Sunday, September 02, 2018 - 9 AM
From the Inside Out - Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 Bascomb UMC / September 6, 2018 / 9AM Focus: The tension between religious practices (rules) and actual Christian relationship: with God and with each other. Function: To challenge believers to examine their core selves, humble themselves and come to God’s table of grace willing to be changed from the inside out. 5 Purpose Outcomes of the Church: Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Evangelism, Service Mark 7:1–8, 14–15, 21–23 (CEB) What contaminates a life? 1 The Pharisees and some legal experts from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus. 2 They saw some of his disciples eating food with unclean hands. (They were eating without first ritually purifying their hands through washing. 3 The Pharisees and all the Jews don’t eat without first washing their hands carefully. This is a way of observing the rules handed down by the elders. 4 Upon returning from the marketplace, they don’t eat without first immersing themselves. They observe many other rules that have been handed down, such as the washing of cups, jugs, pans, and sleeping mats.) 5 So the Pharisees and legal experts asked Jesus, “Why are your disciples not living according to the rules handed down by the elders but instead eat food with ritually unclean hands?” 6 He replied, “Isaiah really knew what he was talking about when he prophesied about you hypocrites. He wrote, This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me. 7 Their worship of me is empty since they teach instructions that are human words. 8 You ignore God’s commandment while holding on to rules created by humans and handed down to you.” 14 Then Jesus called the crowd again and said, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand. 15 Nothing outside of a person can enter and contaminate a person in God’s sight; rather, the things that come out of a person contaminate the person.” KEY VERSE (alone with the disciples): 21 “It’s from the inside, from the human heart, that evil thoughts come: sexual sins, thefts, murders, 22 adultery, greed, evil actions, deceit, unrestrained immorality, envy, insults, arrogance, and foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from the inside and contaminate a person in God’s sight.” You may have heard this story: Three generations of mothers were all in the kitchen one Christmas. One of the children observed that her mother cut off about one inch from either end of the ham before she put it in the oven. “Why do you that momma? Looks to me like that’s a waste of good ham!” Momma said, “ask your grandmother - that’s the way she always prepared the ham.” Now Grandma was standing over by the desserts – she said, “ask your great grandmother I did it because that was the way my mom prepared ham.” Great Grandma was sitting over by the salads and she started to laugh. She said: “Sweetheart, I only cut the ends off of the ham to make it fit into the only small baking pan we could afford to own. You two have been wasting ham for all these years because of some misplaced idea of tradition!” Mark’s gospel goes through a lot of trouble to explain these misplaced traditions – such as Jewish purity rituals. Verses 2-4 have to explain to us Gentiles the meaning of “unclean hands.” Us modern readers might cringe here listening to Jesus if we confuse our scientific understanding of washing for germs with the Jewish practice of ritual washing – they had no concept of germs and washing. Still….handwashing is still important to us – the signs are in the hospitals and the restaurants: (video clip – Seinfeld: “Handwashing fail!”). But Jesus is talking about our Spirits – the inner being, not germs like E. coli. The conflict here is because the letter of the LAW has been, over time, co-opted by religious traditions that can become, like cutting off the ends of the ham, misplaced, misused, and misunderstood. It’s important that our church traditions SERVE US – Jesus says the Sabbath is for us – we were not created to serve the Sabbath. We don’t win points with God by observing rituals in this way or that, but the rituals are supposed to support us in living holy and healthy lives. “Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill? Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart” Psalm 15:1-2 (NRSV). The heart is the center of your will. The CORE of who you are. When you are squeezed and stressed….the core of who you are will be revealed. As an example, it is my tradition is to go to the gym each day, but the deeper goal should be health and wellness. If I walk into the gym (as I walked into this church today) and I listen to the trainers teach, examine the weight machines, look at the treadmills and the ellipticals and the Stairmasters and think – “good, good, these machines will do a good work to strengthen my core and get my heartrate up – good!” But then I simply check the box “I went to the gym” and walk out. My body has not exercised, my core is not strengthened, my heartrate never moved. How does that make me healthier and how is faith any different if we don’t actually engage the practice and transformation of faith? How goes it with your CORE – from the