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Friday, July 10

Today’s Readings: Psalm 144; 1 Samuel 28:3-25; Mark 2:23-3:6; Ephesians 3:1-6; Psalm 119:73-96

My experience teaching English and Social Studies in a juvenile detention center for six years was a wonderful experience for the most part. Every once in a while, however, the experience wasn’t quite so wonderful. Given the setting, it probably wouldn’t surprise you if I said every once in a while I ran across an incredibly cynical, jaded student – a one who derived a great deal of pleasure from trying to push my buttons. One of them – Shane – was particularly good at pushing my buttons. I could give you many examples of Shane’s button-pushing behaviors, but one jumps to mind right away. When every student was oriented to the school, they were told that students were not allowed to get out of their chairs without first getting permission from their teacher. This was a lock up center, after all. Well one day we had a fire drill. All of the students remembered the part of orientation that instructed them in the event of a fire drill to immediately get up out of their chairs, line up, walk into the recreation center area and await further instructions. All of the students did as they had been instructed. When we did the headcount, however, we found that one student was missing: Shane. When I went back to the classroom, there Shane was sitting with a smirk on his face. “Why didn’t you leave the classroom with the other students?” I asked incredulously. “Because we were told never to leave our chairs without first getting permission from the teacher,” he replied sarcastically. While Shane’s actions might have been defensible from a purely legalistic approach toward the student orientation, it was clear that he had missed the larger point about safety. Shane was in good company in terms of missing the real point – for in today’s Gospel reading from Mark we hear the story of a group of folks named the Pharisees who also missed the point. Like Shane, the Pharisees were obsessed with a literal reading of the rules that said no one was to prepare a meal or help another on the Sabbath. Such actions were considered violations of the Torah. When Jesus and his disciples did both, the Pharisees freaked out. In the midst of their angst, Jesus tried to help them when he raised a question intended to point them back to the big picture: “What kind of action suits the Sabbath best? Doing good or doing evil? Helping people or leaving them helpless?” (Mark 3:4 from The Message). Perhaps there is an area of your life where you’ve come from a place like Shane or the Pharisees – a place where your tunnel vision has caused you to lose sight of the big picture. If so, make some time for yourself today to step back and look for that big picture. You might get an entirely new perspective on the matter by doing so. Til next time…

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