The Uniform Series text for Sunday, June 17 is Matthew 15:1-9. [Some notes on that text are here.] Here are some questions we might (or might not) want to consider in class:

What is at stake for the Pharisees and scribes in whether or not Jesus’ disciples wash their hands before eating? Do we think they ask their question because they want Jesus to acknowledge their authority to tell people how to behave, or because they want Jesus’ approval, or because they are trying to demonstrate how good they are, or because they are honestly curious, or … what? [More personal] Have we ever asked someone a similar question? When was that? What was our motive? What insight does this give us into what the Pharisees and scribes might have been doing? Should we think they are like us, or unlike us? Why?

Jesus brings up an example of commandment- or tradition-keeping that seems very different from the example of hand-washing. How does the action of honoring father and mother compare to the action of washing hands before meals? (That is: does it seem more difficult to keep? Does it seem more serious or more binding on people? How do the penalties compare? etc.) What might Jesus’ point be in bringing up this particular example?

Jesus’ example, and his reference to Isaiah, both bring up the notion of “honoring” – father and mother, and God. What does “honoring” our father and mother mean, practically speaking? What behavior(s) of ours honor our father and mother? What does “honoring” God mean, practically speaking? What behavior(s) of ours honor God? What does this imply for our behavior, do we think?

Does honoring our parents always mean we will do what they ask us or tell us to do? Under what circumstances might not doing what our parents ask of us, or tell us to do, be compatible with honoring them? Are there circumstances when some other requirement is more important than honoring our parents, in particular by obeying them? What are those circumstances? Why do we think that? {More personal] Have we ever had to make a choice like this in our own lives? How have we, ourselves, made that choice? How confident do we feel we made a good choice? Why?

[Much more personal] How well does the description “this people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines” seem to fit us? Why? Which of the elements of the indictment (honoring God with our lips; having our hearts far from God; vain worship; teaching human precepts as doctrines) feel closest to the mark? What are the implications? What would we need to do to remedy the situation?

painting of a family around a table