life! My many failed attempts to quit smoking ended that evening when I threw away my cigarettes for the last time. My innocent young daughter was my teacher. Her purity revealed my impurity. Truly blessed are the pure of heart for they will teach the impure like me the error of our ways.

    I believe the narrator of Matthew’s gospel text intended to draw us into judgment of those hypocritical, pretentious, self-aggrandizing first century religious officials – I mean really – they prance around flaunting their beautifully decorated robes (Armani suits), the deep blue cords and long fringes on their garments (think bling) – they make a big show of doing their morning and evening prayers….you know the type… and then the narrator pulls a switch and points the finger right back at us. Do you practice what you teach?

    We Christians teach, "Love God and your neighbor." How are we embodying that in our lives? Do we place burdens, demands or expectations on others that we are not willing to carry ourselves? (Do as I say, not as I do?) Do we make public displays of our piety; little fish on our car, crosses around our neck, going to church on Sunday and fail to relieve the suffering of people weighed down with disproportionate social or economic burdens? Do we like to be called teacher or doctor or mother or father or leader and forget that we have one teacher and that we are all students?

    Help me Jesus, every time I turn around I slip into some kind of prideful stance. Help me to remember in all things and at all times I am Your student.