Tag Archives: clean

Toxic Words

We all know it is important to wash our hands before eating or handling food.  We don’t want to consume more than we bargain for!  So it seems not unreasonable in this passage for the Teachers to be pulling Jesus’ disciples up on not having washed their hands.  These are men who live an itinerant life, and opportunities to wash must have been haphazard to say the least.  How kind of them to worry about the health of the disciples…

But that is not really what they are quibbling about.  They are not talking about hygiene, but about ritual.  It is not about washing your hands, or fruit, or pots and pans – all of which is necessary, but about washing them a certain way, a ritual way, almost a magic way as if it’s not done ‘that’ way, it doesn’t count.  It is just another way of control and rules and regulations that add nothing.

They want to know why Jesus isn’t doing things ‘their’ way.

Jesus, quite bluntly, tells them that they would be better worrying about what comes out of their mouths than what goes in.  There words and behaviour are far more toxic than any bacteria.

What they do and say to people is harming them, potentially killing them, and it is certainly not pleasing God.

There words and actions are meaningless, because they are about their control not God’s ways.  Where is that love that our readings have spoken of all week?

Forgive me Lord,
when I make up rules
about you;
when I focus
on things that don’t matter,
and not
on what does;
when I point to people’s errors
and don’t consider
what I am really doing.

take me from toxicity
to love,
for nit-picking
to freedom,
from control
to hope
and through

Mark 7:1-8, 14-16, 21-23  (CEV)

The Teaching of the Ancestors

Some Pharisees and several teachers of the Law of Moses from Jerusalem came and gathered around Jesus. They noticed that some of his disciples ate without first washing their hands.

The Pharisees and many other Jewish people obey the teachings of their ancestors. They always wash their hands in the proper way before eating. None of them will eat anything they buy in the market until it is washed. They also follow a lot of other teachings, such as washing cups, pitchers, and bowls.

The Pharisees and teachers asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples obey what our ancestors taught us to do? Why do they eat without washing their hands?”

Jesus replied:

You are nothing but show-offs! The prophet Isaiah was right when he wrote that God had said,

  “All of you praise me
    with your words,
but you never really
    think about me.
It is useless for you
    to worship me,
when you teach rules
    made up by humans.”

You disobey God’s commands in order to obey what humans have taught.

What Really Makes People Unclean

14 Jesus called the crowd together again and said, “Pay attention and try to understand what I mean. 15-16 The food that you put into your mouth doesn’t make you unclean and unfit to worship God. The bad words that come out of your mouth are what make you unclean.”

21 Out of your heart come evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder, 22 unfaithfulness in marriage, greed, meanness, deceit, indecency, envy, insults, pride, and foolishness. 23 All of these come from your heart, and they are what make you unfit to worship God.

Who Decides?

Oh, it can be so easy to be judgemental, to decide who is worthy, who is in or out – and to make decisions accordingly.  Sometimes those calls are made by ridiculous criteria, sometimes we think our reasons make sense.

The current debate over benefits has brought up some of those, some of our preconceived or inherited ideas, without letting the truths of people’s lives get in the way.  The Truth and Lies Report is doing much to dispel those misconceptions – do read it if you haven’t.  But how many times do we make snap judgements on people, their lifestyle and how they fit in?

The new church that was forming in Acts, was having to work out its theology as it went along, to devise the rules in the ways that seemed sensible and best.  But sometimes their assumptions needed to be challenged.  And the question comes – who are you to decide who and what are clean?  What is the ‘correct’ way to live?  God may have some surprises in store!

Acts 11:1-18 (CEV)

Peter Reports to the Church in Jerusalem

11 The apostles and the followers in Judea heard that Gentiles had accepted God’s message. So when Peter came to Jerusalem, some of the Jewish followers started arguing with him. They wanted Gentile followers to be circumcised, and they said, “You stayed in the homes of Gentiles, and you even ate with them!”

Then Peter told them exactly what had happened:

I was in the town of Joppa and was praying when I fell sound asleep and had a vision. I saw heaven open, and something like a huge sheet held by its four corners came down to me. When I looked in it, I saw animals, wild beasts, snakes, and birds. I heard a voice saying to me, “Peter, get up! Kill these and eat them.”

