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Archive for June 12th, 2019


Matthew 23: Woe

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Shema

Frequently during our Noontime reflecting we have observed how Jesus both promises and warns the world that there is a clear choice before us always: we may choose Beatitude or we may choose Woe.  Jesus also warns us frequently about true and false prophets, the difficulties and gifts we receive from entering into self-knowledge, the presence of evil in the most intimate and holy of places, the importance of praying the Shema in all our actions, and the peace of heart that arrives when we give over everything to the following of God above all else.  Today we look at perhaps the strongest indictment of false leadership present in the whole of scripture in which Jesus – at the height of his success among the people – steps into the comfort zone of church leaders to condemn their collusion in the corruption of God’s beautiful creation.  If we are in doubt as to whom Jesus might be seeing as false when he looks at us today, we have only to read the opening lines to see if we are his target for remediation: Those who preach but do not practice, those who tie up heavy burdens to lay on others’ shoulders but lift no finger to help,  those who perform works to be seen, those who love places of honor at banquets and seats of honor in places of worship, greetings in market places, those who widen their phylacteries and lengthen tassels.   Phylacteries are little black, leather prayer boxes worn on the upper left arm and forehead that carry the Shema prayer we thought about just several days ago.  Tassles are also prescribed in the Shema and they are the blue border or the blue and white fringe or threads at the four corners of the outer garment that would remind practicing Jews to adhere to the Law as prescribed in Numbers 15:38 – with their body, mind, heart and soul. Gospel-followers today wear crosses and medallions, frequent religious places and ceremonies, practice peace and justice in their work and play.  We can put ourselves under the same examination that we give to the scribes and Pharisees we read about today.

Bender Stanislaw: Laying Phylacteries at a Barmitzvah

Hypocrites, blind guides and fools, whitewashed tombs all beautiful outside and sparkling in the bright sun . . . but dark and empty on the inside, full of death and filth.  Jesus proclaims woe on and to the people who stubbornly believe that they are immune from scrutiny.  Jesus calls out to all of us to turn a discerning eye on what we say to see if it matches what we do.  Jesus laments the loss of so much potential in the closing verses of this chapter as he predicts the end of their present life.

When Jesus visits with each of us, he confronts our own hypocrisy and false fronts; yet he also comforts where he finds hurt, he heals where he finds damage, he cures where he finds regret, and he restores where he finds a conversion of heart.  This conversion is evidenced when we ask forgiveness.  It is witnessed by our willingness to accept responsibility for our missteps and our honest attempts to make amends.  This conversion is seen in our openness to what we have thought to be impossible – that we might both change and be changed by the blessed one who comes as an expression of God’s love to and in the world.  We have only to let the Christ enter our lives . . . and then to give our lives over to him.


A re-post from May 29, 2012.

Stanislaw image from: http://www.allposters.com/-sp/Rabbi-Tying-the-Phylacteries-to-the-Arm-of-a-Boy-Posters_i4047644_.htm

To read more about the importance of the Shema click The Shema image above or go to: http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Scripture/Torah/The_Shema/the_shema.html

For more information on the The Shema prayer go to: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/shema.html

To read The Shema prayer go to: http://www.jewfaq.org/prayer/shema.htm

Re-written and posted on October 28, 2009 as a Favorite.

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