August 30, 2009, Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 – Get your hands dirty. Westminster Santa Fe
Wash your hands before dinner! That’s all the Pharisees are saying right? They are just being like any good mother toward her child. Wash up. Do the dishes. Em, Em, Em (shaking head in disapproval) Look at those disciples of Jesus! They don’t even wash their hands before they eat dinner. Ehh. Gross
Now were the Pharisee’s simply about germ patrol? Would they have carried hand sanitizer with them everywhere if they lived today! (pull out some hand sanitizer and pass it around)
The Pharisees saw the eating practices of Jesus and his disciples and said, They’re defiled!
But, really they didn’t know that much about germs back then. Defile, not so much dirty, rather, not being holy and pure before God. Ritually, unclean because one had be exposed to food that had been used for idol worship. Or one had interaction with people who worshipped gods other than YhWh the God of Israel, so they were unclean. Contagious, their impurity can spread just like a virus. (which is why I didn’t come to church last week, I had a virus! But, I’m clean now…I hope)
This concern about being pure before God at all times isn’t all that bad. Shouldn’t we all strive to be pure before God. “Be holy as I am holy” says God. And these washing laws—washing hands, and pots and pans—are biblical. Derived from Leviticus, and then elaborated upon in the midrash, which are teachings and interpretations of the law as time and circumstances changed. Kind of like us interpreting the bible today.
Any mother should approve of the Pharisees. Wash your hands!
But Jesus says to them, oh Pharisees Pharisees Pharisees. Don’t you get it? There is nothing, nothing, outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile. For it is from within, from the human heart that evil intentions come.
It seems straight forward enough. Pharisees say wash your hands! Jesus says, no. Basically, these laws for which the Pharisees were the ENFORCERS, meant separation of people from one another. Those who were ritually unclean were excluded, not welcomed into the places of worship. But, as straightforward as Jesus teaching seems, I think we still make better Pharisees than we do followers of Jesus. We get what Jesus is talking about, but still say,
“Wash your hands!”
“Wash up, put on your Sunday best before you come to church.”
Come with a big smile and when someone asks you “how it’s going,” say, “Good and you?” “Everything is just fine!”
We’re good at washing our hands. What was it one of Billy Chrystal’s characters on Saturday night live always said: “It’s better to look good than to feel good.“
It’s easy to know what’s there. Our heart talks to us. When we’re in love, man our heart just wants to burst out of our chest! When you stub your toe, what is your reaction? Be honest!
That happened to me the other day when I was out running with Brinca. I was in one of these parks that tells you to “pick up after you dog.” Well, usually I do, but Brinca never ever ever goes to the bathroom that time of day when we go jogging…except for this one day. And we were out at Frenchy’s park and she did her business right there on the paved jogging path. And I had no bag to pick it up. So, I kicked it off the path into the weeds, that’s all that’s there are weeds. And this woman comes up from behind me on her bike and says, “You know you should really pick that up!” Now, what should have come out of my heart?
And what do you think came out? I’m gonna let you fill in the rest of the details.
And what do you think came out? I’m gonna let you fill in the rest of the details.
Our heart tells us things. When we are in pain, we have heart ache and it feels like it just shrivels up. When we do good; our chest cavity opens up because our heart gets big.
When we do things with evil intentions, we kind of shrink…..
Yes, it is from our heart, Jesus says that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.
That’s a long list! I’m going to need 8 more Sundays!
And with each one of these things that Jesus mentions as evil intentions, they lead to separation, division, broken relationship.
There are two main voices in this passage. There’s the voice of the Pharisees, that say, “Wash up!” And there’s the voice of Jesus, that says, “it’s about what’s in here.” And I wonder, what would those voices sound off against today.
Let’s think about Jesus voice. What would Jesus and disciples be doing today that would upset the religious establishment?
What laws does the religious establishment follow, that are human laws, and not the law of God? I think our attitude and practices around money is one of the most pervasive “human laws”. How do church people view money? How might we earn and spend money? Jesus and his disciples today would be giving away as much as they could to those in need, and church people might say, “well don’t give too much away, save a little so we can build a new educational wing on our facility.”
Disciples of Jesus would welcome anyone into the fellowship, But we church people say may say, “Wash up, so you can be clean, and don’t associate with those people” (Whisper).
Sunday morning at 11 am is still the most segregated hour in America. Are you clean?
How many people don’t come to church because people in the church think they are dirty?
Prostitutes? Homeless? Undocumented Immigrants? Homosexuals?
There’s a pastor of a small church in a downtown area—in kind of a poor area—the church barely has enough money to pay him. So you know what he does to earn some extra money. Funerals. He’s on the list and he usually gets the funerals no one else is willing to do.
It was a Tuesday, and a man had died of AIDs. There were about 25 homosexual men there, overtly so. The whole time none of them would look up, the whole time they just stared at the floor. The pastor read some prayers and some scripture, and they just stared at the floor.
When the service was over these men shuffled to their cars, without saying a word, they loaded the casket into the hearse and got in their cars and went to the burial sight.
There the gay men stood. The pastor read some more scripture, prayed prayers, the body was lowered into the ground, and the men didn’t move, not a muscle. They just stared at the ground; stiff like the corpse of their friend.
The pastor got in his car, and was going to pull away and saw the men still there. So he got out of his car and said, is there anything else I can do?
One of the men looked up, tears in his eyes, and said pastor, I haven’t been to church in years. I love hearing the 23rd Psalm and you didn’t read it would you mind reading it now?
And the pastor read the 23rd Psalm. “The lord is my shepherd….I shall not want”
When he was finished another man said, “There’s a passage, a passage in Romans, “there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus….”
And the pastor read that passage.
And another man said, there’s another passage toward the end of Romans would you read that: And the pastor read to these homosexual men:
“Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, NOTHING will be able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And at that moment something inside of this pastor hurt. He hurt because he realized that these homosexual men who were hungry for the word of God would never set foot inside of a church, again. Because they are convinced that church people despise them. Church people think they are unclean. And you know why they think Church people think this about them, because church people despise them, and see them as unclean. And tell them they better wash up and wash up good before you come here. 
And we church people do this all the time. We’ve done well to keep ourselves clean and say get your life straight before you come into the community, get your hand sanitizer. And Jesus is saying what a bunch of bull come into the community and be welcome and part of us and let me redeem you, and make you clean.
What’s in your heart?
How can the church that proclaims to be the body of Christ, to be love in this world, be such a proponent for hate and division, and bigotry?
But you know what I want to see. You know what I think God calls us to be….he wants us to be the church that society—that other religious people—criticize because our practices are so dirty! I want us, Westminster Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe, to go out and be in the world such a powerful witness of love of everybody and anybody, that people are scared of us that we might contaminate them. To love anyone and everyone so much that the walls of separation that society would erect between rich and poor, between different races and ethnicities, between gays and straight, between educated and uneducated would never even have the footings dug or any concrete poured.
People would try to tell us to wash ourselves and make ourselves clean, and we would say to them, I have been washed! I have been made clean. And it was by a that something that is much stronger than any hand sanitizer you have. I have been washed and made clean by the sacrifice and love of Jesus. God’s grace is what cleans me! God’s grace is what makes me whole! And I know it in the depths of my heart. I can look at myself in the mirror and see that I am a child of God and I don’t forget it when I go out into the world. Amen.