Message – Proper 17 – Sunday, August 29, 2021

My Brothers and Sisters,

I share with you from the  Website https://www.sacredspace from the Gospel reading Mark-7:1-8,14-15, 21-23

The distinction between the way of life of the Pharisees and the deeper meaning given by Jesus is clearly stated. We can become very shallow if we only fulfill the ‘obligations’ of society and pay no attention to where our heart is. God tells us that we are important, that we are loved by Him, and helps us to live that deeper life and so appreciate the gifts below the surface.

It’s good to give thought to what is ‘coming into me’ and where it comes from, as well as what is ‘going out from me’ and where it comes from. Authenticity and happiness are consolations that go deep even if the surface aspect of life is disturbed. The self-knowledge that comes from God’s work in us is peaceful.

Jesus often impresses upon us the need to act upon his word. It is not enough to honour him with our lips. One can argue with words, but deeds speak for themselves. The Word is planted deep in me, and I pray in the words of the Apostle James, “let me be a doer of the word, and not a forgetful hearer. If I am a doer that acts, I shall be blessed in my doing.”

This is shocking stuff! Jesus, no stranger to controversy, wipes aside mere adherence to the externals rituals of the law. The Pharisees’ version of religion warped human life and stunted personal growth. Jesus protested against hypocrisy that abandoned the commandments of God in order to cling to ‘human traditions.’

God sees the heart and its fluctuations. He judges us on the love of our lives and our efforts to love. In the evening of life God will see not just what we did, but the heart of goodness by which we lived. A practical way of letting the good flow is to be grateful. On any day we can always think of something to be thankful for. In thanks, the spirit of joy and blessing will flow into us and through us.

As humans, we need the Pharisees; Mark assumes that we already know that. But as people of faith, we also need to listen to our hearts. This is the message that Mark’s Jesus is speaking to his first-century Jewish audience. It isn’t about the Pharisees v Jesus or the Jews v Christians or even the hypocritical religious people v the virtuous atheists. Jesus and the Pharisees were both religious Jews, just like Mark’s first audience.

The encounter between the Pharisees and Jesus in Mark 7 is a confrontation between two very different perspectives on the godly life. The challenge to every one of us today is to become more aware of how strongly we lean in the direction of the Pharisees and to pray earnestly that God will help us move more faithfully in the direction of Jesus.