Create In Me A Clean Heart (A Sermon for Proper 17B)
St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church (Keller, Texas)
The Rev. Ayo Omoniyi
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
August 29, 2021
Can the Pharisees and the scribes help themselves out from their beliefs of the laws? The answer is no, they don’t even know how to, because they are so blind and looking for faults in anyone that violates the traditional law.
In our gospel reading for today, the Pharisees and the scribes were trying to find out who the insiders are and who the outsiders are.
The disciples of Jesus did not wash their hands before eating and by so doing violated the traditional laws. Wow!
The question from the Pharisees and the scribes to the leaders is this; are the practices of the disciples of Jesus in not washing their hands before eating the true religion?
In our gospel reading this morning, Jesus responded to the Pharisees and the scribes by calling them hypocrites when they asked him why his disciples did not walk according to tradition of the elders but eat bread with unwashed hands.
Jesus quoted from prophet Isaiah you hypocrites as it is written “this people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. Teaching on doctrines the commandment of men”.
The word hypocrite is rooted in the Greek word hypokrites, which means “stage actor, pretender, and dissembler.” So think of a hypocrite as a person who pretends to be a certain way, but really acts and believes the total opposite. Hypocrites usually talk a big talk but fail to follow their own rules — like an outspoken vegetarian who secretly eats bacon.
In the reading of Mark our Lord Jesus Christ again points out the fact that the focus of the religious leaders was all wrong. They focused on human traditions and looking only at the outward appearance of things, they had failed to actually honor God, because it is what is in the human heart that matters to God.
We all know that every society needs rules, laws, regulations and they are valuable and necessary or else we are going to live in a lawless society.
However, there are no society laws or regulations that are above God.
Therefore, are you ready to give your heart to the Lord and do you love your neighbors as yourself? If your heart is not right towards God and your neighbors then everything else is nothing.
You see, there is nothing that goes through our mouth and that we pass out that defiles us, what defiles us is what comes from our heart that poison us and corrupts us such as adultery, bitterness, hatred, jealousy, murder, discrimination, and not loving our neighbors as ourselves. No law, regulation or tradition can protect us from the darkness of our own hearts.
Mother Teresa once said “if you judge people, you have no time to love them”.
When I was young my parents always told me if you point a finger towards somebody, there are three of them pointing at you.
Today, Jesus is calling all of us to self-reflect our behavior and actions. What is important to living the life of faith is to be loving, accepting others as they are, to be kind and have a clean heart towards everyone we meet.
Imagine you find yourself in a situation when you head tells you one thing and your heart tells you something different. How would you deal with this situation? Would you do what your head tells you to do or would you do what your heart tells you is the right thing to do?
A Massachusetts police officer declined to charge two women accused of trying to steal groceries — and instead bought them Christmas dinner.
Somerset Officer Matt Lima responded to a report of shoplifting at a Stop & Shop location, where two women with two young children were accused of putting groceries into bags at a self-checkout without scanning them.
The women said they had fallen on hard times and were trying to provide a Christmas dinner for their children. Officer Lima used his own money to purchase a $250 gift card so the family could buy the food the right way.
Officer Matt Lima followed his heart. He could have enforced the law by giving citation to these women or even place them under arrest and put them in jail. He did neither, this officer provided assistance to the distress women that violated the law and showed compassion. He did not judge these women, but see them as another human being in need.
In our Epistle reading from James today “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word which is able to save your souls.
Several weeks ago, I bought some flowers and shrubs. So I make sure the flowers and scrubs are watered daily.
One day, I noticed that one of the flowers that I really like started looking like it is getting dry. It was hot that day, so I put extra water on it. To my amazement the following day the flower leaves looks real good and healthy again. So watering these flowers works, because they all survived.
In contrast with the hatred, jealousy and all negativity against our neighbors from our hearts, James reminded us this morning that God has implanted a flower of love in our heart. The flower wants to blossom if we just try to nurture it and take courage to be kind, compassionate and try to see our Lord Jesus Christ in everyone we meet.
Have you nurtured the flower that our Lord Jesus Christ has implanted in your heart? Are earthly weeds of not Christ like behavior preventing the flower in your heart to blossom?
Today’s collect, also encourages us to attend to the God’s implanted flower in our hearts. “Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works;
The Book of Common Prayer page 136 -.Psalm 51
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Give me the joy of your saving help again and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit”
This morning Jesus Christ is inviting us to let go of human rules and obsessions so we can focus on having a heart that is pure and filled with love for God and others.
It is not easy to be a Christian. Folks that you have been nice to or have helped out might sometimes be the first one to stab you in the back. Your trusted family member or
close friend might be the one that pulls you down for no apparent reason and even step on you while you were down. However, Jesus is telling us to overlook all that and have a clean heart i.e. to forgive, to be kind and love others, including those who have hurt you. It is not an easy task to do, but with God’s Grace and our willingness to be Christ Like in behavior it is possible and rewarding. Clean heart set us free like a bird.
In order to protect our hearts from becoming corrupt we need to put a filter in place. That filter has to be Jesus Christ.
Every one of us is called to be a doer and not just a hearer.
In the Epistle reading of James, we are encouraged to quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger” Religion that is pure and undefiled before God is this; to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself constrained by the world.
Imagine all our hearts are focused on the right thing; our hearts will be like a light and a joyful heart. Hearts that bring hope to our communities.
In a few minutes, we will all be invited to come to the Lords table, nobody will be checking whether you wash your hands or you sanitize your hands. What our Lord requires of you is your heart to serve Him, to believe in Him, to trust in Him and to love your neighbors as yourself.
May we leave this house of worship today with a clean heart and purpose to lift others up and refrain from judging or putting anyone down.