Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
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Last week a small group of us had a book discussion with the book, Holy Envy: Finding God in the faith of others. The author, Barbara Brown Taylor is an Episcopal Priest, college professor, and one of best Christian preachers, I think. In her life story, she lost her faith at some point. She gave up on her religion and left church. Then, she found her way through various resources, doctrines, rituals and experiences by loosening her grip on her own religion, Christianity and exploring aspects of other religions.
It was not my plan to talk about this book this morning while I was reading this book or having the book discussion, but when I read today’s text, I thought there is a shared message, and they are related to each other. So, I’ll talk with the book while we keep today’s scripture in mind as well.
I don’t know each of your faith journeys, but I would guess that nobody has made a perfect path without not being distracted at any moment. We all have times we feel like we didn’t know Jesus, we didn’t know what to do as a Christian, or we didn’t want to go to church any more.. I also had a time questioning what my belief is about and I couldn’t find an answer at church. No church or any religion is perfect to answer all of our questions of living in the world, death and life after death. And it is true saying ‘we don’t know’. We don’t know who God is. We may not be able to find any perfect answers in any religion. But Barbara Brown Taylor says, there is beauty and many marvelous ways of practicing and understanding of the Divine in other religions. She calls it Holy Envy which is an acknowledgement of and admitting the feeling of wishing that you could have more of that kind of beauty and meaning for yourself in your faith tradition and practice. Her point is, if I hold my faith and religion too tightly, I am rigid. I am defensive, combative, and critical of others. I cannot allow any room within myself for doubt, question or possibilities of valid truth that we could experience in other places. If I cling so tightly to what I have and have been taught, then my eyes, my ears and my heart are closed to others. But what if, I can relax my grip on my religion and tradition? What if I can open my hand to someone who comes to faith in an entirely different way than I have. What if I can really listen to others who speak of their faith with an open heart and open mind. What if I begin to see my religion and tradition through the eyes and experiences of others and come to understand it in a new way. Barbara Brown Taylor says she found God in the faith of others as she leaned into her holy envy. She was able to loosen her grip on her familiar ways of being Christian. She was able to recognize the best of other religions and begin to ask what her religion might offer, something that she had simply not seen or done in her life so far.