13th Sunday after Trinity

Holy Cross, Binstead                                                                                   St Peter’s, Havenstreet

29th August 2021

13th Sunday after Trinity

Year B

 

Collect for the 13th Sunday after Trinity

Almighty God, who called your Church to bear witness
that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself:
help us to proclaim the good news of your love,
that all who hear it may be drawn to you;
through him who was lifted up on the cross,
and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen

 

Readings

Deuteronomy 4.1-2, 6-9

Moses said: “Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.

“Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?

“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”

 

James 1.17-27

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

 

Mark 7.1-8,14-15,21-23

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean”, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the market-place they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?”

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

     “‘These people honour me with their lips,
         but their hearts are far from me.
     They worship me in vain;
         their teachings are but rules taught by men.’

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean’.”

For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’.”

 

Reflection by Rodney

 

They say that there is no fool like an old fool!  About a month ago, Sue and I took a day trip to Chichester.  It was a bright, sunny day and we had a great time.  One of the highlights for me was standing in the High Street listening to a busker playing the saxophone.  Beautiful long, haunting notes.  How I wished that I could play like that!  After we returned home, that dream was still playing on my mind and eventually I sent for a teach-yourself book on basic saxophone playing, just to see how hard it looked.  Actually, it really does start at ground level and makes it all seem quite do-able.  Suffice it to say, the instrument is coming in the next few days and I’m going to give it a go.  I may find that I haven’t enough puff to blow a single note let alone a tune.  I know that it will take a lot of dedication to progress, and I don’t expect to be accompanying the organ in church anytime soon, but at least I will have tried to reach out for something that I would love to be able to do.  Why do I tell you all this?  Because I think that it illustrates how what comes out of the mouth can surprise, express a dream, admit to a folly, tell of inspiration, or of course it can grumble, express resentment, or despair, or grief, and, sadly, sometimes it can disparage, wound, be deceitful, unkind or cruel.  Most of us regret things that we have said, and wish we hadn’t, more frequently than we regret things that we have done.  The mouth can be the most dangerous part of the human body.

Which brings us to our gospel reading this morning in which we hear how Jesus was once again in a dispute with the pharisees.  The pharisees don’t get a good press in the New Testament because Jesus was constantly having to confront their hostile challenges.  But I guess that no-one became a pharisee without some measure of idealism – of hope that they could protect the laws and traditions of Judaism and, by extension, safeguard their Jewish identity, and help to bring the people closer to God by ensuring their adherence to the Mosaic Law.  Pharisees needed to study the law and themselves closely follow it.  But, although their initial intentions were good, some, and maybe most, of them came to focus so much on the detail that they lost the bigger picture.  So, they challenged Jesus for healing on the Sabbath and thus breaking the laws that kept the sabbath sacred.  The sabbath laws were good, and needed to be observed, so as to preserve the day of rest that protected people from exploitation by greedy employers but, as Jesus explained, they were never intended to be an impediment to healing or helping a neighbour in distress.  On the occasion that we heard about in the reading today, the pharisees accused Jesus’s followers of neglecting the hygiene laws that required the washing of hands and cooking utensils before eating.  Of course, in this instance too, the law was good and sensible, and it protected the people from infection or poisoning but it was never intended to be a reason for accusing people of affronting God by disobeying his law when they neglected to pay it sufficient attention.

And then Jesus makes that memorable comment that what comes out of a person’s mouth can be more damaging than what goes in, because what goes in may damage the body but what comes out may damage the soul.  He is not challenging the value of the law, as it was extolled by Moses in our first reading, but he is saying that it exists to help people live a good life and not as a way of constraining or controlling them.

Of course, we are reading these lessons in the context of the last two weeks when we have listened to readings in which Jesus described himself as the bread from heaven and told his followers that they are to eat this bread so that the spirit of God may live in them.  He is urging rather a different interior life to the one that he describes in this week’s gospel, one from which comes evil intentions and thoughts of sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  The Christian vision, our dream and our hope, is instead that in and from us will come what St Paul described as ‘the fruit of the spirit’, which is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things, Paul tells us, there is no law.  Such things are liberating rather than constraining and will transform both our lives and the lives of the people and communities with whom we share our lives.

That, then, is our mission – to be a people who reveal God’s love, not in any narrow or restricting way, but in an open and generous way, in our own lives, in the life of our community and in the world.  Just like a vaccination, the grace that we receive by taking Christ into our inner selves doesn’t benefit only us but spreads out as a blessing for all those with whom we come into contact and ripples out through them into the whole community – leading to what might be termed a herd effect as those gifts of the Spirit grow and spread.

That mission, our role as disciples who carry Christ within us, is proclaimed at the close of the service in the dismissal when we are commanded to ‘Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord’ and we reply, decisively, ‘In the name of Christ’.   Amen

 

Post Communion Prayer

God our creator, you feed your children with the true manna,
the living bread from heaven: let this holy food sustain us through

our earthly pilgrimage until we come to that place where hunger

and thirst are no more; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

 

 

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above):

Deuteronomy 4.1-2,6-9 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
James 1.17-27 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Mark 7.1-8,14-15,21-23 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Post Communion (13th after Trinity) ©  1980, 1986 Mowbray, a Cassell Imprint: Prayers for the Alternative Services comp. David Silk
Collect (13th after Trinity) ©  The Archbishops' Council 2000