Worship for Sunday, August 29, 2021

I am sorry but there will not be a video recording of our worship service for this week.  We recorded our worship service – but the sound did not record properly.  We don’t learn of these disappointing things until it is too late to change them . . . so onward we go.

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9

So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God with which I am charging you.

You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!” For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?

But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 15

Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?
Who may abide upon your holy hill?
Those who lead a blameless life and do what is right,
who speak the truth from their heart;
they do not slander with the tongue, they do no evil to their friends;
they do not cast discredit upon a neighbor.
In their sight the wicked are rejected, but they honor those who fear the         Lord. They have sworn upon their health and do not take back their word.
They do not give their money in hope of gain, nor do they take bribes against the innocent.  Those who do these things shall never be overthrown.  Amen.

James 1:17-27

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.

If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around [Jesus], they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
‘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.’
You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”

Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”

For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Has a trusted teacher or professor or pastor or friend ever floated an idea by you that changed the way you lived your life? Or has someone ever shared an idea with you that changed your perspective on life entirely?

When I was a college freshman I read the actual Bible for the first time in my entire life. (Yes – I had already been going to church my whole life. But like many/most Christians – I hadn’t done much real Bible reading.) And I will be honest – some of what I encountered on the pages of my New Revised Standard Version of the Oxford annotated Bible was downright shocking to me.   Seriously – a lot of the people you meet in the pages of the Bible are a WHOLE lot more human than my Sunday school teachers ever let on. Shocking – I tell you – just plain shocking!

I will never forget our professor declaring to our class of good Christian girls and boys who had just finished reading Genesis from cover to cover – “Oh my sweet – naïve little scholars – you haven’t seen anything yet?!? You just wait until we get to 1st and 2nd Samuel . . .”

And – wow – was Dr. Champion right! Reading the real Bible changed my life forever!!!

I still have and use the Bible I purchased for my freshman year of college.

What about you? Have you ever heard something from a trusted leader or teacher that was so surprising you were actually shocked?

In our Gospel reading for this week – Jesus does just that. With a single sentence – Jesus shocks – every single Jewish person listening to him preach. Because – Jesus boldly and brazenly dared to declare – “there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile – but the things that come out are what defile.”

Are you shocked? Has your world been changed forever? Probably not. Jesus’ declaration doesn’t sound like a big deal to us. But to the folks in Jesus’ audience this was shocking.

With that single statement – Jesus turns the Old Testament food laws upside down and inside out. And in doing so – Jesus turns these peoples’ lives upside down and inside out too.

Because the Jewish people had been faithfully observing these food laws for centuries. During the Exodus – God gave them laws to govern their lives. And as a part of these laws God declared some foods okay to eat – but some foods were just plain off limits for them.

These food laws were an important part of their daily lives. They carefully observed these laws their entire lives. These laws were a part of their identities and dictated how they interacted with the rest of the world.

These laws weren’t like following a diet prescribed by your doctor after she tells you to cut the salt because your blood pressure is high or to cut out desserts because your BMI is unhealthy.

Rather – these laws were an important part of their relationship with God. Following these laws was a way of honoring and serving God in their daily lives.

Each time they avoided an unclean food – they were making a public proclamation and profession of their faith in God. Every time they meticulously prepared their food – they were expressing their devotion to the one true God.

What Jesus said to these folks would be a bit like him telling you to stop making public proclamations of your own faith in God.

It would be like Jesus telling you to stop praying aloud before meals.

To stop saying – “God bless you” when someone sneezes too.

You would need to stop displaying symbols of your faith. So no more cross necklaces or cross tattoos. No more angels in your gardens. No more pictures of Jesus. No more Thrivent t-shirts. The Christmas trees – Advent wreathes and nativity scenes would need to go too.

All of these symbols of our faith would need to go because we wear and display them as a way of reminding ourselves we are God’s children. And as a way of proclaiming our Christian faith to others.

This is similar to why Jews observed food laws.

It is no wonder folks were troubled by Jesus’ words. Jesus was telling them to change their relationship with God. And this is something folks NEVER take lightly. We certainly wouldn’t!?!

With all of this talk about food laws – it might seem like we got a free pass this week. After all – we don’t feel compelled to remember if shrimp, rabbit, or camel are clean or unclean.

And who here hasn’t enjoyed a cheeseburger or 822?

But Jesus makes it abundantly clear he is talking about something much deeper. Because Jesus goes on to say – “For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, envy, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.’”

This is where we get to the heart of our Gospel reading. This is where – Jesus gets ALL of us right where we live. Jesus wants us to know what we eat is of little significance – if our hearts are in the wrong place.

Jesus tells us our words and our actions reveal to God and to the whole world what is really in our hearts.

Our words and actions matter. Our words and actions can and do shape the lives of other people – sometimes perfect strangers. How we live and interact with other matters A LOT!

As much as I hate to admit it – the most powerful sermon any of us could ever preach isn’t given from the chancel steps or from a pulpit. Rather it is preached in the way we live our lives.

We are God’s ambassadors each and every moment of our lives – with everyone we meet and everywhere we go. We are Christians all of the time and not just when we are at church or when it is convenient.

We are Christians at the grocery store – even when the line at the checkout is really long and we are in a hurry. We are even Christians when the wonderfully lovely person in front of us has 97 items in the 20 items or less lane . . .

We are Christians when we are stuck in rush hour traffic and we can’t understand how the driver in front of us was ever issued a driver’s license. And we really – really want to use some non-verbal communication . . .”

We are Christians when we are at work and when we are in school.

We are Christians when we are tired and stressed out and disagree with someone so passionately we think our heads might just explode.

We are Christians when we are sick and tired of living through a global pandemic.

There is no time when we get to call a time out.   We are Christians – period.

Our words and our actions can and do shape the lives of other people – sometimes perfect strangers. The way we live our lives matters.

When we live our lives for God other people can see the Good News of Jesus Christ in action. We can share and show God’s love. Truly this is Good News. AMEN.

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