Tuesday 24 August 2021

 Mark 7 v1/13         Sunday 29 August. 13th Sunday after Trinity


The Gospel reading depicts how we can become capable of ill treating worship.  The religious leaders were more concerned over proper traditional rituals being carried out, and external practices observed.  It was so in Jesus day when a conflict arose between Jesus and the Pharisees over moral purity, and a similar situation still arises in the Churches of today..

     This gospel passage is about what Jesus thought about such practices. The religious leaders  were often teaching and practising tradition rather than Scripture, and so were leading people astray. They had the practice of teaching the Jewish law, which was accompanied by the ceremony of washing to display ceremonial cleanliness, which had to be performed in a strict order, and if you did not follow that way you were deemed to be unclean. Jesus said, they were laying aside the commands of God for the tradition of men.

     There was a popularity in favour of Jesus which the Scribes went to investigate.  The Pharisees and Scribes wanted to convict Jesus of breaking the law of Moses, which had been amplified by a tradition of the elders, and in so doing, would lessen the authority of Jesus. The actions of the Pharisees was hypocritical for their actions did not come from their hearts, which were too far from God.   

     God had laid down a procedure for the priests to do a washing ceremony before they worked in the temple. The Pharisees then made up their own rule, which said all people had to do all sorts of ceremonial washing all the time, so creating tradition before Scripture.

Not only are human traditions ineffective for cleansing the heart, they actually lead to disregard for God’s Word.

     People can attend Church without the right intention and expect a certain routine and order when they get there, and woe betide any Minister who makes any alteration.  There is nothing amiss with order, but something can become so ingrained it becomes almost sacred to people.

     When I was ordained I was posted to a High Church, and found that some members there were more concerned as to how the ceremonial procedure was performed than anything else.  The sermon was viewed as a necessary extra.  Such was the experience Jesus was having with the religious leaders.

     People are creatures of habit accustomed to doing things in the same way without giving any thought as to why they are doing so.

     Over the last 10 years I have spent most of that time in Methodist ministry, but still retain a concern for the Anglican Church, even though it has cast aside the Bible for its own obsession to please society. I also think there is too fixed a programme of worship, in having the same liturgy week after week, whereby members are saying and hearing words which have lost their impact through routine use. 

     There should be the freedom to move from fixed Lectionaries to enable crucial moral and social issues to be considered in the light of Biblical teaching.

     There is much in today’s reading for us to take note of. We all have our own little preferences. 

     Jesus was prepared to ignore their tradition and follow that given by God. It is essential for every Church to agree on the supreme authority of the Bible, otherwise you will have the chaotic and confused situation of the present, in which the Church finds itself on the subject of morality.

     We have to contend for the whole faith and see beyond the visible. Think of the two principal sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion, for example.  For most people, in the baptism service it is the physical acts of the priest and the sentimental display of the baby which commands the most attention, but baptism points to the reality of a commitment to Jesus Christ, a symbol of what God has done in the life of a believer.  In the Communion service, we need to think of the love of God in sending Jesus to shed His blood on the Cross to redeem us, rather than the way the physical actions are performed

     The Bible shows that Jesus had a liberty of spirit and did not stick to an established routine, and He condemned practices which were man made and became more important than what was really meant to be.  When we start introducing unnecessary practices into services we invariably introduce false doctrine.  Scripture is rarely preached in some Churches, and sound doctrine is not given in many others as it contravenes the moral belief of many Ministers and members.

     The focal point of one’s faith is the heart.  We have to contend for the whole faith and not just pay lip service.  The heart is what God is concerned about and what He notices.  All the posturing and exaggerated motions and actions avail nothing; we take our hearts to Church as well as our bodies.  So many people can talk the faith without ever practising it.  Heart and lips must go together.

     When the Pharisees asked Jesus why His disciples did not observe the strict cleaning practice, Jesus pointed out their hypocrisy.  Correct words can produce wrong attitudes, to appear to be doing something, but have no attitude inwardly.  Worship must be genuine, something you do which is deep and real, it must be given with heart and mind.

     Jesus says, that's how these Pharisees and teachers were treating God. God says, "These people honour me with their lips" - they sound keen to please me – "but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men." That is, they don't actually do what God asks them. They have their own idea of what'll please God, and they do that instead.

     In verses 9-10, Jesus taught that the words of the Bible writers were the words of God. We call that the 'inspiration' of the Bible. God took 40 men of different characters and occupations, most not knowing the others or what they were writing, and by his Spirit God worked in those writers so what they wrote was precisely what he wanted them to write.

