They say every little girl growing up wants to be a princess. Dreams about fancy castles, Disney really helps with this.
I never wanted to be a princess. I watched all the movies, read the books, and played pretend a lot about being royalty. But I never wanted to be a princess… why? Because being a princess seems to come with a lot of rules.
Let’s go down the list. In the Little Mermaid, Ariel kept getting in trouble because she had all these rules she was supposed to follow. Mulan, not really a princess, but considered a Disney princess, had like A TON of rules for girls.
And how about just the movie, Princess Diaries? The entire plot line is about how this girl Mia finds out she is a princess and has to learn ALL THE RULES to being a princess. Literally the whole movie.
So no, I never wanted to be a princess. Because what’s the point of being royalty, of having a fancy castle, elaborate dresses, and all the riches if you have to follow SO. MANY. RULES?!
Sometimes being a Christian can feel the same way. And in Jesus’ time, well and now, so could being a Jew. See the Pharisees were like totally obsessed with all the rules. And they were coming at Jesus once again about all the rules. And apparently the disciples were not following them. Not good.
But the thing for we, Christians, is that because of Jesus everything is different.
There are a lot of rules in Torah, the first five books of the Bible, also known as the books of Moses. Particularly in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These make up the laws of the Israelite people. And there’s a lot of them.
Everything from when and how to wash your hands to what animals to eat, how to kill them properly, and even what kind of fabric you can wear as clothes. Like almost as many rules as being a princess.
And you might be wondering, well those are our scriptures too, so why don’t we follow all these laws? Well, because of Jesus.
In Matthew 5, during Jesus’ sermon on the mount, he addresses just this. He says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17).
Following all the laws has always been impossible. We, as mere humans, always fall short of the things that God lays out. And so in Jesus, God created a new way to fulfill the law. The love, grace, and forgiveness given through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
Lutheran theology always pairs the law with the gospel, which is just this. That the law convicts us, but the gospel, that is the good news of Jesus Christ, sets us free.
And so Jesus is announcing this. That he is the one that can actually fulfill the law… and for all of us.
We know this, we talk about it all the time. The best way I’ve heard it put is this, “the law maker became the law keeper and died for the law breakers.” Simple, yet powerful. God in Jesus took care of everything for us. This is the gift of grace.
The problem then comes when we, Christians, cherry pick out some of these laws and use them. Yes, I mean use, like manipulating the Bible, use. Against each other. I’m not going to dive too far into these rules, but most of the ones we cherry pick out are about our intimate lives.
It’s sad really, that as Christians, we can still constantly get bombarded and downtrodden with these cherry picked rules rather than focus on the the grace, love, and forgiveness given to us freely out of love by the creator of the universe. That seems like something to shout about!
That of instead of cherry picking rules to try to regulate everyone’s lives, we focus on the gifts of God and the fruits that we share with others because of these gifts?!
This is what Jesus is trying to get across to the audience he speaks to in our Gospel lesson for today. That God isn’t counting who is washing their hands and who is not. What fabrics you are wearing or even who you are intimate with, but rather, God cares about how we treat one another in relationship.
Jesus summarizes the law as this, “love God and love others.” Period. So when Jesus says, these are the things that defile us, these are the things that make us unclean, it’s because each and every one of these things are things that hurt others. They are things that damage relationships with our neighbors.
Jesus has come to create and lead the new kingdom in God. To make us all royal princesses and princes of this kingdom. And there are no rules! We are covered under one umbrella, the love and grace of God. Our only task as the inheritors of this gift, the princes and princesses of this kingdom is the simple thing Jesus asks, “love God and love your neighbors.”
The thing that I do love about most Disney princess movies is that despite the rules and laws set down for these young women, they disregard these rules in order to do the right thing… in order to create a better world for all the little princesses coming after them. That is our job, too, I think. To love God, love each other, and as a result, make the kingdom just a little bit better of a place for all the little princes and princesses coming after us. Amen.