Saturday, 29 August 2015

Pentecost 14 August 29th 2015 Mark 7:1-23

On Jesus journey there is growing division. The religious leaders of the day have lost the plot and dont understand what is happening.
So there is growing discontent and Jesus confronts Israel's religious leaders, men who were boxed in by their laws and had lost love as the focus. He exposes their hypocrisy.

The issue is what makes you good/holy.
And the hot topic of the day was Jews eating with Gentile, Christians with Muslims, Hindus with Sikhs…
Being defiled is not about externals, hand-washing, but its about the heart.
It is from a defiled heart that bad things come.
And this defilement cannot be hidden behind doing good deeds.

It's very easy to be fooled into thinking that the outward performance makes you holy.
But none are righteous, no one. We are all equal in that!

The local Pharisees and Pharisees from Jerusalem, teachers of the law and some scribes are the culprits. Theologians? Church leaders?
Eating bread in the gospels normally means eating food in general, a meal. The mention of loaves links back to the feeding of the five thousand.

The word unclean meant common, but also impure, defiled.
The issue was eating food with unwashed hands!

Many of the Pharisees practiced rigorous purity rituals like Muslims Wudu today and unless they washed their hands properly, they did not eat. They washed their hands with the minimum of water making the hand like a fist.

Things that were brought from the market were ritually washed, and people coming back from coming from the markets ritually washed. And they washed their utensils like cups and even beds!

So the Pharisees and Scribes put this question to Jesus

The Pharisees assume that there is an inherent authority in their tradition, which Jesus challenges. This is the way we always do it! As far as Jesus is concerned, their received wisdom is not based on God. "What our ancestors taught us to do",

 Mark says that Isaiah's words 29:13b that are quoted are for "you". The prophets words are for their own generation, but also for us!

With their lips they honour me but not with their hearts -

Jesus tells them they have held on to human traditions and dropped God commands. Let go by neglect (by default) rather than wilfully abandon, although a shift from what God commands to a watered down version of the law is surely worse than neglect.

God's word is authoritative while human traditions are subjective. Such traditions may be useful, but cannot be mandatory. "You have put aside the commandment of God
holding on to the traditions".

The application of Isaiah 29:13a is that the heart is the center of our being.
It is the source of human defilement and undermines any claim to holiness,
Then Jesus turns from the Pharisees to the crowd, from specific arguments to listening to God. - Take notice.
Nothing coming from the outside can defile you. Emphasizing that defilement is not caused by contamination from unwashed hands, v5, or anything, contact with a dead body, or sex, or foods

What defiles us is what comes out of us.
His disciples began to question  him and he realized that even they didn’t understand.

The word for intestines was sometimes used for the inner being, but heart was most often used. The heart is the source of spiritual and intellectual processing; it is the part of our being which relates to God, but is not the seat of emotions as in Western thought. The point made by Jesus is that in the digestive process, food does not come into contact with the source of our being, the psychological center of our existence, and therefore does not pollute it. It doesn't enter our brain, but our stomach.
"What comes from your heart is what makes you unclean",
Jesus pronouncement did not absolve us from guilt, but universalized it: we are all are defiled, all are unclean.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Pentecost 13 August 23rd 2015 Ephesians 6:10-20, The Armour of God

Paul wrote Ephesians from Rome between the years 56-60AD. He was in prison as at the end of the book of Acts, a letter addressing the Ephesian congregation.

He encourages us to keep on being strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power, which shows that there is a difference between us being strong in God and in our own strength. He tells us to "Put on the whole armor of God" because we need it, as if we are going into battle like a soldier! The world hasn’t changed there are always troubles, onslaughts, difficulties. This is life. As the writer, Scott Peck begins his book “The road less travelled”, life is a series of problems. Man is born to trouble as sparks fly upwards”. Paul says these troubles are from Satan, the adversary, not people, but people in power, people with authority, spiritual forces.

To protect ourselves from these problems we need to put on God’s protection, spiritual armour, so we can survive these onslaughts and then we need to stand firm and not run! Difficult eh!

So what is this armour?

1.             Truth-don’t lie, tell the truth despite the cost. Put it on like a belt around you.

2.              Put on a top, a tshirt of goodness, a good life, or right living before God. Do the right thing, be just.

3.             Then on your feet put on peace, shoes or sandals, of a peaceful attitude within yourself and with others. Make peace your aim, not arguments and warring, a gospel, good news of peace. Speak peace into situations.

4.             Then in your hand have a protection, a shield of faith against the arrows that pierce you.

5.             Against the attacks on your mind, your sanity put on a head covering of God’s salvation

6.              In the other hand carry a sword of God’s Spirit, so root yourself in the Bible, God’s word.

7.             And pray all the time about everything, lean on God.

And who is our enemy? Not other people, even people who do bad things, but evil itself.
First, note that our struggle is not against enemies of flesh and blood, but against cosmic powers of this present darkness.

Evil loves the darkness and lives in a world of lies and disinformation. The truth is sometimes painful, but without it, evil cannot be fought, and healing cannot begin. This lesson is evident in the work of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The good news that God loves everyone and that God wants people to repent and love one another as well may not seem as effective as a weapon, but it's the only way to overcome hatred and prejudice.

We have faith that humans in conflict today can be reconciled to one another. Forty years ago this month Martin Luther King delivered a speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in which he described his vision of an America in which people were judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. The world he lived in was far from that ideal, but he had faith in God and in the power of God to change human hearts.

The term salvation meant deliverance. Because we have been delivered from our sins by our encounter with Jesus Christ, we are free to help others achieve a similar deliverance. Their deliverance might not look exactly like ours; in fact, it might be radically different. However, all of us who have experienced God's deliverance have been humbled by the recognition of our own failures, and at the same time we've been energized by the realization that no one is beyond the reach of God's mercy and love.

Finally, we are charged to carry the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Contrary to a common misinterpretation, the word of God, the prophetic proclamation of God's will, inspired by the spirit of God. As Christians who see ourselves as standing firmly in the prophetic tradition, we too must have the courage to speak out against injustice and evil. We have powerful, effective weapons that we can wield in our continuing fight against evil.


kindness goes a long way


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