Ninth Sunday of Pentecost
What Is Clean in the Sight of God?
Matthew 15: 10 - 28
Mark 7: 14 - 23
Observant Jews follow kashrut, the dietary laws given in the Book of Leviticus (some people call this keeping kosher.) They eat only certain animals that are slaughtered in a special way, and they never mix milk and meat in the same dish (like beef strogonoff) or at the same meal (a milkshake with a hamburger).
They believe that keeping many small laws in their daily lives brings them closer to God all day long, and that the ordinariness of daily life becomes sacred and holy because the laws bring them closer to God in each everyday action.
The Pharisees were extremely careful about keeping the laws of Moses, but Jesus thought they would be better people if they kept the love of God for all people in their hearts. The laws which should have brought them closer to God only made them more distant from and uncaring for other people.
There are many laws about eating and keeping clean in the Book of Leviticus. Northern Europeans do not have the concept of ritual uncleanness, but in Jewish thought, people who are physically dirty and who have not followed the dietary laws are not able to pray or to worship God.
The vision of Peter reemphasizes Jesus' point: God did not create a world that is unclean; sinfulness and uncleanness come from our own hearts.
With this lesson, you might also want to teach Jesus' conversation with the Syro-Phoenician woman.
1. What doesn't make us unclean in the sight of God?
[The food we put in our mouths doesn't make us unclean in the sight of God.]
2. What does make us unclean in the sight of God?
[The bad words that come out of our mouths make us unclean.]
3. Who did the disciples warn Jesus against?
[The disciples warned Jesus against offending the Pharisees.]
4. Which disciple asked Jesus to explain what he meant?
[Peter asked Jesus the meaning of what he said.]
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