Readings: Lectionary Year B, Proper 17 (related)
Deuteronomy 4.1-2,6-9 Moses reminds the Israelites how God’s law is key.
James 1.17-27 Genuine Christian faith leads to Christian actions and living.
Mark 7.1-8,14,15,21-23 Jesus emphasizes the importance of spiritual integrity.
Acts of Mercy (from Matthew 25:31-36) in St. Mary’s church, Ashwell, Herts.
The depictions here might strike you as a well-dressed, affluent woman condescending to the unfortunate: this is a result of the Victorian worldview. Hopefully it also strikes you that these aren’t difficult things to do.
Some thoughts on the readings
– Moses tells the people of Israel that the Law (as set out in the first 5 books of the Bible – the Torah) is not just a set of rules, it’s also a sign to other nations of God’s favour, and a way of remaining close to God.
– The letter of James is sometimes mistakenly thought to say we are saved by our actions. This is the reason the reformer Martin Luther condemned it as “an epistle of straw”. What James actually says is that if our faith is genuine, it will inevitably express itself in good works.
– The early Christians interpreted Jesus’ teaching here as releasing them from the dietary restrictions of Moses’ Law. It did, however, impose the much harder restriction of eating with integrity! Paul later addresses this in Romans 14:17-23 in the context of eating meat offered to idols, which offended some.
Suggestions for further Bible reading
Psalm 19 The psalmist praises God’s Law as being just as much a revelation of God’s nature, and a gift to humanity, as God’s creation.
Galatians 5:19-23 Paul’s list of “works of the flesh” echoes Jesus’ list of evils which come from inside. The answer is to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Luke 10:29-37 In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus teaches that our duty to care for those in need transcends all human divisions.
What other passages come to mind when you read today’s readings?
Points for Prayer
– Give thanks for all those we know who spend time, energy and money to look after others, especially those who do so quietly and unsung.
– As schools and universities start again, pray for teachers and students, especially those beginning in new places. Ask God for a smooth start.
– Pray that politicians in every country will learn to govern with integrity.
– Pray for those suffering the effects of poverty: hunger, and lack of shelter and clothing. Ask God to give us compassion and generosity towards them.
Points for Action
– Check through your clothes for items which you no longer wear, and donate them to a homeless shelter or charity shop.
– The next time you see someone behave selflessly, remember to thank them.