Clean the Inside

October 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

Luke 11:37-52

37 As Jesus was speaking, one of the Pharisees invited him home for a meal. So he went in and took his place at the table.[a] 38 His host was amazed to see that he sat down to eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony required by Jewish custom. 39 Then the Lord said to him, “You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness! 40 Fools! Didn’t God make the inside as well as the outside? 41 So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over.

42 “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens,[b] but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.

43 “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you love to sit in the seats of honor in the synagogues and receive respectful greetings as you walk in the marketplaces. 44 Yes, what sorrow awaits you! For you are like hidden graves in a field. People walk over them without knowing the corruption they are stepping on.”

45 “Teacher,” said an expert in religious law, “you have insulted us, too, in what you just said.”

46 “Yes,” said Jesus, “what sorrow also awaits you experts in religious law! For you crush people with unbearable religious demands, and you never lift a finger to ease the burden. 47 What sorrow awaits you! For you build monuments for the prophets your own ancestors killed long ago. 48 But in fact, you stand as witnesses who agree with what your ancestors did. They killed the prophets, and you join in their crime by building the monuments! 49 This is what God in his wisdom said about you:[c] ‘I will send prophets and apostles to them, but they will kill some and persecute the others.’

50 “As a result, this generation will be held responsible for the murder of all God’s prophets from the creation of the world— 51 from the murder of Abel to the murder of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, it will certainly be charged against this generation.

52 “What sorrow awaits you experts in religious law! For you remove the key to knowledge from the people. You don’t enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent others from entering.”

We are awash in images of easy-going, white-guy Jesus. He wears a halo, his nose is very straight, and his hair falls like silk upon his shoulders. His European whiteness is striking. The heavy “om” that hangs around him belies the heat that rises from passages such as these.

Granted, this is Luke’s take; but there are plenty of verses in the Bible that reveal just how pissed off Jesus could get. Dealing with stubborn fully-humans was not easy. For Jesus, the truth is obvious. Attempting to convey it can feel pointless.

Expectations are created in the image of the placid, pale Jesus who glows from within. Ideas about who Jesus was/is and what Jesus stands for abound.  Hemmed by righteous walls, reasons to keep people away from the table spring up, full-grown. Well tended beds of bigotry and coldness bring down the curtain with conviction while our world churns with division and pain.

The bible shows us an angry Jesus sick of dealing with jerks. In my mind, I see long, curled hair tossed around caramel shoulders, brown eyes flashing through his exhaustion. In these passages, Jesus lets out his rage against injustice, superficiality, and selfishness. It is not abstract. “He who has ears, let him hear!” Matthew 11:15.

This scripture was from my daily reading. The Episcopal Church is constantly asking these kinds of questions and raising these kinds of issues. People will be people; but the Church, itself, keeps an eye on truth, justice, and peace.

Trying to think like Jesus did is strenuous. A peaceful radical is hard to construct. There were rules about hand-washing. Jesus didn’t care. He said forget about governing the world outside; and govern the world within. Forget formality, forget righteous and routine judgements; look through the radical and loving eyes of Christ. The narrow path opens like a rose.

Saint Ann’s in New Martinsville, West Virginia. We loved serving Her.

I’m sloppy. I stumble around like a drunk in the mud, reaching for the ideal. An embarrass myself, but my flailing is sincere: I search after God with all of my heart.

I am constantly failing. My rage and my pain throw up signals to the left and to the right, and I react. My son catches most of it; but no one is immune. I pray all over it. Lord, make my actions match the feelings of my heart. Help me to reflect the love and compassion I really have within. Amen.