Proper 15 – Ordinary 20 – Pentecost + 11
20 August 2017
Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
Psalm 67 pg 788
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
Holy One of Israel, covenant-keeper, you gather in what has been rejected, restoring what is lost and healing what is wounded. Give us faith to speak out boldly, so that the outcast may be welcomed and all may be blessed. Amen.
Did you know that we are obsessed with being right? We are obsessed with being popular because we know everything, realize everything, and in our own minds and hearts feel that we are right, about everything.
For the past week, the world has been in an uproar over the increasing spiteful and malicious interactions between white supremacist groups, and the rest of society.
At one time, when someone would step into a debate they would know facts, the subject matter, and the opinions of whose who are wise in such subject matters.
Today this isn’t the case. Today it’s those who only feel passionately about a subject matter who are invited to speak as if their information carried as much weight as that of a lifelong scholar.
I’m reminded that when we play chess with a pigeon, whether the pigeon wins the game, or not, they’ll still strut all over the board, knocking the pieces to the ground, and crapping on the board.
And we’ve seen this in the world this week.
We’ve seen this effort to shout into the wind and be right take so much time and energy in order to do just that – prove that one argument of how to live life, is more valid than any others.
To look at background and argument for such displays we can look back in history as far as the period between the world wars, and through the second world war. But there are also examples close to home, today which may be more instructive to us.
Today, we can see Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani woman who was shot by the Taliban, as a child, because she advocated the education of woman. In Pakistani society, and throughout the world, she continues to speak out, to be active in the spotlight for human relations, continues to be a spokesperson for all who need to know that her indomitable spirit is out there for all to lean upon.
She has survived being targeted by the Taliban. She has spoken, and continues to speak publically about the need to educate women and girls. She has continued to learn, to speak out, to advocate, and just recently she has been accepted by Oxford University in the UK so that she can continue to be the example she sets to the world around her.
And yet in our gospel today, we can see similar debates happening, with similar efforts at my way is right, you’re wrong in the gospel for today, “10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen and understand.11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.’” (Mt 15:10-11)
Jesus is talking about the purity and dietary restrictions imposed by Jewish law, but made unbreakable statutes by those who made it their life’s mission to uphold every comma semicolon and period of these laws as gospel.
Jesus goes on to say: “17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”” (Mt 15:17-20)
And this is huge because with all the diet and wellness crazes that have gripped the world, today, we’re more concerned with what we eat, and where it came from, how its prepared, etc. In Jesus’ days, the concern was for the right food, prepared in the right way, as well as personal cleanliness regulations.
But today, Jesus tells us to be more mindful of what comes out of our mouths. Jesus points that nutrition is all well and good – moderation for the sake of moderation, but what about our words?
What about how we look and treat those who may, or may not, look like each of us? sound like us? think like us?
Today, Jesus points out the hypocrisy of society that gives life to gossip, bullying, cyberbullying, public shunning and even shaming over the unwillingness, the ability to treat each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of appearance, ethnicity, education, disability or faith is nothing to be taken lightly.
And such behaviour isn’t anything that credits those of Christian faith. The disciples point out that the Pharisees rather observe the outward signs of a life of faith, sort of like the outward indications of beauty. But what about the inward signs, the inward life of faith that upholds and supports and encourages us even when things, when circumstances, seem to be against us.
Dustin Hoffmann, an actor since 1961, gave an interview on what it was like to do Tootsie (1982), not to be a man dressed as a woman, but to be a man portraying himself as a woman. He started from the premise “How would you be different if you had been born a woman.”
Apparently, he wouldn’t even contemplate the movie unless the makeup department could transform him into a woman. Now, he was quite clear that he didn’t want to look like a man in woman’s clothing. Rather he wanted to be able to walk down the street and everyone would think him a woman. When the makeup department was done, Hoffmann was amazed that he wasn’t better looking and said so to the team. But he did look authentically like a woman and it made him realize how many interesting women who may have passed by not realizing the beauty of their personality, their intellect because he was only looking at their physical beauty.
He said that this was the deciding factor for him in doing the movie Tootsie and he said that the movie Tootsie was not a comedy to him. (https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=dustin+hoffman%2c+videos%2c+tootsie&&view=detail&mid=8F6C6870545DB4907EB38F6C6870545DB4907EB3&FORM=VRDGAR)
Hoffmann points out that our perceptions of the world around us are influenced by a kind of brainwashing, such as his definition of what made a beautiful woman, which was completely changed by the experience of doing the movie Tootsie of experiencing what life would have been like if he had been born a woman.
Today, if we think about it, really think about it, Jesus talks about the same thing. He points out that we continue to focus on the wrong things.
“17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” (Mt 15:17-20)
We worry that we’re not being treated well, rather than that the person next to us, the one who differs from us by gender, by appearance, by intellect, skill, or knowledge is also being treated badly, or perhaps even worse.
We worry about how we’re being treated rather than striving to treat everyone well, treating everyone as we wish to be treated.
We worry that if we’re left by the sidelines of any situation or scenario then we’re not going to be in on the decision making of how one person treats another.
At the same time, we need to be cautious, because if we’re going to judge others, that will be the standard by which we are judged, before the throne of God. (Mt 7:1-2)
In the past week, we have seen what happens when people strip away their veneer, their ability to be polite with each other and treat each other as equals, and the raw underbelly of our feelings is being hurt by those around us.
At the same time, Jesus reminds us that we need to be gentle with each other, that we need to be considerate of each other, no matter who we are, where we come from, or how we find each other on a day to day basis. “19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” (Mt 15:19)
And we might look at this and think that Jesus comments are over two millennia ago and the world has changed since then. But really, has it?
In Jesus day, there were the Romans who oppressed everyone except Roman citizens. Yet, Jesus comments, today, aren’t against the Romans. Rather he’s debating food and cleanliness regulations with Pharisees.
He’s looking at how these people make sure they wash their hands to surgical precision, yet spew vindictive against those who are in less advantages circumstances all around them.
Today’s protestors are claiming that they’re right and everyone else is wrong. They’re shouting into the wind, and wonder why the wind is hollering back.
These people will continue to holler, to yell, to be offended by Jesus words and we need to be able to show them how God’s love changes our hearts more surely than harsh words and violence will ever do.
There was once an old fable. It tells us: “Once it so happened that there was a beautiful contest between the sun and the wind. It was to see which of the two was stronger than the other.
The wind was very proud of itself and its prowess. It said, ‘Even the mighty clouds bow before me. They know that I can drive them away. And the clouds can envelop you. So you are a small thing before me.’ The sun said, ‘It is the time that will tell you who is stronger of the two.’ Soon they saw a man who was wearing a coat. The sun said, ‘Let us see who makes the man to take off his coat.’
The wind tried first. It blew harder and harder. But the man instead of removing his coat, wrapped it more and more. So, the wind failed. Now it was the turn of the sun to try its strength. It began to shine. It became hotter and hotter. Fiercer and fiercer. Ultimately, the man felt obliged to remove the coat. The wind lost and the sun won.” (http://www.preservearticles.com/2012041930760/the-sun-and-the-wind-short-story.html)
When we shine with the love of God, then we will follow what Jesus tells us today – we will observe not just what goes into our mouths, but what comes out.
When we are filled with the love of Christ, then we will stand up for, stand up with those who are being bullied, pushed around, and dictated to by those who are shouting into the wind.
When we allow the Holy Spirit to be active in our lives and our hearts, then we will speak out against oppression, against those who need our silence to commit atrocities against humanity.
And when we stand together, then nothing can come against the love of God for all of humanity, in all of its wondrous variety.