Sermon: The Rev. paul leclair
Sermon: The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Song of Solomon 2:8-13 Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10 James 1:17-27 Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Bless our voices, that they may be used for kindness,our ears for compassion, our hands for charity,our minds for truth, and our hearts for love.
I believe we’ve all seen this type of TV commercial. The words and pictures express that a certain company is our best friend. They understand our problems and our needs. They know the struggles we’re dealing with. After all, the spokesperson says, they’ve been there, too, and they want to help. They have the perfect product or service that will make our lives so much better, because … they care about us — yes, you and me! But once we submit our credit card info, the relationship is pretty much over — except for the sales terms that are spoken in rapid speed or written in tiny print; It’s then that we learn … it’s not really all about us.
As responsible citizens, we know that we owe it to one another to do our research and learn about the candidates for elected office. We make it a point to spend time listening to their proposals and intentions.And so, we can become impressed with a certain candidates’ ideas.We admire their dedication and earnestness. They may project empathy and understanding.
They tell us that they identify with us, and with our dreams and our wants for our families, because … they care about us — yes, about you and about me! But then … the cynical and jaded side of our brains remains aware that what comes out of many politicians’ mouths are determined by what tests well with focus groups and what sounds best in polls. In the end, we often find … it’s not really about us.
Our experience, however, has taught us that not all products sold are junk and not all political candidates are insincere. Good purchases are the kind we tell our friends about and we encourage them to consider buying them too. Public servants with integrity are the ones who strive to keep their campaign promises. They’re the people who we re-elect, and they’re leaders whose causes we actively support.~~~This morning we heard a selection from the Song of Solomon; the one erotic book in the Bible. In it, a man and a woman use sensual language to express their physical attraction to each other and to convey their mutual love and commitment. The ancient Hebrew people appreciated the beautiful and sensuous poetry so much that they saw it as a metaphor for the covenant relationship between Yahweh and the chosen people. We heard evidence of this in Psalm 45 this morning.
My heart is stirring with a noble song; let me recite what I have fashioned for the king; my tongue shall be the pen of a skilled writer.Your throne, O God, endures for ever and ever, a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom; you love righteousness and hate iniquity.These words are open, sincere and pure utterances of devotion that come from the heart.
In a similar way, Christians have seen the Song of Solomon, not as mere carnal literature, but as imagery of the bond between Jesus and his bride, the holy Church.Let’s recall how James described the actions of the faithful people of his time; the Church. Every generous act of giving, every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.Understand this, my beloved (this is how James describes the Church): let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for anger does not produce God's righteousness.If any of us think we are religious, and do not bridle our tongues but deceive our hearts, our religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.James was telling the early Christian Church that what is in our hearts, effects the impact that our actions have (either positive or negative.) ~~~In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus detected that the Pharisees and the scribes did not have pure intentions when they commented about whether the disciples were cleaning their hands properly according to tradition. They’d already judged Jesus’ followers and their aim was to discredit Jesus.Seeing through their deceit, Jesus used the same holy scriptures that they were pretending to uphold, to hold up a mirror for them to see themselves. He quoted a passage from the prophet Isaiah.These people honor me with their lips,but their hearts are far from me;and so, they worship me in vain,teaching human precepts as doctrines.Jesus then turned his attention to the crowd who’d gathered around to witness how Jesus was going to react to the accusations of the religious elite.To them he proclaimed …Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is 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.He then rattled off a list of sins which flow from the dark recesses of human hearts.Some were examples of actions which can appear to be the similar to the romantic behaviors described in the Song of Solomon.The deeds of Solomon and his beloved partner would be accurately described as making love.The sins which Jesus listed are called taking advantage.The difference is what’s in one’s heart.Is it generously giving of oneself ? or is it selfishly stealing what isn’t ours?Is it enhancing someone else’s life? or is it selfishly motivated by greed?Beware, Jesus warned. Just as compassion and reverence come from pure hearts; all evil things come from within as well, and they are what defile a person.~~~All too often, our words express concern and compassion for others,but it becomes clear that the words are prompted by another agenda. Compassion and mercy, empathy and generosity begin in our hearts; On the other hand, avarice, bigotry and pride come from a heart in which self-centeredness has replaced the holy. Jesus makes it clear in today’s Gospel, that the kind of human being we are, begins in the values of the heart, the place where God dwells within us.But unfortunately, the evil we are capable of, the hurt we’re able to inflict on others, the degrading of the world that God created, begins within, as well.
Let us yearn for God to open our spirits and consciences. Let us listen to the voice of God speaking in that sacred space within every heart. Let us hear God calling us to understanding instead of judgment, urging us to forgiveness instead of toward vengeance, leading us to respect instead of ridicule, and to reconciliation instead of division. ~~~ I invite you to turn back to Page 5 in today’s bulletin. Recalling the Collect for this Sunday, let us pray together.Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
Sources:The New Interpreters Study Bible, NRSV with Apocrypha, Abington Press, Nashville, 2003Connections, August 2021, MediaWorks, Londonderry, N.H.