Scripture: Matthew 15:1-20
Key verses: (10-11) Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”
Reflection: Our traditions are sacred to us. We stand firm on traditions, from the date we begin decorating for Christmas to the exact Thanksgiving side dishes that must be served. Traditions can share our values or give order to our beliefs. Traditions can also begin to stand alone and we become rigid, forgetting their purpose.
In Matthew, Jesus questions the priorities of the Pharisees and the scribes. The traditions help support their commitment to God. Jesus got them with a zinger and it makes you smile just a bit when someone gets called on the carpet. O.K. maybe it’s just me! Then I realize this word of God from Matthew is for you and for me too. We are just as hypocritical as the Pharisee’s and scribes.
My grandmother made this amazing cranberry salad with pecans and grapes and it is not Thanksgiving without it, except that no one eats it. Not one person in my family besides me! This year, there will be no cranberry salad but there will still be thanksgiving with the people I love. It will save me an hour that I can spend with them too. This trivial discussion about traditional sides for thanksgiving also helps me to avoid discussion about larger issues of justice in the world that make my family uncomfortable and might cause some arguments.
We would rather stick to discussions about how ridiculous it is that people decorate for Christmas in November. (Does it really matter?) The passage from Matthew reminds us that like the Pharisees and scribes, we are selfish and need Jesus to remind us to live with integrity. Our beliefs and our actions should be consistent, even in the midst of our traditions. A good reminder as we go into this holiday season.
Prayer: God, help me live with integrity as I follow your son; loving my neighbor, working for justice and welcoming the stranger. In his holy name. Amen.
Author: Michelle Thomas-Bush
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].