TO THOSE persons seeking discussion for Sundays coming forth in the lectionary, we offer a listing according to the three-year calendar.
On the right-hand column of this page, please find the past corresponding year for lectionary years A, B, or C.
And then search the appropriate month in each for a discussion concerning the gospel reading.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fatback Stake House?

FOR THIS Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost we hear again from Saint Mark concerning a behavioral tradition challenged by Jesus. The topic of conversation concerned adherence to a human religious habit founded by some for pious justifications, over against the heartfelt doings of the will of God. Therefore we respectfully read...

And he (Jesus) called the people to him again, and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand:  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.”
 And when he had entered the house, and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him, since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)
 And he said, “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.” (Mark 7:14-23)

What May We Eat?
As Christians who have been taught to look at scripture for the dialectic tension maintained between the Law and the Gospel, we read that our lectionary menu seems to have items listed numerously beneath the Law column. These are many items that condemn us, and yet only one thing artfully hidden exists within the right reading of the Gospel. This causes great remorse, for we find ourselves dining on sour grapes.
 Note here that the disciples, and in particular those later found within Mark’s community... had incorporated many Gentiles around them. In doing so, they found themselves adapting their diet to include foods that were not ritually kosher in the Jewish cookery. Not only did many disciples eat with ritually unclean hands, they would eat such horrid non-kosher menu as delicious pork chops, lobster and squid. Such items were forbidden by the Jews, yet today they may cost a lot of money today in a favorite modern restaurant.
 Thankfully, according to Mark, Jesus cleared up dietary confusion. He said that to be defiled so that one was unacceptable before God, was not a matter of what a person ate… but rather that our spiritual condition depended on what we did or did not do in daily life. That news came across favorably to those in the early Church who were not Jews keeping kosher ritual. However, this news was short-sighted in relieving their concern, since they immediately were taught that we cannot eat or work our way to heaven.
 This is good news for such as a contestant of a TV series “Alone”, who recently had to whip up a meal of slugs and seaweed in order to physically survive. While it is astounding what the impoverished must find to eat from the dumpsters of our sinful world, we must ask, "Does that good and pure thing which we may find in the dumpster that we know of as this physical world, carry us safely across the threshold into the spiritual realm?"

What Should We Do?
The trouble for us becomes evident as our Lord addressed that which comes out of a man. Jesus basically said that no matter we eat, what spiritually comes out is like smelly defecation which makes us want to place our outhouse far from the homestead. Now for me, this egregious thought rolling around in my head struck hard on my nose, much like being downwind of the privy. Indeed, the mental picture was so pungent to them back then, that as the later Gospel of Matthew was written some twenty years later the scribe tried to lessen the impact. Matthew related that our Lord said…

 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” (Matthew 15:10-11)

Thus it was that even the early Church may have winced beneath the smell of human sin, so that they emphasized a dirty mouth. So too we blanch at Mark's menu of condemnations. You see, our overall behavior stinks like sour incense before God... so that no matter which end of the menu you bite down on... it's still worm food we are destined to be.
 Just examine the list! The menu of moral degradation we ingest condemns each and every one of us… whether we are Jew, Gentile, Roman, Greek, Russian, Oriental, African or American. Our Lord Jesus stated that these things come from the sinful, corrupted hearts of all humanity. By the time the list is completely read, we together possess a distinct urge to push back… away from the table. However, we find it is already too late! We are already condemned. What then can we do? Where shall we go? What may we offer? To whom shall we cry to pay the dinner check and save us?

Sweet Salvation
Take note here that the lesson then reveals to us the hidden one, a servant (in the Greek word “doulos” ),  Jesus stands very near to us. The steady and pure holy Servant, who is the Son of God… is the very One who has stood by us through his Spirit to teach us today. It is the Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son that reveals the menu for our perusal. The Spirit tells us just like a patient waiter in your favorite Chinese restaurant, "Jesus waits for you to choose between those sweet and sour sinful items on the left, or the singular saving entity on the Right." If we choose as driven by the Holy Spirit to the right saving grace… we find ourselves sitting at a wondrous, eternal table, where blessed Saint Paul reminds…

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
 In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
                                                                           (1 Corinthians 11:23-28)

 Therefore, people of God… examine your hearts. For indeed hidden in, with and under the bread and wine that we consume in the holy meal of the Eucharist... is certainly the One who presents this gospel! That is the “Good News”, that he is the holy Servant who wrapped a towel around his waist and washed our feet, preparing us for this wondrous dinner. Jesus Christ, our Lord, Teacher and Savior, has given us the food which is his own body and blood. He thus provided forgiveness for us and informs of our renewed mission.
 Consequently, his menu empowers us for proclamations of grace to those around us, so that what comes out of our mouths is as sweet smelling incense burned before the altar of God. This is the gospel rightly proclaimed that saves, that which needs to be bountifully shared... and as such it should come as plentiful from the heart of the Church.

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May The Lord Bless Your Working In The Word!

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