September is almost upon us, with another season of Lectionary musings in preparation for Sunday’s worship and sermon at Cedar Park.
This week, after a summer long lectionary diversion into the Gospel of John, and a Cedar Park month long diversion into a sermon series on Psalms, we are back to the Gospel of Mark. And boy, are we back!! The text for this Sunday is a dream come true for preachers who will want to tell their congregation how ‘evil’ they all are. I’m not one of those preachers, and you’re not those ‘evil’ people. So we have quite the challenge on our hands to find “Good News” in this text that shows Jesus stiff-lipped and unfiltered in an argument with the Pharisees.
If you want to read the text, click this link: http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=213291687
If you got lost in those purity laws, couldn’t find the ‘parable’ or were disgusted by the catalogue of heart-hidden evils, I don’t blame you. My working title for this week’s sermon is “Dirty hands and a dish of red herrings” – the text is full of them. It’s also filled with typical Markan bluntness and exaggeration, a prime example being “for Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat without ritual washing of hands.” Not all first century Jews engaged in such rigorous ritual practices, nor is it even a Biblical injunction for ordinary people (there is a stipulation in Exodus 30 that temple priests wash before touching food offered in sacrifice). Another ‘exagerration’ occurs in the NRSV translation: ‘unclean’ and ‘defile’ are strong, suggestive words, and perhaps misleading, because the words they translate are “koinos” and its related verb, which means “to make ordinary” or “common.” In other words, this isn’t a lesson in hygeine, but a fogged -up window into a religious culture far removed from our own, in which people wanted to come close to God’s house in a state of preparedness to meet the holy. But all this is a ‘red herring’ or a Markan ploy to set up such a strong contrast to the teaching Jesus is about to offer.
Trouble is, with the cultural and religious distance of 2000 years, we spend so much time trying to understand the distractions, we can easily miss the point. Which I hope to uncover on Sunday in worship! See you there? Or read the sermon on the Church website next week!.