Click here to listen to the sermon inspired by the following notes. (You will notice that I was led completely away from notes. The Spirit had better things to say than I did.)
Last week, Price talked about the importance of stepping out of the safe and comfortable boat and taking on the scary task of walking on the water. One of the boats we use to protect us from the scary waters is the craft of traditions. Traditions can insulate us from having to think about the state of our relationship with God, and give us a false sense of security. The problem comes when we allow our traditions and interpretations to insulate us from God.
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands before they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say that whoever tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is given to God,’ then that person need not honor the father. 6 So, for the sake of your tradition, you make void the word of God. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said: 8 ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’” 10 Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” Matthew 15:1-11
- Why do your disciples…?
- Jesus doesn’t take the bait. When asked why, look behind the question.
- Jesus points to a higher authority than the interpretational tradition.
- When we are faced with questions about actions, it helps to consider God’s revealed priorities.
- The requested wall of tradition.
18 When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid[d] and trembled and stood at a distance, 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.” 21 Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. Exodus 20: 18-21
- Reverential awe vs. being afraid.
- On tradition vs. on task
- The Jesus turnaround.
- When we use words to belittle others and rules to pass judgment on who is in and out we are usurping God’s place.
- The Hebrew people had more than the Torah, there was a whole body of interpretation that existed to translate the rules down to the absolute minutiae of life from what it was ok to eat to the maximum number of steps it was permissible to take on the Sabbath. They got so caught up in the letter of the law that they lost track of the spirit. Jesus came and reinterpreted the law away from a set of rules to restore the original purpose of creating the context for healthy relationship to flourish.
- Rather than asking does this action fit the established rules we have much harder questions to ask like “Does this draw me or others closer to God?” “Is the way I am speaking about others reflective of God’s loving kindness?” “Do the traditions I enforce create barriers or pathways to God?”
- Jesus gives us a warning here that our words about others show the truth of our hearts. When you speak of someone that frustrates you or has made you angry what truth is reflected? I know that I have had to repent many times in my life of the words that escaped my mouth the tore down rather than built up.
- In our open worship let us listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit together, asking him to restore our hearts, forgive us the words that cause harm, and show us the paths of reconciliation and purity.