Sermon, September 2

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Mark 7: Again, Jesus called the crowd to Him and said, “Listen to Me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” After He had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples asked Him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” He asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Some parables are long and some are short. The Parable of the Prodigal Son is very long while today’s parable is short namely “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”

Here Jesus made a general statement and His disciples asked Him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” He asked.

“Are you so dull?” Now that seems uncharacteristic for Jesus to talk like that but what is really characteristic for Him? Years ago when I was publicly upset about how unchristian some of my members were a very nice lady told me she wished I would be more like Jesus. I said, “You are absolutely right! I am going to get a whip and drive those hypocrites out of this church!” She said, “Not that Jesus!” Well, there is only one Jesus. He could be kind and gentle and He could also be rather harsh and blunt. Calling people a bunch of hypocrites and white-washed tombs isn’t very gentle. Neither was the whip and turning tables over.

So now He says, “Are you so dull? In our lingo some of us might say, “You dummy!” Or “You nitwit”. Or “You moron. If you had half a brain you’d be dangerous!”

Kind and gentle, “Blesse are you, Simon Bar Jonah.” “Never in Israel have I seen such faith!” Harsh and Blunt: “You bunch of hypocrites, you whitewashed tombs!”

The Gospels tell us that Jesus was hungry, that He cried, that He marveled, that He was tired and a whole lot of other things which proved that He was truly human, as the creed says, born of the Virgin Mary.

But at the same time, He made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk and He even raised the dead! Proving from that same creed, born of the Father from all eternity.

So before we take it as our right to imitate Jesus in every way, let us understand that He was perfect and we are not. He knew when to be kind and gentle but we don’t. Still we can take a 2nd look at His example and see that there are times when we too need to deal firmly with those who think and act contrary to what God’s Word clearly state.

Our text offers a clear example. (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) Either that is God’s word or it is not. Either all foods are clean or they are not. Yet the 7th day Adventist still teach the Old Testament food regulations and they forbid the eating of shell fish, cat fish and of course pork. We can correctly ask them, “Are you so dull?

Jesus turn water into wine- and even as that text says, after they had drunk freely thereof. The total abstainers say, “It wasn’t really wine. Back then wine wasn’t much more than grape juice.” Well Ephesians says, “Do not be drunk with wine, wherein is excess.” The Old Testament says, “He gives wine to make glad the heart of man.” We can say to them “Are you so dull?”

Jesus says, “Call no man father except your Father who is in heaven.” Our Catholic friends call their priests father. Furthermore, even though their liturgy and ours says, For Thou alone art Holy…” they call the Pope the “holy Father.” Isn’t that making him God? So we say, “Are you so dull?

Both Testaments clearly condemn homosexuality. Yet the ELCA not only says it is acceptable but allow their ministers to practice it. And we say, “Are you so dull?”

And we could go on most of the morning describing the dullness of others by casting stones on their sinful understanding of what the Bible clearly says. But Jesus gives us a word about stone-throwing. “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

The LCMS has made many changes in my 57 years of being in it as a layman and as a pastor. Some of these changes were minor and some were more serious. With the serious ones we have the choice between saying we were wrong then or we are now wrong. I am of the 2nd opinion. In either case, the idea of us looking down our noses at other Lutherans has no place. And even today there is a lot of division and differences in our Synod and to say that communion is a testimony of our unity is either ignorant or misleading.

Personally I have to say to myself “Are you so dull?” I do not always do the things I know I should be doing and I also do things I know I should not be doing. I don’t always say the thing I should and at times I say things I shouldn’t. My witness is not always consistent. My faith is not always as strong as it should be and neither is yours!

Sometimes I am the pharisee who can brag about how good I am and what great things I have accomplished – and piously add “for the Lord!” Rather I should be the publican who simply and honestly says, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” And I believe I am speaking about you as well. Jesus said of us, “Out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.” And so indeed we say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

The Good News is, He is merciful! He is loving and forgiving. That is the Gospel. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life!” And He does it without any merit or worthiness of our own- simply out of His Love- a love from all eternity from which He said of me and of you, “Even before the foundations of the earth were laid, I knew you and I called you by name.” Thanks be to God! Amen.

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