Day 57: Numbers 16-20; Mark 7:1-23*

Today we will focus on the sacrament of baptism in our 'We Believe' series of Sunday sermons. You will hear an expression I first remember hearing from one of my seminary professors, Dr. Rob Staples: 'an outward sign of an inward grace.' Our reading today illustrates that well (Mark 7:1-23*). Ceremonial washing was a part of ritual worship established in the days of Moses in the wilderness. It extended into everyday living and into each household. You must admit that was a very practical ritual for wilderness camping among the masses. How many times have you heard a parent or guardian say, "Be sure you wash your hands!"? How many times have you been disgusted when the person who uses the restroom before you walks out without washing their hands? It was practical. But it was more!

The symbolism cannot be lost. Sinful and unclean people coming before a holy God, needed to be reminded that they are just that. The ceremonial washing mattered. However, by Mark 7, the ritual superseded the person and was perceived as what mattered most. It was a kind of works-salvation...I earn God's favor by keeping the rules. Grace is excluded. Works-salvation focuses on the outward sign and excuses many sinful motivations and actions that find loopholes. In fact, Jesus accused the religious leaders with justifying their sinful practices with religious references. He was very clear that outward washing did not solve the inward problem...sin. We need a change of heart, which is something that God alone can bring about.

Today, you will hear reference to Acts 2:37-38 which reminds us that our 'ritual' we call baptism matters. However, the order is very important: repent and be baptized. The inward change/grace precedes the outward sign/baptism. Baptism is a covenant between God and us that seals the grace of our salvation and witnesses to the world that we have been saved by grace and we are not the same. Our hearts, our lives, belong to Him and we are committed to live as His church, from the inside out. Have you been baptized?

* there was a scribal error in our 'reading plan' because the section ends at 7:23. 

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