But I said, “Lord, I can’t do that! I’ve never taken a bite of anything that is unclean and not fit to eat.”

The voice from heaven spoke to me again, “When God says that something can be used for food, don’t say it isn’t fit to eat.” 10 This happened three times before it was all taken back into heaven.

11 Suddenly three men from Caesarea stood in front of the house where I was staying. 12 The Holy Spirit told me to go with them and not to worry. Then six of the Lord’s followers went with me to the home of a man 13 who told us that an angel had appeared to him. The angel had ordered him to send to Joppa for someone named Simon Peter. 14 Then Peter would tell him how he and everyone in his house could be saved.

15 After I started speaking, the Holy Spirit was given to them, just as the Spirit had been given to us at the beginning. 16 I remembered that the Lord had said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 17 God gave those Gentiles the same gift that he gave us when we put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. So how could I have gone against God?

18 When they heard Peter say this, they stopped arguing and started praising God. They said, “God has now let Gentiles turn to him, and he has given life to them!”

In the vision God invites Peter to eat animals that he knows are not to be touched by a “good” Jew.  But God challenges the long-held beliefs.  He is doing something new, and the rules are not what Peter thought they were.  For the new church to grow, they are going to have to adjust their concept of what God does and doesn’t want.  And what God says is what God says.

Peter’s vision prepared him for the events that were going to unfold before them – who and on what terms they were going to accept people.  God was going to do something new – and they had better be ready for it, not be stuck arguing about whether it was right!  God has given his gifts to everyone, whoever they are, whatever they have been – all are welcome.  No one is to stand in their way, arguing that they are not welcome, or that there are hoops they need to jump through before they will be accepted.

And I wonder about our churches, our communities – which are actually God’s…

Do we put up barriers, make people meet our criteria, judge by our own misguided assumptions?  Or do we hear God?  Allow him to make the rules?  See those he is calling to himself, and welcome them as we too have been welcomed and accepted by him?

I love the final verse

they stopped arguing and started praising God

surely that is what matters in our church…

This is a powerful song, with lots of questions about who are truly welcome

may I not make judgements,
about who is in
and who is out;
what people have to do to belong
to your community.

May I welcome,
may we welcome
all who seek to come,
not grudgingly,
not half-heartedly,
no waiting for them to change
and become ‘right’,
but as they are –
and loved
by you
fully part of your community

Washing Clean

I hate it when I’m ironing something and discover a stain on it.  Something that you thought was clean as it comes off the washing line, turns out not to be, and you have to start the whole washing process over again.

A blustery day on the washing line

If only there were something absolutely fool-proof for removing stains…

Hebrews 9:11-14

11 Christ came as the high priest of the good things that are now here. He also went into a much better tent that wasn’t made by humans and that doesn’t belong to this world. 12 Then Christ went once for all into the most holy place and freed us from sin forever. He did this by offering his own blood instead of the blood of goats and bulls.

13 According to the Law of Moses, those people who become unclean are not fit to worship God. Yet they will be considered clean, if they are sprinkled with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a sacrificed calf. 14 But Christ was sinless, and he offered himself as an eternal and spiritual sacrifice to God. That’s why his blood is much more powerful and makes our consciences clear. Now we can serve the living God and no longer do things that lead to death.

‘Sin’ is a strange word.  It has all kinds of “Hell fire and damnation” connotations.  People have been threatened with what will happen to them if they do “it”, and it can be seen as a very unhelpful concept.

But the reality of life is, sadly, that none of us is perfect.  I’m sorry to break that to you.  But there are things that all of us get wrong

  • things we do that would be better not done
  • things we should do that we don’t

these things make life less than perfect for all of us.

The problem can be, as we realise the truth in this – and in our lives, what can we do?

Do we despair?

Do we try to compensate?

Are we to make amends?

The bad news is we can’t – the good news is, we don’t have to.

This passage reminds us again that though there will be things we have got wrong, Jesus has done all that is needed to make sure that those things are no longer a blot on our lives.  Yes there are stains in our lives, blots in our copybook, but Jesus takes them away – and more importantly their effects.  He can stand before God blameless, and he does so on our behalf – so we can be clean again, if we allow him to make us so.


I come to you,

knowing full well

that there are things in my life that I have got wrong.

I come before you now,

and allow you to make me clean

in you