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Saturday, March 12, 2022
Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 23:13–39
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.’ How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you, desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (NRSV)
Boy, was Jesus upset with those teachers and Pharisees. He really gave them an earful! Glad it’s not me! How could they be so selfish and hypocritical treating the people so coldly and abusing their position? Good Christian folks like me wouldn’t do that—right? I may have ignored a person experiencing homelessness once or twice or called out a friend that was making questionable decisions . . . OK, maybe I wasn’t sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter causes or would occasionally tune out on issues involving women’s rights, but I attend church every Sunday and give a great offering! Isn’t that enough?
How often we as Christians think we are good “religious” citizens because we treat others fairly and give of our time and talents as we see fit versus treating others sincerely and giving of our gifts when they are needed. In our minds our actions (or inactions) may not be as flagrant as those of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law Jesus talked about, but when we do not treat each other genuinely and with acceptance, the results yielded are the same. We must truly have compassion for those that may not be like us and support causes that may have nothing to do with us, because that is what Jesus would have us do. Then we can authentically say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Lord, we thank you for loving us all even when we fall short of loving one another. Help us to not condemn each other but authentically remember in our actions and our words that you have placed us in this world not as individuals but collectively as true brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen.
Written by Michelle Epps, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church
Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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