Bible Workbench: Proper 17, August 30, 2009

Text Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

An important aspect of Judaism, particularly of ancient Judaism, is that of holiness.  In order to be in relationship with God, Jewish tradition commands that one’s life – body, heart, home, food, work, and relationships – must be pure.  There is a particular emphasis on the purity of the body.  Jewish law codifies exactly how to maintain this holiness, specifically elaborating on the importance of remaining separate from all things profane.  (In this context, profane does not indicate moral evil or foulness, but simply something that is ordinary or unsanctified.)

In today’s passage from Mark, Jesus reminds his followers and the Pharisees who are paying them a visit of the primary importance of moral purity.  It would seem that his listeners have focused so much on the acts of purification that they’ve forgotten the reason for it.  Much of contemporary Christianity, on the other hand, focuses exclusively on moral purity – obviously with varying degrees of success.  Yet it seems to have largely forgotten the body as something also sacred to God.  Short of Baptism, we have few rites of bodily purification, few communal ways of bringing ourselves into a physical relationship with the divine.

But in order to feel that our physical existence matters to us and to God, we must practice some forms of bodily consecration.  Consider the ways in which you set your body aside for God.  What rituals do you enact to make yourself physically available for a relationship with the divine?  What worship do you perform at the temple of your body?  How might this worship honor God?  How might purifying your body help you to find your soul?

Kathie Collins

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