Inside Out? So Jesus quotes Isaiah, saying: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me. Their worship of me is empty since they teach instructions that are human words” Mark 7:6–7 (CEB). Traditions and doctrines are not bad things. Some of the practices that came out of this concern were lifesaving. Spiritual disciplines - but the requirements of ritual purity in Jesus’ day had become judgmental and oppressive. Humans DO need a sense of order and we need laws and doctrines. But Jesus is saying that they were worshipping their traditions and relationships between humans and our relationship with God are MORE important. One of my mentors always reminds me, “if we must err, let us err on the side of love!” The contrast between what goes into the mouth and what comes out might lead us to expect Jesus to focus on those kinds of sins: lying, foul language, slander, and false promises. And the list in these verses does include deceit and slander, but the emphasis shifts from the mouth to the heart. The thought is father to the deed. We think a sin before we do it. There are many lists of sins (and we love to make lists, don’t we?). Lists become rules. The list in our text today echoes at least four of the ten commandments – another list. Paul lists the “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19–21 like drunkenness and carousing but also sins of the spirit such as “jealousy, anger, quarrels” Mark’s list includes avarice and pride because these are attitudes and they come from the inside out. Greed is the “desire to have more” – it can make us stingy toward those who have little. “Watch out! Guard yourself against all kinds of greed. After all, one’s life isn’t determined by one’s possessions” Luke 12:15 (CEB). If you feel you are innocent of most of the sins in Mark’s list? -- watch out for that one! Comedian Jeff Foxworthy makes lists. He’s done very well for himself with, “You Might be a Redneck” jokes. Let’s take-off on that routine for this text today: “You might be a Pharisee, if…” ●If you think that wearing a cross around your neck makes you look like a Christian, then you might be a Pharisee. ●If you sit in the back so you can count all the people who come late to worship, you might be a Pharisee. ●If you fight to hang the Ten Commandments in the public school but it never live out the Fruit of the Spirit in the community, then you might be a Pharisee. ●If you think that people with cell phones and tattoos shouldn’t receive food from the food pantry, you may be a Pharisee (I just make sure their cell phone isn’t NEWER than mine!). To turn our hearts away from God is sin, but hardness of heart is among the most damaging of spiritual conditions - a lack of compassion toward God’s will in our life, and toward other human beings. The most basic narrative of the Christian faith is the FALL. All creation has been infected with a disease. Sin, at its core, corrupts our relationships from the inside out. Lists like the 10 commandments really show us how impossible it is to be GOOD ENOUGH. I can’t understand a humanist like Bill Marr, - anti-religion (and he has good reasons), and pro-atheist, I ask myself “how does Bill Marr think things will ever improve?” And maybe he doesn’t. WE know that sin has mutated everything! Our message is also anti-religious (if religion is ever about US being good enough). Our message of hope is simply “God began a good work in us through Jesus.” There is hope for change from the inside out. Christ wants us to examine our own defiled hearts rather than our neighbors’ dirty hands. Jesus broke through the wall and let the Holy Spirit flow out of heaven into our hearts to change us from the inside out! One of the BIG traditions we Pharisees inside the church struggle with is this table. Does this literally become the body and blood – is it transubstantiated or consubstantiated – is it a sacrament or an ordinance? Jesus might walk in here and call us ALL hypocrites and Pharisees. “It’s not what goes in to us – it’s what comes out!” We started with James today, so let’s finish there: Those who hear but don’t do the word are like those who look at their faces in a mirror. They look at themselves, walk away, and immediately forget what they were like. James 1: 23-24 (CEB). Hypocrite is a Greek word for actors – people who pretend to be what they are not. Who wear masks. Who are you - at your core? The list of sins in today’s text includes “pride” (NRSV) or “arrogance” (NIV). Arrogance is a disease of the spirit - resistance to God and contempt for other people. “…everyone, clothe yourselves with humility toward each other. God stands against the proud, but he gives favor to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5 (CEB). You want to exercise your faith? Begin with an attitude of humility and God will change you from the inside out. Let us pray………. A thousand times we've failed - still Your mercy remains. And should we stumble again we are caught in Your grace. In my heart and my soul, Lord I give You control. Consume me from the inside out, Lord. Your will above all else. My purpose remains the art of losing myself - in bringing You praise So, let justice and praise become my embrace - to love you from the inside out.