Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost by The Rev. Doctor Liz Klein

Lessons:

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9
Psalm 15
James 1:17-27
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Sermon for August 29th 2021 Pentecost Proper 17 Year B Track 2 Gospel Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 at Grace Memorial  How do we nourish our hearts and souls and recognize God’s Grace, the Goodness Glue?  Given by Deacon Doctor Elizabeth Klein

Good morning!!  A warm welcome to Grace Memorial to those of you who are online and those of you who are present physically in our new space.  Thank you, Father Martin, for allowing me to give the homily this morning. Thank you to each one of you who has welcomed me as your new Deacon, here at Grace Memorial. I look forward to meeting each one of you. I am discovering amazing individuals here that care greatly about this community, this neighborhood, and the world we live in.  We are living in really hard times. We are struggling to live through a global pandemic, wildfires like we have never seen before, hurricanes and earthquakes. I want to remind us to breath. Breath in the Holy Spirit and let it run through your body and then breath out all the worries and stressors that we are holding within. Again, take a deep breath in, breath in the Holy Spirit and let it run through your body and then breath out…. All the worries and stressors that you are holding within. Let us prepare our hearts and minds to learn how we can feed our heart, mind and soul in healthy ways in spite of all the stressors we are enduring these days.

Our Gospel reading from Mark has much to teach us about the importance of feeding our hearts and minds in healthy ways. Our Gospel reading today tells us of Jesus being chastised by the Pharisees because some of his disciples are eating without washing their hands. How does Jesus respond? He says, “there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but it is from within the human heart that evil intentions come.” “It is from within the human heart that evil intentions come.”

As a retired family doctor, speaking in the midst of our COVID Pandemic, I want to clarify some things about handwashing in Jesus’ time. Jesus knows, of course, that when the scribes and Pharisees ask why some of his disciples do not wash their hands, the question is not an innocent one. It is meant to indict Jesus. Asking why some of his followers “do not live according to the tradition of the elders” (Mark 7:5) is really accusing Jesus of not following the law himself, of acting as if he believes himself to be above the law. Knowing this, Jesus responds with a rebuke from Isaiah (Isaiah 7:6-7), “people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Mark 7:6b).

Let me clarify that ritual cleanliness has nothing to do with hygiene—Louis Pasteur will not discover germ theory until the 1860’s.  Pasteur and others had great difficulty persuading physicians to wash their hands correctly before performing surgery. People of the first century had no understanding of viruses and bacteria. Pharisaic handwashing involves the use of only a small amount of water poured over the hands to wash away ritual defilement caused by touching an unclean object or person like a dead body, a leper, a menstruating woman, or a Gentile.

Jesus says, “It is from within the human heart that evil intentions come.”  This is so interesting to me, because it is also from the human heart that so much good comes. Right? I have seen a lot of good coming from the hearts of people here at Grace Memorial. The supporters and organizers of the Grace Art Camp, the sack lunch program, the Passport project and the Friday Dinners for the hungry in our community and so much more.

Jesus tells us that “evil things come from within”—from the human heart—and implies that we have a responsibility to nurture holy things rather than evil things in our hearts. This is strong language in the context of a culture that prizes Jewish food laws. To say that a person is not defiled by what he or she eats is a bold statement, although in keeping with Jesus actions in other situations. Jesus touched a leper (1:41), ate with sinners (2:15-17), and was not troubled that an unclean woman touched him (5:30-34).

In recent years, we have become increasingly aware that what we take into our bodies can make a difference in our physical health and wellbeing. We know that eating healthy foods, vegetables and fruit can help decrease heart disease and strokes. I think that what we take into hearts and minds is even more important, because what we take into our hearts and minds has the potential to injure us spiritually as well as physically—to kill the soul as well as the body or alternatively help us nurture our hearts and  grow into grace-filled, kind, compassionate people.

This reminds me of a story that perhaps some of you have heard. One evening an old wise Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is EVIL. It is anger, envy, jealousy, greed, arrogance, resentment, prejudice and superiority. The other is GOOD. It is love, hope, joy, peace, patience, kindness, empathy, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”  The wise old Cherokee replied, simply… “The one you feed.”

How do we feed our hearts and minds the good things that will help us be the people God intends us to be? How do we as a community help each other feed our hearts and minds and souls in healthy nourishing ways? I think this is a great question for the 21st Century church?  Our faith tells us that God is everywhere at all times and that God loves us. How can we feel God’s presence and every moment holy?  It is challenging, right? Especially with all the negative information and misinformation on the news and social media. Our newspapers and media outlets do not say that most people had a good day today. They also rarely report on all the many kind acts that people do for each other all the time. How do you nourish your heart and mind and soul, in the midst of this challenging time? Maybe you come to church either on line or in person, participate in the Eucharist in person or on line, read the Bible, read the Forward Day by Day, feed those who are hungry, volunteer with the Art Camp….. I want to start a conversation about the ways that we nourish our souls in these challenging times, and I am willing to start.

I have found the Daily Examen to be helpful to view life and the others in my life as sacred. How many of you have heard of the Daily Examen?  Doing the Daily Examen this last year has helped me through many hard days and continues to feed my soul. It helps me see God working through me. It helps me give thanks and praise for God’s gifts in my life and it gives me an opportunity to recognize and apologize for me faults and receive healing. The Daily Examen was developed by St Ignatius of Loyola as a 15 minute exercise that can be done daily.  It is a way of life rather than a short reflection. It has changed my awareness of God working in my life and nourishing my soul.

First, I slow down and pray. Lord, I am yours. I breath in the Holy Spirit and I breath out the stressors and anxieties that I carry. I then give God thanks for all the blessings of the day; my faith, my marriage, for my sons, for my ability to cook and bake and play piano and my concern for my neighbors. Next, I ask God about ways that I did not allow God to work through me, creating anxiety, untruth, prejudice, or volatility.  I try to be quiet and open to where God is calling me instead of judging myself. I then thank God for the times that I loved generously, and I pray for ways to reconcile with those I may have hurt. I pray for the fruits of the spirit to grow in me, my enemies, friends and neighbors. “Lord, thank you for walking with me yesterday and help me grow in your love today.” This practice has helped me view each moment as holy and sacred.

The sacred is all around us, which is God’s grace. The goodness of God fills all the gaps of the universe. Richard Rohr says that God is the Goodness Glue, the love that holds the dark and light of things together.  As we struggle today to feed our hearts and minds the good things that help us be the people God intends us to be, let us rejoice in God’s Goodness Glue, God’s unending love for us and God’s desire for us to have healthy loving hearts and minds and bodies.

In the midst of these hard times, we need to nourish our hearts, minds and souls so we can be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world.  I pray that we will seek love, hope and justice in the week ahead for ourselves and those in our community. Pay attention to what feeds your soul and what does not. I encourage each of us to share with each other how we nurture our heart and soul. We can learn from each other. May we nourish our mind, body and spirit with God’s love, God’s Grace and Goodness Glue and support each other in these hard times. Amen.