The Pharisees and some legal experts from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus. They saw some of his disciples eating food with unclean hands. (They were eating without first ritually purifying their hands through washing. The Pharisees and all the Jews don’t eat without first washing their hands carefully. This is a way of observing the rules handed down by the elders. Upon returning from the marketplace, they don’t eat without first immersing themselves. They observe many other rules that have been handed down, such as the washing of cups, jugs, pans, and sleeping mats.)
So the Pharisees and legal experts asked Jesus, “ Why are your disciples not living according to the rules handed down by the elders but instead eat food with ritually unclean hands?”
He replied, “Isaiah really knew what he was talking about when he prophesied about you hypocrites. He wrote, This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me. Their worship of me is empty since they teach instructions that are human words.You ignore God’s commandment while holding on to rules created by humans and handed down to you.” Jesus continued, “Clearly, you are experts at rejecting God’s commandment in order to establish these rules.”
Then Jesus called the crowd again and said, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing outside of a person can enter and contaminate a person in God’s sight; rather, the things that come out of a person contaminate the person.” It’s from the inside, from the human heart, that evil thoughts come: sexual sins, thefts, murders, adultery, greed, evil actions, deceit, unrestrained immorality, envy, insults, arrogance, and foolishness. All these evil things come from the inside and contaminate a person in God’s sight.
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Sex. Greed. Deceit. Unrestrained Immorality. Envy. Insults. Arrogance. Foolishness. Violence. These are the makings of a great story. This past Friday I went to go see a movie by myself. Well, I was going to see Expendables 2 and since I love my wife I go alone and save her from having to sit through the experience that is my horrible taste in movies.
I showed up at the theater and noticed the lobby was packed with young men wearing orange. I approached the snack counter and bought my popcorn and soda and went on to my movie. I walked in and inside the 2:30 showing of Expendables 2 was an entire football team.
I am not joking. There was the entire football team from Savannah State University. I took a seat sort of in the front sandwiched between a coach and a row of young men that looked like they were either the offensive line. As I sat there my eyes got bog and I started to write a story in my head. Look at all of this excitement. These young men are laughing, joking and enjoying the experience. They are sharing popcorn and seem excited for the movie to begin.
As the movie trailers came on these young men were very vocal about what they liked or did not like. They celebrated together as a team. They jeered as a team. I suspect they had all kinds of stories on each other they could share.
Then the movie came on. A parade of masculine fueled action movie carnage arrives. The Italian Stallion, Stallone. Jean-Claude Van Damme. Bruce Willis. Terry Crews from the Old Spice commercials. Jet Li. Dolph Lundgren. Chuck Norris. Arnold Schwarzenegger. We were only missing Jackie Chan, Samuel L. Jackson, and Wesley Snipes. The excitement was as palatable as it was vocal. This was a ruckus crowd.
I imagined the nerves that these young men held. They were in Oklahoma to play Oklahoma State. They play for a school that is known for its futility. They went 1-11 last year in division 1-AA. Their opponents went 12-1 last year. This game was a literal meeting up of David and Goliath.
But there in those moments, in that movie theater. They laughed. They celebrated. They OOHH’d and AAHH’d. They had fun. It was contagious. I had fun. It was the best movie experience that I have ever had. The energy was electric.
The movie ended. They got on a bus headed to Stillwater and I drove home. They played OSU yesterday. I followed the score a little. I never thought they had a chance to win. I hoped it was not going to be a massacre. Sadly for them, it was a massacre. They lost 84-0. The story on the game was how explosive OSU was. They ran for almost 400 yards and passed for almost 300. It was utter dominance.
The line on Savannah State was they came and got slaughtered but at least they got paid almost $400,000 to do so. A lamb being lead to slaughter they were. And they play Florida State next Saturday. My heart breaks for these young men.
For me I’ll not remember Savannah State football as the one that got whooped by an opponent they should never have played on the road to another unnecessary game. I want to remember Savannah State football and our passing moment of community. Right there in the theater, laughing and cheering on gratuitous violence in the form of yesterday’s favorite action heroes.
Stories matter. They matter because it is story that fashions our community. Story tells us what has come before us. Story shares what is important. Story celebrates our heroines. Story draws us closer together. Story is how our faith shines.
Jesus cautions, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing outside of a person can enter and contaminate a person in God’s sight; rather, the things that come out of a person contaminate the person.” Before Jesus says this he warns us against those things handed down to us. Jesus is warning us against tradition. When story becomes law we run the risk of forgetting who and to what our story connects us to.
We contaminate our story when we ignore that we are tethered to Christ. Our story is intertwined and miraculously connected to Jesus.