"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Bonds of Formality

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and 'sinners' came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, 'Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?' On hearing this, Jesus said, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.' Matthew 9:10-13 NIV
Since Matthew was a tax collector(scum) and his friends were no doubt bottom feeders, those are naturally the only folks who would dine with him. Amazing, isn't it, that the Pharisees ventured close enough to the festivities to see who was there. No doubt they had followed Jesus to catch him in some indiscretion. Imagine their joy when Jesus entered Matthew's home.         It is interesting to note that Jesus' disciples waited for him outside Matthew's home, enabling the Pharisees to quiz them about their Master's activities. Had Matthew excluded them from his feast? Or had they refused to enter the home of a hated tax collector, even though their Master had just gone in to sup. Imagine Judas' self-righteous stance as he showed himself more upright than the Teacher.         Answering the Pharisees, Jesus quoted Hosea 6:6, For I desire steadfast love[mercy] and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.(ESV) Think of the implications of Jesus' statement. The Jews based their whole religious tradition on ritual sacrifice. Their rituals, liturgies and formalities in fact, had become their primary emphasis, their first love, and their exclusive expression of devotion to their Elohim. By saying, I desire mercy and not sacrifice, Yeshua told both the current religious establishment and today's church that religious rituals and traditions mean nothing without the foundation of love and mercy. What an apt reminder for Christendom's religious professionals who have bound their lives and their spiritual expression to the shackles of ritual.         Tragically, many clergy have found themselves so tightly bound to religious convention that breaking free is virtually impossible, despite Yeshua's injunction recorded in Matthew 9:10-13. Only the righteous Judge knows how deeply their disobedience penetrates their lives, or if they honestly can't help perpetuating the bonds of formality.

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