Saturday, December 04, 2010

Scripture Saturday--Think Outside the Box

This Sunday's readings from Isaiah and Matthew are about acting with a bold integrity. Isaiah tells us the Messiah will possess certain characteristics.
He does not judge by appearances,
he gives no verdict on hearsay,
but judges the wretched with integrity,
and with equity gives a verdict for the poor of the land.
His word is a rod that strikes the ruthless,
his sentences bring death to the wicked.
Integrity is the loincloth round his waist,
faithfulness the belt about his hips.
In the same reading, he tells us that
The wolf will live with the lamb,
the panther lies down with the kid,
calf and lion feed together,
with a little child to lead them.
God judges with integrity and wants us to do the same.  The only way Isaiah's prophesy of peace can be fulfilled is if we begin acting as Jesus did.  Jesus was constantly challenging the religious power structure of his day to act with integrity.  Intriguingly, he did nothing about the Roman occupation, telling people instead to "give to Cesar what is Cesar's and give to God what is God's". Money and temporal things all belong to Cesar and are not to be hoarded or worried about.

But, if you profess to be a believer in the Father, then your values must always come into play and be consistent, no matter who you may be dealing with--friends, family, employers, believers, those in power and those who are powerless.Sometimes this involves challenging those in power over you in order to maintain your own integrity.

Human dignity comes first.  Jesus healed on the Sabbath and remonstrated with those who thought that following the rule against work on that day was the most important thing. His disciples gathered wheat to eat on the Sabbath.  Jesus was more concerned with their hunger than with blind obedience to the law.
Laws and customs that came from a place of hospitality, though, were to be followed. He challenged the Pharisee when he failed to wash Jesus' feet during a visit to his home.  This Middle Eastern custom was a sign of respect and hospitality to a guest who had walked a long way in the dust and heat.

Jesus' task was to get us to think outside the box of blindly following after authority with no thought for each other.  Far from a faith of ignorant sheep, ours is a faith of thinking, loving human beings bringing the Kingdom of God to each other.


Barbara said...

I don't see Jesus against organized religion. He was a very observant Jew. But He was against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the worldly things the Jewish religious leaders allowed to go on within the temple courts of Jerusalem. The Pharisees rigidly ruled the Jews according to the Jewish law, which they twisted toward their own advantage, and which they sneaked around whenever they felt like it. I bet plenty of Pharisees committed adultery, for instance, and got away with it because they never were caught or because their buddies looked the other way.

I see that behavior as being what Jesus condemned, not the Jewish religion itself. There is a tendency to condemn organized religion because of the hypocrisy of human leaders - we are all sinners - but Jesus is with the Church and the Church is necessary to the world. Without the magisterium, people could interpret sacred scripture and tradition any way they wanted. In fact, that's why we have so many different sects today. I think Jesus was telling us to look beyond the human and get a right relationship with God, not letting the human interfere with that.

Dymphna said...

I don't think Jesus was opposed to organized religion either. I think he wanted to hold those at the top of Judaism to standard of integrity. He wanted to tell everyone that the Kingdom of God is here--and can come by our own actions towards each other.

Dymphna's favorite quotes

"Slavery ended in medieval Europe only because the church extended its sacraments to all slaves and then managed to impose a ban on the enslavement of Christians (and of Jews). Within the context of medieval Europe, that prohibition was effectively a rule of universal abolition. "— Rodney Stark

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