No media available

A reflection by the Rev. Marnie Peterson on Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

On Friday, Mark, the boys and I planned a fun day together (or what we thought was going to be fun). We had to start with a Dr. apt. for one of my sons but then we would head out and get their school supplies for the start of the new school year, we would treat the boys to lunch out (something we never do) and we would go to a movie.

It very quickly became clear that this was not going to be the day we had planned. We were fine at the Dr’s, but then – I’m not really sure what happened. We got cranky and irritated. The back to school shopping that I always think will be fun, but generally isn’t – became stressful. We couldn’t decide. The kids asked for things that they didn’t need. Mark and I, concerned with how much we were now spending on school goodies, grew short tempered with the boys and with each other. We thought maybe we were just hungry so got out of the store and went to find food – but we were grumpy at the table too – we argued over which movie we were going to see – I kept complaining that this was supposed to be a fun day.

Honestly, the movie was the best part of the day mostly because we weren’t talking to each other there.

And I kept thinking, what is this about? Did we just have the wrong attitude? Why could we not find it in our hearts to be nice to each other? These are the people that I love best in the world – and I was not showing it. And neither were they.

I was thinking about that in relation to this reading because of what Jesus says:

“Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 21For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come.

We weren’t evil, but we weren’t kind. And so I was thinking about this just in terms of our normal lives.
I was thinking about this just in terms of what happens every day without thinking. The things that I am (or can be) careful about, like locking my car, or doing my hair, or dusting my house or setting the altar but then how careless I can be with the people around me.

I was thinking about this in terms of the Ashley Maddison data leak – which honestly I did not get until someone explained what it was about – I couldn’t figure out why we cared so much that some poor woman’s email had been compromised – yes, I’m a little slow – but then I was just sad. WHY do we live in a world that makes it so easy to be crappy to each other?

We need an online resource to help us cheat on our partners? Sometimes it scares me how easy it is to be unkind. And then to further that by trying to ‘out’ the participants. Really – what good can come of any of this?

When I looked up the word ‘Defile’ this is what I found: it means to sully, mar or spoil, to desecrate or profane something sacred or to violate the chastity of a woman. (I’m thinking that we could talk about this for a man too, but this is what the resource said)

Jesus tells us that those rules that we have about sacred and not – washing – or how we wash, choosing to participate in those or not, is not what defiles us.

Those sacred rituals that are important to our faith tradition and our faith communities, (and we have them too, this isn’t an exclusively Jewish thing, lest you worry that we are heading down some anti-Semitic road – we are not): all of our traditions have particular ways of doing things – of observing our obedience to God – of being faithful to those things which remind us of Gods participation in our lives and our worship. Those are important – but not observing those exactly – that isn’t what separates us from the love of God or love for one another. They aren’t what spoil our relationships – that stuff comes from the heart.

What you put into your body and the way you prepare it – that’s not what we are talking about here – it’s what comes out. It’s the actions that we choose to take, it’s the ways that we speak to one another, it is how we share what we have. It’s how we show love. That is what is important.

And love is what redeems us from this. Love is how we come back.

We have the best example I can think of for this in God, who again and again loves humanity through some really poor decisions. Who, when we needed it – gave us the example of Christ, just so that we could have a specific, clear marker for what we should be doing here, with each other, so that we could look back and remind ourselves. So that we could tell this story.

God whose love is full of grace and who patiently (and I wonder if sometimes impatiently) waits for us to pay attention – who participates in our lives and who, I believe is saddened when we defile ourselves by being unkind or terrible to one another.

But here – tonight – we have an opportunity to pay attention. We, through our encounter with this scripture we can think about and notice those actions that we take, the things that we do that separate us from the love of God and from one another.

Unfortunately I don’t think we have to look all that far – but thankfully, we also don’t have to look very far to see how we can come back either.

We can look around this community. We can look at who is in this room tonight, with whom we will pass the wine and the bread, which is broken and poured out for each of us because of the love God has for us. We can look one another in the eye as we pass the peace of Christ with each other. We can think about our participation in the world when we confess where we have not lived into the love of God in our daily lives and we can ask for forgiveness and we can begin again.

Thank God we can begin again.

I am always so grateful for the opportunity to go back: to try another time. I’m grateful for the opportunity to apologize when I have messed up or spoken poorly.

Sometimes coming back from that is hard work – sometimes it’s not as simple as ‘I’m sorry’, sometimes there is work to do as well and sometimes we never fully restore those relationships.

That is the risk we take when we choose actions or words that defile, that sully or mar or take something away from someone.

But always – always we have the love of God. And always we get to choose what we do after. And always we can choose to do things differently the next time around.

By Friday evening, we were better. I’m not sure if its’ because the rain stopped so that we could go outside or if it’s because we took a bit of a break from each other. But we were kinder to each other by bedtime

And Saturday, was a whole new day.