Summary: What do these 3 things have in common? Maybe Jesus changes more than just menus!
(To appreciate much of this sermon, it would help to understand who I am and where I preach~~I am a born and bred New Yorker preaching in a deep South/Bible Belt congregation, hence there is a bit of a culture and perspective shift)
--Illus: His name is Leroy ’Lee Lee’ Chauvin. He’s a man in his 70’s and he resides in Houma, LA. Leroy is famous, or infamous, for his oysters. Oysters. Either you love ’em or you hate ’em. They generally do not inspire indifference. I am told by oyster lovers that the hazzards of eating oysters is that a--they sometimes have sand and grit, and b--they can taste stale and unfresh (a fresh oyster is a salty tasting oyster). Leroy’s oysters are exceptional, though. They taste salty-fresh, and they are sand and grit free. Oyster lovers LOVE his oysters. Part of the reason they are so good is how he cleanses them. He takes them out to a barrier island in the Gulf and rinses them en masse for hours upon hours. The result? A salty-fresh sand/grit free oyster! This is what makes him and his oysters famous. But he is somewhat...infamous. You see, Leroy is an enterprizing business man always looking for ways to sell his product~~his pure product, pure because his oysters are sand and grit free. So to help market his oysters, he put a sign outside his stand~~ "Certified Kosher Oysters." Needless to say, oysters will NEVER be kosher for a Jewish person. Furthermore, there is quite a process in getting something certified as kosher. Only a Rabbi can do it, and there are professional organizations that perform this function~~hence the circle K on your food items. The reason we know about all this is that a Jewish woman living in Louisiana saw Leroy’s sign and took deep offense~~so much so that the press was alerted. Leroy’s mistake was one of simple ignorance. You see, back in the 50’s when he was an army cook, he had a friend who was Jewish. And Leroy, a Catholic, asked his Jewish friend what kosher meant. He said that it meant ’pure.’ That stuck with Leroy. And his oysters were pure~~no sand or grit, so he maid them....kosher. Well, a Catholic cajun can’t certify anything as kosher. So he took down his sign. But he’s still selling his oysters. Just not kosher oysters. Kosher Oysters. Interesting, huh?
--But all of this made me wonder~~Does God have a problem with oysters?
--Some think it arbitrary. Others just puzzling. Observant Jews think it still sacred and binding. What is that? The food list of Lev. 11. Food that is clean and unclean.
--And from our gentile perspective, it in interesting to look at the list and compare with our personal menus. We all love pork products, I assume. But they are on the ’forbidden list.’ So is camel, but I don’t plan on a camel sandwich anytime soon. All shellfish is on the list, not just oysters, but lobster, too. That includes it with lemon and butter! Catfish is unclean, and I know that it is required eating of all Southerners. Rabbit is on there, too. I know many who love rabbit; I am told that it tastes like...well, you know. Well, God’s instructions were quite clear to the people regarding these items. Read Lev. 11:43-47.
--But the question is inevitable. Why? Why were these foods unclean? Many theories. Most are really rather unsubstantive, but I’ll share with you what are likely the best ones.
--One idea is that these food items were unclean for reasons of health. For example, pork can have trichinosis; shellfish can have bacteria and viruses; rabbits can have tularema. The idea is that God made them unclean because they were dangerous. Many folks, especially some Rabbis, still assert that this is true.
--But was it an issue of health? You can disagree with me and still be saved (wink, wink) but the likely answer is....no. Probably not. Why is that?
--Well, for one health might account for some of the animals, but not all. Furthermore, many of these diseases are also found in clean animals. And clean animals have some diseases that the unclean animals don’t have. Also, nothing in the text addresses an issue or concern about health.
--Also, from our Christian perspective, didn’t Jesus effectually declare all foods clean? That is Mark’s observation in Mk. 7:19. Later NT writers such as Paul would also understand that. He claimed that the kingdom of God was not about food, and that you could eat whatever with a clear conscience. And rememeber, Jesus and Paul lived in the ancient world, too. Pork would have been just as dangerous in Jesus’ day as Moses.’
--There is a better suggestion than health, one that is even supported by Jewish and Rabbinical sources, too. God forbade animals that...were...odd. Animals that did not fit according to pattern.