Pastor Toms Sermon From August 29th, 21 Pentecost 14
Where is evil? Take a look, it’s all around us.
It seems like everywhere we look things are going wrong. Sin, death, and disease are rampant all around the globe. Things seem to be in crisis on many fronts. And crisis tends to bring out the best and worst in humanity. We see all kinds of divisions between people. Many are finding it hard to have civil conversations. Anger, yelling, hatred, threats, fights. Evil is nothing new. It’s been around since Adam and Eve. And it seems to be erupting all around us. The world seems to have gone crazy. Compared to all that, Jesus’ disciples’ failure to wash their hands doesn’t seem like such a big deal. And yet the scribes and the pharisees get after Jesus for his disciples’ behavior. They asked him 5 “Why don’t your disciples wash their hands according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?” Jesus perceives their hearts and points out that they’re so caught up in own manmade traditions that they have let go of the commands of God. Jesus calls the crowd to him and tells them it’s not what goes into you – it’s not eating grain with defiled hands – that defiles you – that makes you unclean and unholy. It’s not what goes into you, it’s what comes out of you that defiles you. Later, his disciples ask Jesus to explain. He tells them it’s not what goes into their bellies that defiles them – it’s what comes out of their heart that does so. Jesus goes on to say - out of the human heart, come evil ideas, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, evil, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, pride, and folly. 23 All these evils come from within and defile a person.” I tend to do the same with this list of sins and evils that I do with the ten commandments. I tend to run through them like a checklist and give myself a pretty good grade. Let’s see – I don’t use God’s name in vain …. . Check I rest a little and spend time in God’s word – that’s kind of like taking a Sabbath – sort of – check I haven’t murdered anyone – check Then there’s this list from Jesus No theft – check. No murder – check. And with the ones that are harder to check off – envy, slander, pride and folly - I like to grade myself on a curve. Sure, I may not speak of others in the best possible light but that’s not really slander – is it?– at least I’m not as bad as they are. Evil ideas – well my thoughts are not that bad – not that often – not as bad as that person or those people. Even when Jesus is telling me my heart is evil – I fight against him. I try to deny it and persist in saying it’s not in me - evil is out there. It’s in the world. Sure, I’m human. I'm not perfect but I’m trying. I’m not as bad as they are. Who have I been talking about? me myself and i. And what have I been doing for myself and i? Trying to justify myself - trying to make the case for my own righteousness. Even though I know that I cannot make myself righteous - even though I proclaim the gospel message that Jesus died for my sins and rose to give me new life. That sinful part of me - the evil in my heart - will not die – it will not surrender. we read in Romans 3 where it says “There is no one righteous, not even one and a little later in ch 3 we read - all [s]have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and yet our natural tendency is to try and wriggle out from under the Word as it is convicting us of sin. The Word says everyone’s a sinner – including you. We often respond - sure I’m not perfect, but I’m basically a good person. I mean look at that person over there – now they’re bad. But as we try to talk our way - and wriggle our way - out from under the God’s Word - Jesus pins us back by the ears and says – your heart is defiled – you are not holy – you are not righteous – and nothing you can think, say or do can make you even a little bit holy. Just like the Pharisees and teachers of the law could not make themselves holy by their own traditions – we cannot make ourselves holy by our own religious practices and traditions. As we realize that we cannot wriggle out from under God’s convicting Word - Jesus comes and takes us by the hand and leads us into a new kind of life. He says - your heart is unholy but here I’ll give you my holiness. Jesus says stop pretending to be righteous - you are not. but I’ll give you my righteousness. God, by way of his word and his Spirit, continues to put to death the sin and the sinner in us. God’s work is not a paint job – making the outside look better. It’s not even a home improvement project – rearranging things so they look better. It’s a death and resurrection every single day that we are on this earth. But one day – one day – soon and very soon we can leave that unholy – that defiled - heart behind. Soon and very soon we are going to see the King. King Jesus - Lord of heaven and earth. Amen - Pr.Tom Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 29, 2021
Lessons From Sola Publishing - Used in worship on Sunday the 29th
Prayer of the Day - “O Lord, fully continue to purify and defend your Church. Since she cannot stand firmly without your power, govern her always by your grace; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”
First Reading - Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9
The Deuteronomistic principle is: keep God's commands and be blessed, do not keep them, and be cursed. Here, the blessing is taking possession of the land. That is a command that his chosen people kept with varying degrees of commitment and success. As soon as the people began to look on the land itself, instead of the Lord who gave them the land, they began to forget what God had done for them. This is why Moses implored them, “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget... (Deut 4:9)
Psalm - Psalm 119:129-136
The psalmist provides us with a picture of the person who not only wants to hear God's word but wants God to teach it to him. He wants to keep God's commandments, so he wants God to reveal it like light unveils things kept in the darkness. He distrusts his own abilities and asks God to steady his steps in the way. He cares not only for himself but for all who do not keep God's law.
Second Reading - Ephesians 6:10-20
Perhaps Paul alludes to the exhortation to Joshua: “Only be strong and very courageous.” (Josh 1:7) If so, he adds a twist. The apostle tells us to be strong in the Lord—in the strength of his might instead of our own strength and courage. Using well-worn metaphorical language that he has used elsewhere (Rom 13:14), he tells us to put on the armor of God. Was Paul thinking of young David, trying on the king's armor but finally going to face the giant in the armor of God, in the strength of his might?
Gospel - Mark 7:14-23
Jesus turns religious ritual on its head—and the ritually religious as well. Just as the food they put in their stomachs would never defile the heart, their bodily rituals would never cleanse their hearts. Human nature, along with the litany of “evil things” Jesus mentioned, will never be addressed by religious rituals and human traditions. The human heart is never cleansed except by the work of God.