25 August 2010

Matthew 23:27-32

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth." (v.27)


The hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law is exposed by Christ in this passage as they are waiting for an opportunity to jump on Jesus and catch him out. He throws at them the full anger he feels for their deceit. He accuses them of making themselves look whiter than white whilst inside they are full of wickedness. In the final verses we read how he challenges these deceitful people to finish what they started and execute him. But in so doing they are making nonsense of themselves for they are the descendants of those who murdered the Old Testament prophets. What a contradiction of belief if they are to condemn those who murdered the prophets of the past, yet go on to continue what their forefathers started.

Whitewashed houses along a sea front on the Mediterranean coast look delightful to the passing tourist. Entering your local building society offices and being met by a row of uniformed people looking identical can be a reassuring sight. But who are these people and what lies behind a row of pretty cottages basked in sunlight?

The work the Methodist Church in Britain did on domestic abuse in 2005 revealed that there are likely to be just as many perpetrators of this dreadful societal ill inside the Methodist Church as there are in British society as a whole.

Community leaders who abuse their power leaves those who are the children of God with little self-esteem or energy for the real work of being God's agents in the world today. If the casual enquirer who prises open the fiercely-guarded doors of a church finds only dry bones and a sour smell, how will the church ever become attractive?

To Ponder

From your experience of church, what do you think has been put into a box and left with the lid shut?

What have we made pristine which should be active and soiled by the ways of the world?

How has fear of contamination that infiltrates the horizons and the gutters of our world in areas of health, safety from terrorism, natural disasters, financial insecurity and personal discomfort influenced the way we lead our lives? What are we afraid of?

Bible notes author

Margaret Sawyer

Margaret Sawyer has worked for the Methodist Connexional Team for ten years, first as connexional secretary for Women's Network and then as the Church's equality and diversity officer. She now works to support preaching and worship in her local circuit and district.