Weekly Reflections 8-26-15

 Texts for Sunday August 30

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9
 Psalm 15
 James 1:17-27
 Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

 I just previewed a little video for my confirmation class in fall about the very Lutheran concept of Law and Gospel. It demonstrated the traffic jams that would occur if everyone on the road disregarded the law/rules of the road.  And so, it said, we need to remember that the law in this case is a good thing about which one can be grateful.

The texts today connect with that little video. In them we hear God’s purpose for the law, and how to live them authentically and gratefully, and what can happen when we forget all that.

A story:
A young woman asks her mom for her delicious roast recipe.  Toward the end of the instructions, the mom says “Cut a ½ inch off both ends of the roast and tuck them alongside the roast.” “Why?” “Because that is how to do it.” “But why?”  “That is what my mom did.”  So the young woman thanks her mom then calls her grandmother. “Mom gave me the recipe for roast but couldn’t remember why we need to cut off the ends. Does that make it cook better?” “Your mother cuts off the ends every time?” “Yes.” “Well, I don’t know why she does it, but I used to cut off the ends because my roasting pan was always too small for the roast.”

Sometimes we forget or just plain miss why we do things and the doing becomes more important than the why. In the Gospel today, the Judeans confronting Jesus know the rules but may have forgotten the reasons behind them. Jesus points them back to God.

In the Deuteronomy text we hear that the law was a gift from God to build the relationship between God and God’s people. They bring life in the fullness that God intends for us, not condemnation. By living in a life-giving relationship with God and one another for which the law was designed, the people witness to “the nations” that God is, well, God. The nations will recognize us by our deeds. The people are cautioned to not forget the why and to teach both the why and what to following generations.

The text in James goes along with those ideas: God’s purpose for us is life and we are the “first fruits” of his creatures. James reminds us that our tendency is to act out of self concern. Instead, our acts need to reflect the life that God has given us through Jesus. If we don’t give undivided loyalty to Jesus we will not be ready to face hard times.

A side note: My favorite comment for the week comes from A.K.M. Adam, Tutor in New Testament at St. Stephen's House, Oxford University, England on Luther Seminary’s Working Preacher site. He comments on this passage from James: “ if one thinks oneself secure simply for praising the Lord and carping at sinners, one has not made spiritual progress but is halfheartedly trying to hold on both to God and to sinful desire.”
Dang. I so love to carp at sinners!

The word for all of this talk of law and rules is mindfulness. Do the things you do in the name of God. Don’t blame the external and don’t go telling others that they are not doing God stuff correctly. Look instead at your internal “stuff” and ask God for mercy and strength.

Want to read the texts? Go to the Oremus Bible Browser.

Want more to reflect more on these texts? Check out the G.I.F.T. post on 8/30.

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245