Daily Devotion for October 27, 2009
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Prayer for the Morning
Oh Lord, most heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought me to the beginning of this day; I give you thanks for my creation, preservation, and all the blessings of my life. Grant that this day I fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all my doings, being governed by your will, may be righteous in your sight. Through Christ our Lord, I pray.
Prayer for Grace and Strength
Lord God, I pray that you will fill my heart with the blessing of your Holy Spirit. Grant me this day the strength to be temperate in all things, diligent in my duties, and patient under my afflictions. Direct me in all my ways. Give me grace to be just and upright in all my dealings; quiet and peaceable; full of compassion; and ready to do good to all people, according to my abilities and opportunities. For the sake of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Community of Prayer
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be among the community of all who pray in the name of Christ this morning, and remain among us always.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
Gospel of Matthew 15:7-20
The Blind Leading the Blind
Christ asked the multitudes to hear and understand: "You hypocrites, Isaiah prophesied well about you:
'This people honors me with their lips, but not with their heart. The laws they follow are created by men.'
A man is not defiled by what goes into his mouth, but by what comes out of it."
The disciples came to Jesus and said, "Do you know how much this saying offended the Pharisees?"
But Christ answered, "Every plant that was not planted by my Father will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.
Peter asked, "Explain this parable to us." And Christ replied, "Even you don't understand this? Don't you see, that whatever goes in the mouth, passes through the belly and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from heart; and they dishonor the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, lies, and ranting: these are the things that defile a man, not eating with unwashed hands."
Comment on the Scripture
Christ really lets loose on the hypocrisy of organized religion. He was speaking directly of Orthodox Judaism, but his words should chill every church, every religion, every denomination (and every person who writes scriptural comments on the internet!). His chose to illustrate his teaching by comparing the two primary uses of our mouths — eating food and speaking — because dietary laws were so important to the Hebrews of his generation, and he had just been criticized by the Pharisees for breaking them.
The more general lesson is given by the quote from Isaiah: "They honor me with their lips, but not their hearts. The laws they follow are created by men."
Pride is the root sin of all men and women. It is unavoidable. It leads us to reject parts of the Bible that do not fit with our own thoughts. We may try to harmonize a frightening or challenging passage with our personal beliefs. (Indeed, this appears to be the purpose of much Biblical scholarship.) It is a great challenge, to read something in the Bible that contradicts something you want to believe. "That can't be right; it must mean something different," we think or say. Very few people, including church leaders and scholars, can resist some degree of trying to bend the Bible to their personal beliefs or wishes, rather than vice versa: changing their thoughts and ideas so that they are more in line with the Bible.
To come closer to God's word, one must try not to do it. We must read the Bible seeking to learn, rather than to justify our own personal conceptions of right and wrong. It helps to pray that the Holy Spirit will strengthen you; it is a very hard thing for a human to do, to question his beliefs. And of course, we pray always in the name of Christ to be forgiven for our pride. This is one of the simple core concepts of Christianity: we will sin, and God will forgive us for it, if we confess our sin and pray for forgiveness in the name of Christ Jesus.
Some denominations teach that absolution by a priest or church official is required; some, that such absolution is advisable or possible; many others teach the exact opposite. We are not qualified to criticize anyone's approach to penance, confession, or forgiveness of sin. The important thing is to confess, ask for forgiveness, and take enormous joy in knowing that God has actually forgiven us.