Monday, August 31, 2015

Sermon for Sunday, August 30, 2015 at St. David's, Manayunk and St. John's Bala. The audio can be found at:…/pentecost-14-b-st-davids-and-st-jo… The Text was not followed exactly, but it follows:

There is a part of me that would hope that you recognize that I’m an old Boy Scout, you know,  Boy Scout Law - A Scout is:

·                  Trustworthy,
·                  Loyal,
·                  Helpful,
·                  Friendly,
·                  Courteous,
·                  Kind,
·                  Obedient,
·                  Cheerful,
·                  Thrifty,
·                  Brave,
·                  Clean,
·                  and Reverent.

I’m an old Boy Scout and church camper, we were almost always taught that cleanliness was next to Godliness.  I remember going to the well on the property of the camps and using the handle to pump up water into a bucket to take back to the cabin so that we could fill the five basins that hung on the outside wall of each cabin to begin our morning wash up.  A swirl of the water and a toss into the nearby woods meant that we had washed our face and hands and under our arm, we were ready for the day.  And if we tossed a cup of creamy water we had not forgotten to brush our teeth.  Hanging the metal basin back on the side of the cabin meant that the morning ritual of cleanliness was now complete and we were ready for a day of getting dirty again.          Secondly, until people are convinced that their “insides” are the problem, they will not seek the proper cure.  We are concerned with what is outside of us, and we work hard to protect our bodies from bad things going inside.  If one’s “insides” (conscience, heart, free will, etc.) are seen as good; people then sometimes look there [that is on their inside] for their salvation. When we become aware of our own personal errors, there is a problem because we tend to look for a cure against our sin from the core of our own being, internally.  Yet way too often we are dealing with deeply entrenched attitudes and beliefs.  If we keep turning to the same sources to address the evils we encounter – then there is no cure.          If and When one realizes that one’s “insides” are at the heart of the problem and that no cure can be found within, then one needs to be cured by a power outside of one’s self – a power that can change the insides.It is clear in our text from Mark 7:14-23, that• “inside” things defile us, which leads me to conclude• “inside” things can’t purify us, because they are the cause of the defilement    and• “outside” things going in can’t defile us, so can we conclude• “outside” things going in can purify us, because they are not the source of our defilement? This is not simple logic.  Whether or not this simple logic stands up, I think that it is true theologically and spiritually.          When one goes on a spiritual walk with Jesus and with God, it can offer new ways of not only viewing life, but living life. A similar saying is attributed to Jesse Jackson: “It is easier to walk your way into a new way of thinking – than to think your way into a new way of walking.”  More simply stated: I’ve heard it suggested that intentionally smiling helps make one’s inner disposition “happier.”          It would seems that after reading the Gospel lesson for today, as an 8-12 year old I would not be meeting the standards that the leaders of the synagogue seem to be setting as the standard for the disciples of Jesus.  While not addressing the specific lessons we have heard over the past few weeks of: miraculously feeding the 5000 people (from John6:30-44), or walking on water and calming the sea (from John 6:45-52). Jesus and his disciples had been in places where water for cleanliness would have been hard to find or in an overabundance, but not easily consumed.
          When Jesus and the disciples landed at Gennesaret: “people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it or him were healed.  So much for the sterile environment of a hospital or a clinic.”          The fact that some of his disciples had worked with food with common hands –that is unwashed, and that the 5000 and the disciples were eating the bread and the other shared food; the Pharisees and the scribes had some questions for Jesus:  “Why are your disciples not walking according to the tradition of the elders, but with common hands are eating the bread?”          Apparently this questioning in Mark relates both to the required amount of water and to the proper manner of washing. The hand was cupped, fist-like, to make the most efficient use of available water.  This practice is not derived directly from the Torah but from the “oral law” – the tradition of the elders, which Pharisees regarded as having equal authority with the written law.  This tradition, eventually recorded in the Mishnah and developed in the two Talmuds, sought to spell out as clearly as possible what obedience to the commandments entailed. [p. 102]           Pre reading that lesson while on a cruise to Alaska with some really old friends – Bill and Bonnie Siiss,  Dawn and I noticved upon arriving in Vancouver there was a constant reminder that cleanliness was to be observed to avoid the germs that have made cruise liners infamous in recent years for group sickness.          Everywhere there was a dispenser with Purell hand sanitizer.  On the ship, there was a dispenser at every elevator, the entrance to every restaurant, and in every bathroom there were signs encouraging you to use paper to open the bathroom door as you exited, after you had washed your hands.  Obviously today, we are operating in a different time and place, than the one described in our Gospel lesson for today.          Though walking by a dispenser before going into the buffet on the ship would not have qualified according to the Talmud.  Surely we created a cup with the palm of our hand and the courteous machine squirted an appropriate amount of hand disinfectant into our palm, but there was no water involved, no towel involved, just the rubbing of the hands.          One way to convey the power of the Jewish distinction between clean and unclean, perhaps, is to draw a parallel with authoritarian societies and organizations, where people avoid all contact with a person who is under suspicion or who has been fired, for example, so as not to endanger their own position.          .  If sin is seen as only “doing bad things,” The cure is “ to stop doing bad things” and/or “start doing good things.” This mindset leads to misusing tradition as a means of curing sin.          A theological friend, says, “Our salvation has to come from outside of us, because our insides are cesspools of sin. It is God, who is outside of our defiled and defiling insides, who comes into us from outside of us in Word and Sacrament. It is God, who comes into our insides through our ears and mouths, to purify us.”          Is it going too far to suggest that we may live by God’s grace? Grace that does not depend on human ability? The disciples are to take no bread of their own, but to trust God.  God is gracious enough to provide bread for 5000 men plus others in the desert  –  (and they probably didn’t wash their hands in the proper fashion before eating).          Simply stated, the cure for our inner and the inner sin of others is Jesus.  Jesus announces the forgiveness and destruction of sin through The Word [- the scriptures] and via the Sacrament – the sacrificial gift of Jesus in the Body and the Blood. We are called upon to believe the announcement  – to trust the verbal and tangible Word, rather than trusting our insides.

Many thanks to Brian Stoffregen  and James Edwards (The Gospel according to Mark)