August 15, 2021: 13th Sunday after Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior, everything that occurs in  our lives has a spiritual component.  That means that whatever occurs has something we can learn  from it about our faith and also how to handle it in a God-pleasing  manner.  Today open our eyes anew to that truth.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM OUR ALL-ENCOMPASSING GOD!

TEXT:  Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          It was a sultry week, but a good week.  The VBC teachers and staff took our children on a road trip to the top of mount Pack Monadnock in NH.  There, one of our young men who is an avid hiker demonstrated survival skills and showed them a bunch of his gear.  Then the teachers related it all to the spiritual survival skills that God provides us in the Bible.   They all drank a lot of water, dosed with bug spray, ate their sandwiches and had a memorable time with 360 views of God’s creation. 

          Today’s text has many parallels to all that.  First, there’s water, the staff of life.    One of the hall marks of the Jews was that they were extremely cleanly.  They washed their hands before eating—religiously.  Except here the prideful Pharisees criticize the disciples for not meeting the Pharisees’ standards and complain to Christ about it. Mark also adds: they washed after going to the  market along with their vegetables, cups, plates, etc.  Christ knew that they just wanted something to pick away at His people and Him.  So, He answers these hypocrites with words from Isaiah: “These people  honor me with their lips, but there hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”

I

          The Greek word for “wash” is baptize!  They even “baptized” their fruits and vegetables along with their eating utensils.  But they did not have their hearts baptized by God through the blood of Christ.  Baptism is a “washing away” of sin which has much more severe consequences than bacteria or viruses.  Microbes can hurt the body, but sin can eternally destroy the soul.   Christ is the water of life.  We need his gift of forgiveness which gives eternal life. Late last Sunday I baptized a newborn named Evelyn.  She was born again of the Spirit and became pure and holy by God’s grace—just like all of you.  Water is important, vital, to spiritual survival. 

          We think of water cleansing us from outside sources.  But baptism does much more.  It cleanses us from internal sources of dirtiness before God.  Christ uses this little exchange with the Pharisees to illustrate that age-old truth.  “Listen to me, every one of you understand this.  Nothing outside a man can make him unclean by going into him.  Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’” 

II

          Currently everyone is concerned with PPE or personal protective equipment.  We wash our bodies.  We wash our hands and use hand sanitizers.  Some wear masks to protect themselves.  We don’t want to get sick.  But the greatest source of illness is actually inside of us!  It’s called sin.  It infects every aspect of our being.  It creates discord, envy, births nasty words and thoughts and is the cause of all mortality.  The very fact that churches are not packed to overflowing shows how people don’t take sin seriously.  It’s the worst “inside out” infection there is. 

          Jesus then drives home His point by cataloguing such infection: “What comes out of  a man is what makes him ‘unclean’ For from within, out of man’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’”

          All of you know this to be true.  All of you have such thoughts and engage in such actions at times.  So what are you going to do about it?   Are you going to confess, repent, and actively fight against such deadly infections,  or are you going to ignore them?  Use your baptismal vaccination against sin!  Thank God for it!  Daily!  Employ the spiritual power over evil which you receive via God’s Word of truth, along with holy communion to boost your faith.  And don’t forget to “pray without ceasing” either.  God has already inoculated you against sin at  your baptism and now it’s up to you to keep His antibodies of faith strong and healthy!  Amen

THE peace of God which ….

Pastor Thomas H. Fox

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