Daily office commentary, Mark 2:18-22; don’t lose sight of the bigger picture

18 The disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees made a practice of fasting. Some people confronted Jesus: “Why do the followers of John and the Pharisees take on the discipline of fasting, but your followers don’t?”

We might paraphrase this as something like: “As much as they disagree on almost everything when it comes to religion, even the radicals (followers of John) and the conservatives (Pharisees) can agree that you’re supposed to fast as a sign of devotion.”

19-20 Jesus said, “When you’re celebrating a wedding, you don’t skimp on the cake and wine. You feast. Later you may need to pull in your belt, but not now. As long as the bride and groom are with you, you have a good time. No one throws cold water on a friendly bonfire. This is Kingdom Come!” 21-22 He went on, “No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes; you want fabrics that match. And you don’t put your wine in cracked bottles.”

“Why don’t my followers engage in fasting? Because God is a God of LIFE and not a God who sweats the particulars of religious customs and traditions! If your relationship with God is expressed through nervous adherence to nit-picky customs and rules, you’re missing the point my friends! I know that fasting is an important tradition in our community, and so I can understand why you might be unsettled if we’re choosing not to worry too much about it. But that’s exactly the point: to unsettle you.”

For my part, I enjoy rituals and customs. They help center me and give me a foundation for my spirituality. But the rituals and customs are there to point to God and help us remember God in our lives, nothing more. The minute that we start focusing more on the rituals and traditions themselves instead of what they point to, both for ourselves as well as others, we’ve lost sight of the bigger picture.

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