Genesis 43-45, Psalm 15, Matthew 15
I have a confession to make. I worked all day and then went to a rehearsal, and here it is at 11:37pm, and I haven't done the readings from Genesis. I got the Psalm and Matthew read backstage between my scenes, but I just didn't have time to read about Joseph. I'm about to pass out at the computer, so I'm not reading it tonight. I have tomorrow off work, so I'll catch up then. Sorry. You'll just have to deal with it.
I really loved how the Psalm and Jesus' teachings in Matthew went hand in hand today. I was a bit surprised that the Psalm actually put a limit on who can come into the temple. "O Lord, who may abide in your tent?/Who may dwell on your holy hill?" I've always thought that church was a place for everyone. We don't turn anyone away. The psalmist disagrees. He says only "those who walk blamelessly..." can enter. He actually goes on with an impressive list of those who can and cannot enter. I would say the same is true today, but there's a great danger in that. I don't know that we are the ones to judge who can and cannot enter. I think it's left to God to decide. God knows the secrets of our souls whereas I don't know your secrets, and I hope you don't know mine! An Episcopal priest friend of mine once told me that priests can deny communion to someone whom they know has committed a great sin and has not repented of it. I asked her if she had ever done that, and he quickly answered no. I would imagine that if someone came into the church killed a baby, spat on the alter, and threw rocks through the stained glass, the priest would be obliged to deny that person communion, but I can't really think of a less extreme reason. That's because we are not to judge one another. Judgement belongs to God. Interestingly, the psalm ends with the words: "Those who do these things shall never be moved." Never. That implies that some people are inherently good and others are inherently evil. This isn't the first time we've seen this notion in the bible. All of us are sinners, but we can be sinners who strive to do God's will. I know I am far from perfect, but I do try to learn from my mistakes and serve God.
Jesus makes a rather strong statement about serving God in Matthew's gospel. I've heard this passage quoted a million times by preachers and Sunday school teachers: "It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles." Now, I've usually heard this in reference to swearing. I'm sure that Jesus would rather we not use foul language, but I don't think that's what he's talking about here. Jesus makes the point that the ritual hand washing isn't what makes him pious or not. Any action on its own cannot please God just by doing it. We have to mean it. I think that goes for everything at church and in our lives. We can sing hymns, but it only pleases God when we sing them full of joy and understanding the words. When we actively praise Him, He takes delight. When we receive communion we must do it with full knowledge of what we are doing. We can't just go through the actions blindly. If we fully enter into the ritual we please God. In acting we speak often of finding an intention for everything. You never cross the stage or say a line or raise an eyebrow without an "intention". Why does the character do that? What do you want from the other? I think those questions work well in our spiritual life, too. We can follow all the rules of piety and religion, but unless we do them with full intention of serving God they are meaningless. Everything we do must "proceed from the heart" as Jesus says in Matthew 15:18. So when a service ends with the priest saying, "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord", we should go from church will full intention of actively serving God in all we do.
I'm just writing stream of consciousness without edits tonight. Sorry if I'm rambling. Sleep now. night-night. zzzzzzzzzzzzz