Summary: What is it that really makes me a spiritual person? If I act good for long enough, will it no longer be an act, will it then become real?
Two missionaries were on their way through the jungle when they were captured by a group of cannibals. The two missionaries, Harrison and Thompson, were brought to the village with much fanfare where they were presented to the chief. The village chief stepped forward and said in perfect English, “Welcome to our village. Now that you have been captured, let me explain what will happen next: First we will skin you, and make canoes out of your skins – then we will roast you and eat you. However, we being a civilized people, offer you one last request.” Turning to Thompson the chief asked, “What will you final request be?”. The crowed went quiet. After a time, Thompson looked up and said, “For my final request, I ask for a knife”. “KNIFE!”, Shouted the chief. “KNIFE!”, Shouted back the villagers, and the search was on. Finally, a large warrior held up a knife and shouted, “KNIFE!” As he ran forward the whole village erupted shouting, “KNIFE, KNIFE, KNIFE, KNIFE,!” The warrior presented the knife to the chief who presented the knife to Thompson who took the knife and did himself in.
Harrison was shocked – this is not the kind of behavior they had learned in Seminary. The village again became quiet, and all eyes were now upon Harrison. “What will you final request be?” asked the village chief. “A fork”, said Harrison. “A fork?”, repeated back the chief. “Yes, a fork” assured Harrison. ”FORK!”, Shouted the chief. “FORK!”, Shouted back the villagers, and the search was on. It was quite difficult to find a fork in this remote village, but finally, a large warrior held up a fork and shouted, “FORK!” As he ran forward the whole village erupted shouting, “FORK, FORK, FORK, FORK,!” The warrior presented the fork to the chief who presented the fork to Thompson, “Here is your final request, a fork”, said the village chief.
Harrison took the fork from the chief and began to poke himself all over saying, “Your not going to make a canoe out of me!”
We all have a unique diet. What one person sees as delectable, another person is just horrified at even the thought of such a thing on their plate. My mother loved parsnips, we had them for dinner at every possible opportunity, in every possible way you could imagine. I strongly believed as a child, and even to this day, that parsnips are the most horrible, vile, vegetable known to humanity and if I never had to choke down another one of those things again, my life will be sweet.
Every once in awhile you run into folks to are very dedicated to their diet, they are almost fanatical about not only what they eat, but the philosophy behind what they eat. What they eat, why they eat almost becomes a way of life. Sometimes you walk away with the impression that these kind of folks believe they are better people because of the diet they adhere to.
Can what we eat make us better people? Even more, can the reason behind what I eat make me more open to life…perhaps more spiritual? And I think in the larger picture of things, it is more about the things that I do than just what I eat. Do the different tasks that I do during the week, the way I do these things, can these tasks make me more spiritual?
Jesus is addressing these issues for us in our Scripture today. Jesus wants us to consider this, this morning: What is it that REALLY makes me a spiritual person? Have you ever considered that? What is it that really makes me a spiritual person?
Our passage starts today, at the beginning of Mark, chapter 7, with the Pharisees being aghast when they see some of the disciples eat food that was not washed, with hands that were not washed.
Is this about the disciples not being tidy? Is this about ancient peoples being ignorant about sanitation? Is this about the religious authorities getting the willies when they witness disgusting table manners?….No, this is about why we do the things we do. This is about the philosophy that lurks behind each of our actions throughout the day, both conscious and unconscious. This is about why you do what you do.
Jesus and the Pharisees disagree on many things, but one thing they do agree on is this: Not only what we do in life matters, but why we do it also matters very much.
First let’s be clear about this: This discussion between Jesus and the Pharisees has nothing to do with hygiene. The people of the ancient Middle East had no concept of bacteria, germs or viruses. Though they bathed, they had not developed the concept of sanitation as we understand it today. The discussion here between the Pharisees and Jesus is about ritual cleanliness…..What was that? Ritual cleanliness. This is a very difficult concept for us as Americans to wrap our heads around because we don’t practice anything like this in our culture. But we need to understand ritual cleanliness to grasp what Jesus is trying to teach us today.