Scripture for Sunday:
Song of Solomon 2.8–13; Psalm 45.1–2, 6–9; James 1.17–27; Mark 7.1–8, 14, 15, 21–23 (Jesus is criticised for his disciples’ failure to follow hand-washing and other rituals).
Ashley Madison is a web site for dating with a difference: something “on the side.” It’s been hacked – 33 million account details are apparently accessible. Be sure your sins will find you out. Stevie Wonder, in the 1970s, wrote: “Skeletons in your closet, itchin’ to come outside, messin’ with your conscience …”
Oscar Wilde wrote the story of Dorian Grey, a man with a magical portrait that bore the scars and evidence of his dissolute life, while his appearance remained unscathed – until someone found the picture. We can try to live under a veneer that covers who or what we really are, but eventually it will slip, or crack, or someone will find the picture in the attic.
The issue that Jesus had with the Pharisees and other leaders of his time is that all too often they proclaimed a way of living, based upon, but often extended from, the Law, yet did not really follow its spirit in their living. No hacker was needed to discern that what was presented on the outside did not match what was lived on the inside.
Jesus challenged the “fence” that rabbis had built around their faith – ostensibly to help people live within it – as well as the provisions of the Law itself in places. His real point: we need to think about what we do and why we do it, not use rules as a cudgel with which to beat others.
We have to ask ourselves: what matters to us? The arguments we have among us as we interpret certain passages in scripture, or the love that should undergird us as we discuss our differences? What matters to us in the world of politics? The earning of votes, or having integrity? What matters to us in our communal life? Reinforcing borders in a misplaced desire for security, or taking pity on refugees so that they don’t drown at sea or suffocate in lorries? What matters to us in our religious life? Doing the will of God or holding on to traditions?
We may not be members of Ashley Madison, but of the long list of sins that Jesus proclaimed (fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly), how many have we inwardly digested, to be revealed in our lives?
A life of faith is, amongst other things, a process of trying to be honest with ourselves and one another about our humanity and our flawed nature, instead of covering it up. What is in our pictures of Dorian Grey? God knows the secrets of our hearts. God knows where our skeletons are stacked, itching to come outside.