GSFA Devotional: Bread for Our Journey
Trinity 13: (29th August 2021)
TRINITY SEASON: A worship in vain?
‘This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men .’
Please read Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23; James 1:17-27
Jesus spoke out His mind about tradition and worship. Of course, He is only repeating the words of the prophet Isaiah but He is also addressing the issue of tradition and worship to the Pharisees and to us today. And this contemptuous sentence helps us to reflect on our worship. Is our own worship also in vain? It would undoubtedly be as such if it were only a devotion in words, without the commitment from our hearts. Unfortunately, our liturgies can be limited to being only external ceremonies where all the headings, the ritual prescriptions, would be respected, but where the deep attachment to the Lord would be lacking.
Without rejecting the rituals, Jesus shifts the centre of gravity of the religious attitude. The centre is no longer the rites, but the human heart. This is where it all comes into play, for better or for worse. Reacting against the tendency that would make food the cause of human's impurity, Jesus declares that the human being is made unclean by what comes out of his/her heart. This is liberating compared to food taboos but is terribly demanding from a moral point of view. With the gospel, we are ultimately never quite in good standing. The work of purifying our heart is never complete.
As a counterpoint to the text of the Gospel of today, the book of Deuteronomy sings the wonders of the law given by God, the one that should not be confused with the human precepts denounced by the Gospel. This one is life and brings us closer to God.
James the Just, the brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55) and leader of the Church of Jerusalem (Acts 15) teaches in his letter how to live out our faith and this fits well with the theme of our meditation of today. James rebukes his readers for their worldliness and challenges them to seek divine wisdom in working out their problems and getting right with God. Put the Word of God into application, do not just listen to it.
For James, there is a "pure and irreproachable way of practicing religion": let’s us read the Epistle of St James chapter 1 to see what it is about. Brothers and sisters, be doers of the word, and not hearers only .”
God be with you, bless and protect you always.
The Most Revd James Wong
Primate of The Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean
Steering Committee Member
Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches
i ESV Bible, Isaiah 29:13, Mark 7:6-7.
ii ESV Bible, James 1:22.