On Tuesday morning the pastors of Lutheran Saints in Ministry gather in Fairborn Ohio to discuss the texts for Sunday.

These are the contributions that are brought to the table.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wash your hands before supper!-- Pr. Kruse

'When God wishes, He becomes fire, burning up every coarse passion that has taken root in the soul. "For our God is a consuming fire" (Dt. 4:24; Heb. 12:29). When He wishes, He becomes an inexpressible and mysterious rest so that the soul may find rest in God's rest. When He wishes, he becomes joy and peace, cherishing and protecting the soul.’ — St. Macarius the Great

I make little to no secret of the fact that I have a problem with the way the lectionary cuts texts into pieces or out of their context. This week both happen. We have read 6 weeks of John 6 so it is important to recover where Jesus is right now and where Mark’s story is. It is also important to read and use what the lectionary has omitted. 
Where are we: As in John, we have sat with the 5,000 that were fed in the lonely places outside of villages. With the disciples we have crossed the lake. There was a headwind and Jesus came to them walking on the water. He got into the boat and the wind died down. They made it to Gennesaret where many brought the sick to be healed. Then the Pharisees gather to challenge him. 
It is good to remember that verses 9-13 exist. They are the expansion of the though: “You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” (7:8) These verses make a case that the “great tradition” that the Pharisees are trying to defend and impose is really faulty. It is faulty because it makes one an actor of the ways of the God of Moses rather than a follower of that way. In other words, another set of motivations has taken over, another state of heart rules, and that state of heart and mind becomes the stage on which the Law of Moses is acted out and it is brought to terms. When that happens the law of Moses is nullified and the Pharisees are exposed as “actors” of it. Hypocrite in a positive use means just that: Actor. 
The second gap in the text is at 17-20. (If your bible has a 16th verses it will say: If anyone has ears, let him hear. A common phrase in Mark but it is not in all the manuscripts.) Here we learn that Mark considers verses 14-15 a parable. Jesus explanation, and it is a impatient one since he seems to have thought that the disciples should have understood it, ends with the words: “And so he declared all foods clean.” He does so by pointing out that food just passes through a person and cannot by its own nature defile since it does not enter the “heart,” the seat of faith and convictions. One can obviously avoid shellfish meticulously and one can install two kitchens in ones house, one for meat and one for dairy products so one does not accidentally cook a calf in milk that contains traces of its mother’s milk. All this matters very little unless the heart is set on God. Clean food does not make a clean heart or spirit, though a clean heart and spirit might avoid certain foods. (Ps 51:10 and Rom 14:13-22)
Pilch explains that what is at stake is a struggle between the middle class, urban Pharisees and the rural peasants and artisans. The former had their “Great Tradition” that they assert in verse 5. What the disciples were doing at this occasion was to act like the rural fishermen they were. Pilch notes that there was a “Little Tradition,” that the people in Gennesaret and Galilee would have observed and followed. The difference is really one of practicality and is hinted at in Mark’s aside. (7:3-4) When water is easily accessible washing things ceremonially is no problem. When living in a controlled urban environment, the “unclean” things, like dead animals or fish, can easily be kept at arm’s length or even rendered plain absent. If one is a builder, or fisherman, or a shepherd, on the other hand, coming in contact with dead and otherwise unclean things is called “Monday.” 
No doubt the Pharisees had heard about Jesus escapade with the 5,000 people. One must wonder what they thought of it. Based on their Great Tradition and its rules on cleanliness, the meal in the wilderness must have been nothing short of a disaster to them. No one, I presume, washed their hands before handling the bread and the fish and one wonders if the fish would have passed “kosher” regulations if there is something like that for salted fish. Yet, in the Little Tradition this meal was a meal of the poor and humble who lack the luxury of large stone jars to hold water for ablution. 

But does not Deuteronomy, which we also read this Sunday, say that obeying the law is vital and fundamental? Is not the law good? After all, the LORD gave it. 
Again, the omitted verses tell a tale. The experience of God in the Exodus and the wilderness was to have taught Israel compassion for one another and especially for ones own, just as the LORD had shown compassion to the Hebrew slaves in Egypt, remembering the covenant made with their ancestor Abraham. Ought one not have compassion as well if one stands under the protection and loving eye of that God? That compassion even spill out on those not under covenant as seen in the story of the Syrophoenician woman that follows our reading today.
So: if one is compassionate as God’s holy people, how can one then refuse to come to ones own father’s and mother’s aid with ones fortune? This is what is at stake in verses 11 and 12. Saying that what one might have used for the purpose of caring for ones own elderly is “Corban” puts it beyond reach. It is like saying: “I dedicated the money I had set aside for you to God so discuss your poverty with the almighty.” It causes the one who does so to be so earthly minded — wealth minded — that they are no longer any heavenly good — for compassion for the helpless and hungry is a heavenly core value. 
But, the Corban in the law of Moses and therefor it was in the Great Tradition but that tradition allowed one to say: “I need to make sacrifice to God and here is the money to purchase the sacrificial animal. Now that I am X amount poorer because of my sacrifice, I no longer have the money to care for others.” Convenient, but also blasphemous. Both the sacrifice and the treatment of ones parents would have made a stench in the nostrils of the almighty. 
The issue is not even so much about Great Tradition versus Little Tradition but about the heart that keeps any of the traditions at all for out of the heart’s convictions, out of the hearts Faith and commitment to Jesus, come our actions; our good actions but also our pseudo good actions, as well as our evil deeds. Today’s text is not about evil deeds but about our pseudo good deeds. Is our compassion true and an overflowing from the heart like the compassion Jesus displayed at seeing the 5,000 before them or is our compassion compulsion that says: “I should but I have not enough so I won’t even try?” (6:37)

Much is disclosed about you in the ways you act, especially when you act under stress when thinking through your next actions is not your privilege. There it is seen what your heart does. In the seizure of plotting your next move, declaring your money for mercy Corban is a good cover. In the stress times we all become manifest as who we are. If anyone has ever told you that: “I don’t like being around you when you are stressed out,” then it is time to think about what is in your heart because it spilled out. 

Scriptures call is to be conformed to Christ, heart and soul, and mind. That heart, is one of compassion. Where is your’s?

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