Day 30: Monday in the Fifth Week of Lent
Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
Jesus accuses the religious leaders of his day of being hypocrites. It is the Greek word for an actor on stage. It isn’t yet a word laden with the vehemence and disdain in which we hold it now. It was more neutral. Though, clearly, it isn’t neutral in the mouth of Jesus.
The leaders of Jerusalem are actors playing a part; they are speaking the words but not living them. The law they claim to uphold asks for justice and mercy. It requires justice and mercy. It requires the love of neighbor and love of God. It requires the care of the poor and the protection of the weak. It demands far more than ritual observance. It asks for the teaching/law of God to be always in their hearts.
They say the words while on stage. They wear the robes. They recite the lines. They sing the songs. They do the prescribed ritual. At the great festivals they do the ritual with great fanfare. And then they take off the makeup, put the costumes back into the closet, and go home to their privileged houses. The most ruthless of them buy up the estates of those failing under the weight of debt despite the clear command of God forbidding interest and the selling of family lands. They tamp down any signs of protest, with violence if necessary. With crucifixion when needed.
God isn’t interested in nice speeches and military parades down Pennsylvania Avenue. God isn’t seduced by wondrous choirs and majestic liturgies – or, for that matter, a temple that is a wonder of the ancient world. The courts of the LORD are not a stage upon which to give God public honors; God is honored where bread is shared and strangers welcomed and the weak and vulnerable protected. God wants his teaching lived, his word honored in truth and action.
in the waters of baptism you sent us forth as your witnesses.
Help us live your grace and compassion
to all you bring near us today.
– A prayer for the fifth week of Lent
(For the reflection on this week’s theme: “Baptized for the sake of the world.” For the themes and sermons of other weeks see the menu for Lent 2018.)