Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
For some of us, the busy season of a summer garden is drawing to a close. The intense time of activity and hard work began in late spring when seeds were planted. Those seeds were planted in the hope—but with no guarantee—that they would take root and a bounty of delicious food would come from the gardener’s efforts.
The same might be said for those who introduced the three girls in the photo on the front of today’s bulletin to the Bible. What are those parents, grandparents, Sunday school teachers, or pastors hoping will happen in those young minds and hearts as those girls discover the words of Scripture for themselves? Those mentors are hoping for a fruitful outcome, but there is no guarantee.
The story in today’s Gospel lesson beginning with Mark 7:1 is a sad account of devout students of the Scriptures who are dedicated to the rituals and traditions of their faith but who have no interest or understanding of the spiritual fruit that really matters. As a result, they were fruitless. The seed never took root.
The story becomes not only sad but also tragic as it becomes clear that those students of the Bible were convinced that their rituals and traditions are all that interest God. They believed that they did all that God asked by giving close attention to these external practices, with no thought for the condition of their hearts. For them, if they followed their traditions, then it is no big deal if they gossip, harbor pride, envy another, or practice dishonesty or secret sins of immorality. The words they studied so carefully simply didn’t take root.
They wanted to learn the Scriptures, but they wanted to live only their traditions. The hard question we must face is this: Is this true with us today?
Tim Byerly, pastor, Mayodan Moravian Church, Mayodan, North Carolina