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Summary: A sermon for the 12th Sunday after Pentecost Proper 17

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12th Sunday after Pentecost

Proper 17

Mark 7:1-8,14-15, 21-23

"Using Religion to Escape Religion"

7:1 ¶ Now when the Pharisees gathered together to him, with some of the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem,

2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands defiled, that is, unwashed.

3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they wash their hands, observing the tradition of the elders;

4 and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they purify themselves; and there are many other traditions which they observe, the washing of cups and pots and vessels of bronze.)

5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with hands defiled?"

6 And he said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ’This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;

7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’

8 You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men."

14 And he called the people to him again, and said to them, "Hear me, all of you, and understand:

15 there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him."

21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery,

22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.

23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man."

Ephesians 6: 10-20

10 ¶ Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12 For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

13 Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

15 and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace;

16 besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

19 ¶ and also for me, that utterance may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,

20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Grace and peace to you from Our Lord and Savour, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen

A man fell ill, so an ancient story goes, between two villages. It was exactly halfway between the two villages and that presented a problem to the authorities as to which village should take care of the stricken man. It had to be decided which community the man was actually closest to. And therein lay the disagreement. One village maintained that the distance should be measured from the man’s navel; the other village argued that it should be calculated from the man’s mouth.

The outcome of the little drama was obvious, of course. as the two communities argued over the legality of the problems the poor fellow died.

Remember the story of Gulliver’s travels. He came to a land of tiny people, Lilliput and do you remember the legality those tiny people were going to war over. It was whether one should crack the big end of an egg or the little end. The two sides became known as the big enders vs. the little enders.

Throughout the history of civilization, people have hated, people have gone to war, people have killed others in the name of legality, in the name of a law that one side perceived right, and the other side didn’t. Laws have been good in that they shape the conduct of society, but they have been harmful to society when the law becomes more important than the principle it is trying to up hold.

Jesus met this same problem in our gospel lesson this morning. The scribes and Pharisees had come to Jesus and had seen that Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash their hands, an act prescribed by the law before they ate. They asked Jesus why.

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