Wednesday: Psalm 95-98, Leviticus 20, Mark 7.1-23

from Heather Kaufmann

In Mark 7:1-14, the Pharisees call out Jesus’ disciples for “not walking according to the traditions of the elders” and eating “with defiled hands” (vs. 5). Jesus in turn calls out the Pharisees, saying, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (vs. 6, quoting from Isaiah 29).

What does it mean for the heart to be far from God? Jesus goes on to describe an uncleanness of the heart (in contrast to the ceremonial uncleanness that the Pharisees are criticizing Jesus’ disciples of): “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness” (vs. 21-22).

Phew. This is quite a list! To be honest, it makes me pretty uncomfortable to think of all those ugly things coming out of my heart. My pride (which made the above list, actually) wants to tell me that I am pretty alright as I am. But in truth, and as God has been gently and graciously reminding me this Lent, I am a sinner. But it does not end there: God promises a renewal of our hearts – a work that He has gently and graciously been inviting me into in this season.

16 th Century English poet and priest George Herbert’s poem, The Sinner* is a prayer that I invite you topray with me this week:

I find [in my soul] quarries of piled vanities,
But shreds of holiness, that dare not venture
To show their face, since cross to thy decrees:
There the circumference earth is, heaven the center.
In so much dregs the quintessence is small:
The spirit and good extract of my heart
Comes to about the many hundredth part.
Yet, Lord, restore thine image, hear my call:
And though my hard heart scarce to thee can groan,
Remember that though once didst write in stone.

*This poem is included in “Lent Week 4” in the literary guide to prayer, Between Midnight and Dawn, compiled by Sarah Arthur – highly recommend! You can read the full George Herbert poem here.

I am currently in a transitional season of life, living with my family out in Bedford, MA. These days, I am enjoying slower rhythms of working from home (or with a friend at coffee shop!), taking midday walks in the woods, and baking bread.