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“’Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body?  But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts — murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.  These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.’”  (Matthew 15:17-20, NIV)

At the time that Jesus spoke these words, his audience was keenly interested in maintaining ritual purity.  Eating with unwashed hands was a violation of the rules of ritual purity.  In a way, it was a kind of “spiritual etiquette.”  In other words, if you had good “spiritual manners,” you were deemed to be a good person.  Even today, there is a kind of etiquette that confers acceptance on the consumption of the right foods, the wearing of the right clothes, residence at the right address, and friendship with the right kind of people.

Jesus’ words serve to remind us that it is not what we put into our mouth that makes us impure or unclean; but it is what we allow to come out of our mouth, since that is indicative of what is in our heart.  As important as it may be to our physical health for us to watch what we eat; it is as important to our spiritual and physical health for us to watch what we say, both to others and about others.  Only the latter — the condition of the heart — is of eternal consequence.  – Luther

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Martin Luther King holiday

“And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.  There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female.  For you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham.  You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.”  (Galatians 3:27-29, New Living Translation)

The U. S. holiday we observe today honors both a man and a movement, the impetus for each being the Gospel of Christ.

All of humanity’s propensity to divide; to discriminate based on those divisions; and to elevate one group above another, is evidence of our corrupt nature.  The antidote to this poisonous practice is the acceptance of — and obedience to — our Jesus.

It is important to note that the movement for racial equality in our nation did not begin in the courthouse; and it did not begin in the statehouse; and it did not begin in the schoolhouse.  It began in the community of Christ: The Church.  The Civil Rights Movement’s anthem, “We Shall Overcome,” was sung in the worship services and prayer meetings of the Christian faithful long before it appeared on folk music play lists.

Only in Christ is there true equality of persons.  This message is both our heritage and our future.  – Luther

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