Introduction & Welcome
Welcome to worship today, God’s gift to us because God is good! all the time!
and all the time! God is good!
Jesus protests against human customs being given the weight of divine law, while the essence of God’s law is ignored. True uncleanness comes not from external things, but from the intentions of the human heart. Last week Jesus told us “the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63). Now James says God has given us birth by the word of truth. We who were washed in the word when we were born in the font return to it every Sunday to ask God to create in us clean hearts.
Confession and Forgiveness
Blessed be the holy Trinity,☩ one God,
the God of manna,
the God of miracles,
the God of mercy.
Drawn to Christ and seeking God’s abundance,
let us confess our sin.
Silence is kept for reflection.
God, our provider,
It is hard to believe there is enough to share.
We question your ways when they differ from the ways
of the world in which we live.
We turn to our own understanding
rather than trusting in you.
We take offense at your teachings and your ways.
Turn us again to you.
Where else can we turn?
Share with us the words of eternal life
and feed us for life in the world.
Beloved people of God:
in Jesus, the manna from heaven,
you are fed and nourished.
By Jesus, the worker of miracles,
there is always more than enough.
Through Jesus, ☩ the bread of life,
you are shown God’s mercy:
you are forgiven and loved into abundant life.
Prayer of the Day
O God our strength, without you we are weak and wayward creatures. Protect us from all dangers that attack us from the outside, and cleanse us from all evil that arises from within ourselves, that we may be preserved through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
First Reading: Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9
The Israelites believed the law was a divine gift that provided guidelines for living out the covenant. Moses commands the people to obey the law and to neither add to nor subtract from it. The Israelites are also to teach the law to their children and their children’s children.
1So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. 2You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God with which I am charging you.
6You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!” 7For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? 8And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?
9But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children.
Psalm: Psalm 15
Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle? (Ps. 15:1)
1Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?
Who may abide upon your holy hill?
2Those who lead a blameless life and do what is right,
who speak the truth from their heart;
3they do not slander with the tongue, they do no evil to their friends;
they do not cast discredit upon a neighbor.
4In their sight the wicked are rejected, but they honor those who fear the Lord.
They have sworn upon their health and do not take back their word.
5They do not give their money in hope of gain, nor do they take bribes against the innocent.
Those who do these things shall never be overthrown.
Second Reading: James 1:17-27
The letter of James was intended to provide first-century Christians with instruction in godly behavior. Here Christians are encouraged to listen carefully and to act on what they hear, especially by caring for those least able to care for themselves.
17Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
19You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. 21Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.
22But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 24for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 25But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.
26If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. 27Religion 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.
Alleluia. God gave us birth by the word of truth* so that we would become a kind of first fruits of creation. Alleluia. (James 1:18)
Gospel: Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Mark’s gospel depicts Jesus as challenging traditional ways in which religious people determine what is pure or impure. For Jesus, the observance of religious practices cannot become a substitute for godly words or deeds that spring from a faithful heart.
1Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around [Jesus], 2they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3(For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
7in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.’
8You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
14Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”
21For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
Meditation by David O’Brien
My mother always made me wash my hands before coming to the dinner table and I figure that’s a good habit to be in, especially considering all of the COVID pandemic problems we’ve had recently. And anytime I’ve used a restroom at a restaurant I inevitably see a sign in the men’s room advising that all employees are required to wash their hands before returning to work. Hygiene is important to our physical bodies. It helps us to avoid disease. But Jesus is more concerned about our spiritual health than our physical health. It’s a good companion to the recent readings where Christ declares that He is the bread of life.
The Pharisees weren’t upset because they thought that the disciples’ hands hadn’t been washed before they ate. They were upset because the disciples hadn’t washed their hands in a particular way, which was in compliance with the traditions of “the elders”. It wasn’t that the disciples’ hands were dirty, it was that they hadn’t washed them in the traditional fashion. The Pharisees were more concerned with their traditions then they were with doing to will of God. Jesus calls them on their hypocrisy and tells them that it’s not what a person puts in their body that defiles them, but what comes out. I think that what He’s trying to say is that our actions towards one another, and our words, can do more damage to our soul than anything we might eat. It’s similar to what I was saying the other week at the Ragtime Rick service. Where we worship and what songs we sing or how we sing them aren’t nearly as important as the fact that we are giving praise to God together.
In our first reading, Moses is cautioning the people of Israel to not add anything to the law they’ve been given. From my point of view, this is just what the Pharisees were doing when they wash their hands in the correct fashion. In their minds, you could wash your hands with the best of soap, with the most antibacterial properties available, your hands could be as clean as a surgeon’s, but if you didn’t do it in just such a way to comport with their traditions, you were just not clean, ceremonially. Their tradition was more important to them than anything else.
This isn’t so dissimilar from the situation that Martin Luther found himself in at the Diet of Worms where he was asked to recant his writings against the traditions of the Church. Emperor Charles had convened the Diet, at least in part, for Luther to respond to charges of heresy because he had spoken out against the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther’s response to the Diet when asked to recant was to say that “unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen”.
We can get so caught up in our traditions that we lose sight of God’s purpose in our lives. We all love to see the Church decorated at Christmas time, or to celebrate with the traditional carols. Sometimes, so much so that we can get upset when things aren’t just the way we think they should be. And there’s really nothing wrong with wanting things to be a certain way, but sometimes we can place undue importance on our own traditions. For example, if a church always played “Silent Night” at the conclusion of their Christmas Eve service, but a new pastor wanted to conclude the service with “Hark the Herald” and this caused so much upset that people left that congregation for another, I would say that that’s putting your tradition in front of your church family. When we put our love of tradition before our love of God and one another, that’s when we defile ourselves.
The phrase “that’s the way we’ve always done it” should not be enough to justify requiring others to conform to our idea of the way things ought to be. We should all look into our hearts when evaluating any of our traditions or considering a new way of doing things and try to see if God is at the center of that tradition, or if it’s just something we like.
Prayers of Intercession
Made children and heirs of God’s promise, we pray for the church, the world, and all in need.
A brief silence.
We pray for the church, that it is a safe haven for all who seek your presence. Fill it with pastors, deacons, and leaders who echo your expansive and generous welcome. Bless Elizabeth and Daniel, our bishops, and Howard, our pastor, with that same welcoming spirit. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We pray for the whole of creation, that plants and animals have the habitat and resources to thrive and flourish. Inspire us to protect threatened habitats and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come. Heal the earth where it has been injured by fires or floods. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We pray for individuals in positions of authority. Raise up wise and discerning leaders in federal, state, and local governments and guide them to seek the benefit of every person. We pray for the people of Afghanistan as they suffer through the apparent return of a tyrannical government. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We pray for all who are in need. Support and encourage those who are unemployed, underemployed, or experiencing poverty. Bring food, shelter, clothes, and stability for daily life. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We pray for this congregation, especially those beginning a new school year. Empower teachers and school administrators. Guide students in their learning and development. Accompany parents, foster and step parents, and caregivers who provide encouragement and love. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We pray for those who are sick, or suffer in any way, especially those on our prayer list. Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We give thanks for the faithful departed who showed us how to honor God with our heart. Inspire us by their example and renew our faith, trusting that we will be united with them in glory. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Receive these prayers, O God, and those in our hearts known only to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Together, let us profess our faith using the words of the Apostles Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.*
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
And now, as our Savior, Christ is teaching us, we boldly pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
The blessing of God,
who provides for us, feeds us, and journeys with us,
☩ be upon you now and forever.
Go in peace. Bless the world and be God’s grace.
Thanks be to God.