Sermon: August 17, 2008

21 08 2008


Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.” Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.


                                                Matthew 15:[10–20] 21–28



            The other day I was watching the news on television and they had a story about a restaurant in Canton.  Apparently a car went out of control and smashed into the restaurant.  The restaurant suffered considerable structural damage.  But the reporter happened to notice that the car just stopped short of one of the walls upon which was hanging an angel.  The owner responded that he too had noticed that.  He was surprised that the angel was still hanging on the wall even though the building had really been shaken – and even though the angel was held on the wall by only one nail.  And then the owner said, “I am not a very religious person, but, you know, there must be something too that.”

            And, you know, as I thought about that I remembered another story that a pastor told me.  They were having a meeting of their Church Council and they had an issue that was perplexing the Council.  I believe that it had to do with money and how they were going to raise the money to meet a certain obligation.  Finally the pastor suggested that perhaps they should pray about – seek God’s guidance and God’s help.  One of the members of the Church Council took exception with the pastor’s suggestion and said, “That’s all well and good, pastor, but this is a serious problem and needs a practical solution.”

            What I like about those stories is that they point out a serious breakdown – a dis-connect between what people say – what people profess – and what people do.  In a nutshell that was the bone of contention between Jesus and the Pharisees.  These Pharisees had boiled one’s faith down to keeping certain rituals – performing certain acts – keep the laws – go to the temple to pray at the appointed times – perform the right sacrifices when they were required.  And as long as you did those things everything was all right between you and God.  What Jesus noticed was how this led to a disconnect between what one professed and how one treated others.  Remember the story of the Good Samaritan.  The point of that story was how two of the characters in the story – the Priest and the Levite – these two characters were more concerned with doing the rituals – keeping themselves ritually pure so that they could perform their duties in the temple.  They were more concerned with that than they were concerned with helping a brother who had fallen among thieves – gotten beaten up and left for dead.  Doing the performed task in the temple was important than saving the life of someone who had been hurt.

            I am always struck by the numbers of people who rarely if every come and worship God here at Zion and yet consider themselves members of the church.  These are the ones who I barely know who will come when they have a family need – a funeral – a baptism – a wedding.  These are the ones who will call me when there is a family emergency – marriage problems – hospitalization.  And they are members.  How because they remember that the Lutheran Church has always defined a member as a confirmed – communing – contributing member of the church.  Does that sound familiar?  So they make sure that they were confirmed – and that their children get confirmed – they make sure that they come to church once during the year and receive communion and that while they are here that they make a contribution.  They have now met the criteria.  They are confirmed.  They have communed once during the year.  They made a contribution once during the year. 

            This is the same thing that Jesus was encountering during his ministry.  This was what Jesus encountered with the Pharisees.  And what does He want from the people?  What does He want from us today?  He wants us to love the Lord our God with all of heart, with all of our soul and with all of our mind.  He wants what we say in here to be seen in everything that we do – in everything we say – in who we are – in the actions we take – in the life of love we live.  People should see that faith that we profess in here to be seen in the way that we live.  In the way that we love one another.  In the way that we love God.  In the way that we live a life that reflects everything that we believe and say here.

            I am going to give a plug for the Zion’s Care Groups.  For me the importance of these groups is that this is another way in which we can live out that life of love and care and faith.  What we say in here needs to be translated into how we live out there.  Zion’s Care Groups is another way in which we can live that out.  Because to be a child of God means more than meeting the criteria.  It is more than just making sure that you are confirmed – that you make a contribution to the church – that you receive communion at least once during a calendar year.  It means loving the Lord your God with all that you are – with every action that you take – with every thought that you think.  And it is about loving and caring for each other as God cares for us.






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