I am Paul Lawlor Area Dean of Redditch and Bromsgrove based in Redditch
Over recent months I have had the privilege of hearing from teams of people from across one half of the Deanery I work in. In this the yearning to reach younger generations has often come up, and rightly so.
But, are we ready for what this will look like for us are we prepared to cope with the changes this will necessitate? As we look at this incident from Mark’s Gospel, how does that challenge us?
Firstly, can I challenge our mental picture of the disciples? Are you picturing older men with beards? Or, are you imaging younger people! Back in 1917 scholars were writing that the disciples were more like a group of young students rather than a group of college dons.
If we picture young disciples and old Pharisees how does that colour our image of this interaction? Where do our sympathies really lie? Remember the Pharisees are people who value scripture and hold it highly (this is good). They seek to follow the laws God has laid down for his people (this is good), they seek to follow the pattern of worship God has decreed for His people (this too is good). Where to our sympathies really lie?
What is the motivation of the disciples in not keeping to the traditions? Are they simply rebelling or revelling in the excitement of what Jesus is teaching?
At the least, we have the relationship of young and old, traditionalist and reformer, settler and explorer, all these have a tension. I believe we can see this being lived out as the wider Church explores differing strategies for Church Growth and Development!
Where do our sympathies lie?
What are the rules, conventions and traditions we seek to follow? Are they “rules taught by men”? We’ve had another 2000 years to create human interpretations of God’s law and interpret the call Jesus places upon our lives. Can we be sure that our motivations are Righteous?
How do we react to new people (of any age or group) coming to faith in Jesus, perhaps in ways we don’t understand, when they don’t simply fall into patterns that we know and love when they seek to “sing a new song”. Do we seek to be true to the tradition of faith handed down to us OR can we react in the ways the Pharisees do?
If we hold too tightly to the wrong things then Jesus is challenging! He points to the prophets, it is no good to, “honour [God] with [our] lips but [have] hearts that are far from [Him]”.
Jesus provides us with a simple yet challenging solution.
He points to it not being outward show that makes us “clean”. It is not following the rules, doing the right thing, or being seen to do the right things that is important. Jesus says, it is “what comes out of a man” or person that reveals what us within.
The challenge in what Jesus says is that it is what that is within us that drives what we do and say. What is in our hearts, what rules our hearts motives what we think, say and do.
We can help to shape what is our hearts, how can we become more Jesus like, by what we do? Through the repetition of the spiritual disciples of Prayer, Reading Scripture, Worship, Fasting, Pilgrimage, Retreat and Fasting…all of these shape us. But they need to not become the thing. Hold to the practices but let Jesus shape us by the Spirit at work in us. We can become more Jesus shaped. We can seek to move as the Spirit guides.
We live in a time when there is a need to re-assess many things. We live in a time when we need to follow where God is leading and not simply re-establish the past.
Where do our sympathies lie? In holding to the ways we’ve always lived with or in seeking to follow where God is leading.
- Are there things in our lives which are good but are now idols?
- Do we need to put these things down for a season so that we can pick up what God has for us in these months to come?
- What is within us that motivates what we say and do? Can we seek to know more of Jesus within us?