15th Sunday after Pentecost | Mk. 7:14-23 | What Defiles a Man
“Hear Me, all of you, and understand:
There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him,
But the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”
This probably won’t come as a surprise to you,
But as a Christian, you can eat anything that God has given for food.
You can enjoy lobster and have a clam-bake;
Good news for all of us here in New England.
You can enjoy a bratwurst at Oktoberfest.
And we can stop using Kosher wine at Communion any time we feel like it.
But that surely doesn’t seem strange to you at all.
You have never been under OT dietary law.
You have lived in this freedom your entire life.
What may surprise you, though, is why.
Jesus explains that“whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him,
Since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled.”
Food can’t defile you becomes it comes and then it goes.
It’s in and then it’s out.
It’s there and then it’s gone.
Additionally, food can’t defile you because of where it doesnot go.
Food does not goto your heart.
Thus, spiritually speaking, food cannot defile your heart.
And so, if you enjoy bacon-wrapped-scallops, you’re in luck.
What you eat can’t spiritually corrupt you or defile your heart.
But that doesn’t mean your heart is safe.
It’s not flattering, and maybe that’s why it’s not clear in the English,
But when Jesus talks about what comes out of your heart,
He uses the exact same word for what happens in the bathroom.
Your stomach expels things that can’t hurt you or defile you;
But your heart…
Your heart expels things that can.
“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts,
All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
When it comes to you and your heart,
That’s what Jesus says about it.
He says that you are thinking about sex and relationships all wrong.
He says that the hate and anger you feel is every bit as wicked as murder;
Murder you can commit again and again and again.
Jesus says that you desire the wrong things and the wrong people;
That you’re lying and gossiping and deceiving;
That you’re prideful and foolish.
I know that sounds bad,
But if you were listening to Jesus closely,
You know that your situation is actually much worse.
Heinous and deadly as they are, those sins are actually not your biggest problem.
Your heart is the problem.
You are not a sinner because you commit sin.
You commit sin because you are a sinner.
All those terrible, offensive, damning things come from inside you.
And try as you may, making a few surface changes won’t change that.
You can pick the pills off of a sweater,
But you’re still wearing the sweater.
You can dig the stones out of the soil in your garden,
But if you dig deep, you’ll find you hit bedrock.
When your heart expels all those very damaging, hurtful things,
They don’t actually leave you;
Unless, of course, you expel them here.
When you expel your sins here,
They actually can’t harm you anymore.
When you drop them into the baptismal font, and drown them in the water,
As you do every time we have Confession and Absolution,
Then those sins are not only expelled;
They are actually gone – carried away by the water.
So, let them be gone.
Because if you find yourself chasing after the sins you just sent downstream,
Don’t be surprised when you find yourself covered again in their stench.
It’s really no good for you.
In any case, there still remains the heart of the matter.
That is to say, it is your heart that matters most.
We’ve romanticized it so much over the years.
We’ve made the heart out to be the source of true love, of virtue, and sincerity.
Many Christians have even considered it a perfectly fine gift to give to Jesus.
It’s an idea that was captured well by Bo Giertz,
The sometime Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Sweden,
In his famous novel: The Hammer of God.
During the fever-pitch of pietism and revivalism in that country,
A young priest was at pains to convert an older pastor in his diocese.
Pleading with him, he exclaims:
“But sir, if you do not give your heart to Jesus, you cannot be saved.”
“You are right, my boy. And it is just as true that, if you think you are saved because you give Jesus your heart, you will not be saved. You see, my boy it is one thing to choose Jesus as one’s Lord and Savior, to give Him one’s heart and commit oneself to Him, and that He now accepts one into His little flock;
it is a very different thing to believe on him as a Redeemer of sinners, of whom one is chief. One does not choose a Redeemer for oneself, you understand, nor give one’s heart to him. The heart is a rusty old can on a junk heap. A fine birthday gift, indeed! But a wonderful Lord passes by, and has mercy on the wretched tin can, sticks His walking cane through it, and rescues it from the junk pile and takes it home with Him.
That is how it is”
That’s how it is.
Jesus has picked you up and taken you home. – Holy Baptism.
And Jesus has sent down river all the nasty stuff your heart was excreting.
Confession & Absolution;
Proof that the Office of the Holy Ministry is glorified waste management.
When Jesus declared all foods clean, He expanded the menu.
But He wasn’t done.
“Create in me a clean heart, o God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away form Your presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Ps 51)
We pray with David those words from Psalm 51 as we move from Word to Meal;
The only Food that can make you clean who were unclean.
Because Jesus has made Himself unclean for you.
All the sins that polluted the Jordan river, Jesus soaked up in His Baptism.
And He dragged them to the tree where those sins cursed Him;
Where He became a curse for you.
When the soldier pierced His side, out came water and blood.
One for the font,
One for the Chalice.
And now that very same Blood, which burst forth from Jesus heart,
Fills your heart, your new heart – even as it fills your mouth.
And so you are purified where it counts.