     Jesus taught that the whole Bible is from God. He also taught the supreme authority of the whole Bible; this indicates that the Bible should be the supreme authority in the church, and in our lives. Jesus criticised these people for making their teaching-traditions supreme instead

     Jesus taught the divine origin of the Bible with its supreme authority above all practices, observances and institutions.  This is why unity between the Churches can be difficult to achieve, as some Churches are not prepared to put Scripture above practice and preference.  We see today how religious leaders here are eager, and wanting to override the Bible and endorse sexual practices to accommodate modern morality.

     In verse 13 Jesus said, you cancel the Word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. This has an application for us now.

     No one would contravene any of the Ten Commandments; disregarding was punishable by death in Israel. Honouring father and mother was  to care for them financially and personally, but in Jewish tradition funds were allowed to be declared as ‘Corban’. This meant there was no cause to give to parents, but the money could be diverted to the Temple.  Such tradition allows for the depravity of the heart, which opposes the law of Moses which has care for the weak and helpless.

     Earlier I drew your attention to some practical failings in Anglican worship, but whilst I like the Free Church ability to be inspirational, it can also be very confusing.

     Preachers cannot be trusted in the way that the words of the Bible can be. For example, on the subjects of relationships, marriage and divorce, there are wide differences in what is preached. 

     I, and others like me, who hold a strong  traditional and conservative belief, and however much may fail to do so, try to be faithful to the Bible.  The following week there could be someone with a totally different and liberal attitude, who is prepared to teach the release of the commands of God, to hold onto the traditions of men and society.

      What kind of impression does that give to anyone seeking spiritual guidance or hope?  This should emphatically enforce the point that Jesus is giving throughout this passage, that the Bible is from God and therefore supreme authority, and there should be no deviation from its teaching.

     Martin Luther stood almost alone against the false teaching and traditions of the church of his day, and by doing so sparked off a world spiritual revolution in which the Bible triumphed over man made rules. Luther said, ‘my conscience is captive to the word of God; here I stand’ Are we standing for the word of God?  Many are not.

     This passage has an important message, that Jesus is the supreme interpreter of the Bible, and we must never let human interpreters overrule Him.  Our salvation depends on our belief in Jesus Christ, not by observing man made rules and practices.  Never let us hear being said to us the words that Jesus used to the Pharisees, that we held on to the traditions of men rather than the commands of God. We must accept that nothing needs to be added or taken away from the words of Scripture.  The true treasure of the Church is the most holy gospel of the glory and  grace of God.

   The Church which Jesus created is being invaded by false teachers, with the Bible ignored. Jesus warned that a little leaven would be sufficient for the whole Church to fall, and we are seeing this actually happen. 

     The main theme of the gospel reading is that traditions of men can override the teachings of Holy Scripture.  Each one of us here this morning has witnessed such being committed. The Methodist Conference a few weeks past, overwhelmingly passed a motion to approve services for two people of the same sex to have a marriage service .in addition, it was done in a most desultory way.

     Two years ago members of the Church nationally were asked to vote as to whether such services should be approved, and it was rejected.  In a way which the European Union excel, the Church decided to try again this year, but I have not met any Church member who was asked to vote; it was decided by committees.

     Hence after 283 years of doctrine formulated by the Church’s founder John Wesley, and in direct violation of the Word of God, the leaders got their way in following human tradition.

You will see how faithful members will respond. This will be my last official service, as I cannot betray the vows I made to always remain faithful to the teachings of the Bible.

     I am going to close this sermon with the direct words of John Wesley when preaching a sermon on the first Chapter of Romans


      God made man male and female is more distinctly related here

  Verse 23. And Adam said, this is now bone of my bones - Probably it was revealed to Adam in a vision, when he was asleep, that this lovely creature, now presented to him, was a piece of himself and was to be his companion, and the wife of his covenant - In token of his acceptance of her, he gave her a name, not peculiar to her, but common to her sex; she shall be called woman, Isha, a She- man, differing from man in sex only, not in nature; made of man, and joined to man.

  Verse 24. The sabbath and marriage were two ordinances instituted in innocence, the former for the preservation of the church, the latter for the preservation of mankind.

 The Methodist Worship Book in its introduction to marriage states, ‘ a marriage service is a formal occasion when a solemn, legal contract is made between a man and a woman.  "Making an open stand against all the ungodliness and unrighteousness which overspreads our land as a flood, is one of the noblest ways of confessing Christ in the face of His enemies." ~

I sincerely wish you well on your Christian journey, May God bless and the love and grace of the Lord Jesus guide you.

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