14th Sunday Following Pentecost – 08/29/2021
Psalm 45:1-2, 6-10; Song of Solomon 2:8-13′ James 1:17-27; Mark 7:7-8, 14, 15, 21-23
Our lesson from Psalm 45 is considered one of the psalms read detailing the role of the human king in God’s rule over His people. They also point ahead to the Messiah, who would inaugurate God’s kingdom. From them we learn to pray for ad respect the role of government officials as well as praise God’s Messiah.
Therefore it represents involvement of institutional religion in the political arena. God’s people can involve themselves in political celebrations. The danger lies in making the religious substitution dependent on the political establishment or identifying the political leader too closely with God. As his best, Israel’s king was God’s anointed representative on earth. Eventually Israel learned that no political ruler deserved such high praise. The psalm thus came to be interpreted in light of hopes for God’s Messiah. Political hopes can be realized fully as Messiah establishes God’s kingdom on earth. Prayer for political leaders should be spoken in this light, asking that political celebrations may be foretastes of and commitment to the celebration of God’s coming kingdom.
The lesson from the Song of Songs is not such that you can go to this verse, to understand the issue. Yes, Song of Songs is about love, but the Baal religion of Canaan taught that sexual relationships in the worship of Baal with high members of the worship service, guaranteed rain, good crops, and fertility for human parents. Those who refused to participate in such worship faced outrage from their neighbors when drought or plagues brought a poor crop year. This is called cultic prostitution, and those who participated as cultic prostitutes.
The Bible resolutely declares that all of lie stands under God’s control. The one God who created everything and everyone rules over her agricultural and fertility realms just as He does over the political and historical realms. Song of Songs declares the independence of God’s people from religion which imprisons love and sexual relationships within the realm of Baal worship or any other false ruler. The sexual acts of the Baal worship constitute neither a ritual of worship nor a sign of love. Instead, the Son of Songs gives new definition to love. Love and sexual union are a God given privilege for a couple entering a marriage relationship to share. God’s people in the privacy of their existence together, not in the worship place, may participate properly and happy in the dimension of life. Should one apologize for, gloss over, explain away, or seek to hide the explicit language describing the eagerness of these lovers to consummate their love? The temptation to do this must be resisted. Such bold words about sexual matters are kept withing the context of an exclusive love relationship. The satisfying of a natural or biological urge is not the point. These love sons are private and personal. The maiden is willing to give herself only to her beloved. He reserves himself only for his bride. The Son of Songs is not the only word, not the last word, on human sexuality in the Bible. It is, however, a refreshing reminder of he beauty and wonder of love shared by a man and a woman. The church needs to teach its people this wonder and beauty to the proper relationship.
God’s goodness can always be depended upon. He wants to give us what is good for us. He is not moody like the gods of he ancient world who had to be placated or humored. He does not run “hot and cold” for He is not changeable,unpredictable, leading us in one way today and another way tomorrow. True understanding of God’s Word produces new behavior and attitudes. Without such commitment we have no personal identity. To know the Word and fail to do it is to deceive oneself about personal security and relationship to God. God intends for us to have freedom. Lack of imperatives is not freedom. Lack of law is confusion and lack of direction. God’s people find direction by studying Go’s Inspired Word, learning it, and putting it into continual daily practice. Only such a life bring true freedom and brings happiness.
Finally, we come to today’s Gospel. The Pharisees and other Jews saw Jesus’ disciples eating with “unclean hand.” They asked him why they did not follow the traditions of the elders of being on uncleanness and clean? Jesus answered them in verse six saying: “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites;” as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hears are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ Jesus called everyone to Him and said: “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a ma can make him ‘Unclean by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’
Jesus told them that evil actions are rooted in an evil heart. Humans enjoy setting up rules, prejudice, taboos, and laws which define what is good and what is evil. The Pharisees had set up a long list of such traditional definitions for the Jews. Jesus reminded them that God, not humans, is the only source for defining what is evil. He reminded them that God defines evil in relations to humans by their desires and intentions. Evil motives make us evil, so that we succumb to Satanic temptations and to our own desires, thus consuming evil actions. This does not mean we won’t ever have evil desires, thoughts and or actions, it means that when we do, we must go before Him to ask for His forgiveness and thus be forgiven and fully cleaned and our relationship is restored.
Beloved, it’s easy to point your finger at others and make claims against that person or persons. It’s another thing to recognize the evil within ourselves and do nothing. Others may not recognize the evil within us, but God does. He knows our thoughts and hearts better than we do. He doesn’t need to ask us, He sees it plainly within us. How many times to we go before His throne, kneel and ask Him to remove anything from within us that makes our relationship change? How many times do we ask Him to forgive us of those things we may not even know we have in our hearts and minds that keeps us from serving Him righteously? Finally, how many times to we thank Him for His love and grace and forgiving attitude towards us? Now, thank Him for putting the people in our pathways, that we can openly share the good news with, and do so without any reservations, but we honor Him by serving others. Amen.