Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost 2015
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost | Mark 7: 1-13
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One of the great joys of being a father so far is caring for little Lucia.
It’s true, Caroline does significantly more than I do, but that’s not the point.
As a daddy, my great joy is in caring for my helpless child.
She gets hungry, but she can’t feed herself.
She feels cold, and she can’t get warm on her own.
She gets dirty and smelly, and I’ll spare you the gory details, but she can’t bathe herself either.
And she’s taught me that to be a little child means to be completely helpless –
It means being unable to address your own needs.
To depend on the love and care of someone outside you.
As a child, you can only receive the care given by another.
You can’t add to it or improve on it, or even help it along.
In fact, once she’s been cleaned off and new diaper and clothes are put on, the most a child can contribute to the matter is…well…use your imaginations.
But soon we get big and we get smart. And we begin to imagine that we could do better.
That’s how the Pharisees are feeling this morning as Jesus and His disciples sit down to eat.
The Pharisees aren’t ignorant of the fact that they’re sinners.
Moses and the Law of God have told them so.
And thankfully, God has provided a way of dealing with that dirtiness – that sin.
God has given them a covenant relationship with Him,
And the sacrifices of the Temple, and His Word.
And priests to speak His forgiveness.
But God, apparently, has not done enough.
So now the Pharisees need to deal with this dirtiness on their own.
To do that they developed hundreds of traditions and little laws that you had to follow.
And if you didn’t, if you didn’t clean yourself according to their standards, you were unclean.
That, apparently, includes Jesus’ disciples, who did not wash their hands just so.
And when the Pharisees confront our Lord about it, we get a glimpse of the sort of thing makes Him very cranky.
Jesus really doesn’t care for it when men take their own words and pass them off as His Words.
It is what Jesus calls “vain worship,” when men teach their precepts as Divine Doctrine. When they turn away from God’s commandment, and instead cling to their own inventions (8)
As 1st Century Jews the Pharisees lived their lives praising God in their homes and synagogues, and going to the Temple in Jerusalem.
In all these places they proclaimed the mighty works of the LORD.
They recite how He kept Noah and His family safe in the ark!
They remember the mighty deliverance of הוהי when He rescued them from bondage in Egypt.
They recall how their God sent down legions of angels to fight their battles for them.
So they talk a lot about how they have been undeservedly delivered by God again and again.
But then, Jesus tells us that their hearts are far away from this confession.
And of course He can see into their hearts, but He doesn’t even need to do that.
He can look and see what they’re doing.
They are so turned inward on themselves and their traditions, that they are now trying to make themselves clean!
The say aloud with the Psalmist that God cleansed them and made them whiter then snow, but now are looking for and demanding ways to get cleaner still.
When your actions don’t match your words; that is what Jesus calls hypocrisy.
And it is so offensive because Jesus has come for this very purpose.
That is the purpose of Jesus’ birth, His perfect life, His death on the cross, and His resurrection and ascension: to forgive you and clean you and make you fresh and new.
Because Jesus knows you cannot clean yourself any more than Lucia can change her own diaper.
So Please don’t do that.
Please stop trying to clean yourself. To make yourself pure enough. Stop trying to earn God’s grace.
Stop with the extra little laws and holiness checklists, and please, for the sake of our collective sanity, no more of the “only the people who really love God will share this message” on Facebook things.
More laws are not the answer. They never have been.
Because if we could solve own problems, certainly we would have done it by now.
The Pharisees want to stay away from the unclean, but Jesus has come to stand with them.
So Please please do not despise the fellowship of the dirty and downtrodden of this world.
Because if you do, if you think yourself too pure and too righteous, then it will be very difficult to know Jesus, because that is where Jesus has come to make His home.
At Christmas, Jesus enters into the cold and the dirtiness of our world as Emmanuel.
At His Baptism in the Jordan, Jesus goes into the water that is filthy with your sin, and immerses Himself in it.
And by soaking up your sin, he leaves the water pure
So that when He adds His saving Word to it, like He’ll do next Sunday for Lucia,
It actually saves. Because Jesus Himself has said so.
Because Lucia really is as helpless as you and me.
Real life, then, is impossible to live when you heap extra rules on yourself, as if those rules could somehow save you.
Instead you can live your life knowing that it is your Father’s great joy to care for you.
It is His joy to look on you with the wonder of parents who look on their helpless children.
It is His joy to provide for your needs of body and soul.
It is His joy to have raised you to new life in Holy Baptism.
It is His joy to see you now receive the Body and Blood of His Son,
Who for the Joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising its shame,
And who is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
To Him be all the glory, now and forever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
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