Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity – Sermon 257

Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

10.30am Holy Communion  CW

30th August 2015

Bible References :

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Prayer to start

May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ

 

AMEN

 

INTRODUCTION

 

“Mirror, mirror on the wall – who is the fairest of them all?”

 

The wicked witch – in the story of Snow White wanted it to be her – and was prepared to go to any lengths to make sure it was –

 

But Jesus in our Gospel reading reminds us that – how we look – and behave on the outside – is only part of our story –

 

When it comes to achieving purity – the root of the problem is with the heart –

 

and cleansing ourselves from impure thoughts and actions is much more important – to God – and to ourselves – than the reflection – we produce – from any outward appearances. –

 

First Point  Being clean with God –

 

A Bishop was coming to the end of his ministry – and decided it was time to have his picture painted – to go into the gallery of Bishops –

 

The Diocese bravely commissioned a modern artist – who painted the portrait but did not show it to the bishop – until the day of the unveiling.

 

The painting was uncovered in front of the Bishop and a group of dignatories –

 

Everyone went quiet – on the canvas were hundreds of abstract patterns- colours – shapes and a vague outline of a head right in the centre –

 

Bishop – what do you think? –  they asked,

He replied “Matthew 14:27.

‘Take heart – be not afraid – it is I’

 

 

The view that people have of us can be important – and we sometimes go to great lengths – to make sure that the image we present to others is something – to be liked and admired –

 

In our OT reading we have part of the second of three speeches given by Moses – before his death – in which he makes a passionate plea to the people of Israel – to take the word of God – to their hearts – and to use it to promote the well-being of themselves and their nation

 

The people were poised on the Banks of the Jordan – about to enter the promised land – and to face the most crucial test of their lives – They will be exposed to many things that will distract them from God and His word –

 

Obedience and faithfulness to God – will therefore be a key requirement– and Moses tells them they must observe the Law diligently – and remember all they have seen and heard of God’s gracious acts –

 

God doesn’t just want His word looked at – He wants it followed – and His commandments show the way forward that they should take –

and how they act and follow God’s word – will be a sign of the greatness of their nation –

 

As individuals – as a community –

Keeping clean with God – and responding faithfully – to His word will be important for their future –

 

– and they must pass on a gracious image – of God – and faithfulness to His word – to those they meet – and to future generations –and must not add – or take away from what they have heard and seen –

 

Moses knew that in their time of testing – and exposure to the sins of others – many will forget –

 

But they must never lose sight of – the many blessings they have received from God – the promises they have been given – the help and strength He still longs to provide  – and the future He has in store for all those who love Him –

 

Point 2  – Being clean with ourselves

 

Receive the word – and do the word – says James – so you might make visible a pure and undefiled religion –

 

Unlike the Apostle Paul, James was no man of letters – He was a simple home spun preacher – who was concerned – that people should be living the right way –

 

In James’ day there were no photographs or portraits painted – you might see your reflection in the water – but not many people had mirrors –

 

So if you didn’t catch sight of yourself – you might soon forget what you looked like –

 

And if you did happen to see your reflection – it might be a case of a quick glance – Oh yes very interesting – and then forget what you had seen – and carry on as before –

 

This James is saying – is what is happening to some Christians when they look in the perfect mirror of God’s law – a quick look – oh very interesting – and then carry on as before –

 

they read or hear it – but think about something else – think they know it so well  – so don’t take a closer look – or see the word – but don’t apply it to themselves or try to live up to what God demands –

 

A perfect mirror must have a perfect smooth surface – or it will give a distorted image – like the hall of mirrors in a fairground – it can hide our true selves – provide us with a reflection of who we think we are – or would like to be

 

The word is a perfect mirror because it compares us with God’s holiness –

 

When we look in God’s perfect mirror we see our flaws – we see that we are sinners

 

We see that Jesus Christ died for our sins-

 

We see that by believing in Jesus – we can be changed forever –

 

Point 3        changed on the inside

 

And that change – says Jesus must happen from the inside out –

 

Our Gospel Reading looks at the issue of ritual washing – which goes back to the earliest Jewish traditions

 

and whilst these have been beneficial in terms of maintaining hygene – and protecting against disease – and harmful contacts – as Jesus points out they are only a human custom – and not part of the divine revelation

 

But this tradition had become fixed – and part of the Jewish law – and the Pharisees accused Jesus and His disciples of being unclean – because they did not follow these rituals before eating –

 

Jesus’ response was to accuse the Pharisees of hypocrisy – since they were responsible for teaching God’s truths – and not human tradition –

 

Cleanliness in God’s eyes does not depend on whether we have washed or not – but on our inner attitude – towards Him –

 

having clean hands is not enough – our relationship with God needs to be clean too – it’s no use going through outward rituals if the inside is not cleaned also.

 

The danger was that someone might do something they shouldn’t and then expect to become clean again just by performing an outward gesture such as washing

 

Jesus provides us with a list of evil intentions that can defile us – and reminds us that every one of these outward acts comes from an ‘inward choice’

 

– both good and bad actions start from our internal and spiritual senses – so becoming clean on the inside – is a necessary requirement of our Christian faith and relationship with God – if we are to fulfil His commands of obedience and faithfulness

 

It’s hard to believe that the Pharisees would travel all the way from Jerusalem to Galilee – just to tell Jesus and his followers they had dirty hands –

They were there because Jesus was healing and making others clean through contact with them – and this was at odds with their view – who see themselves as being unclean when coming into contact with others –

 

And by encouraging the people to focus on outer purity – the Pharisees were avoiding the much deeper challenge of the Gospel – which was the basis for peoples internal spiritual cleanliness –

 

The cure for the problems of the heart – as Mark infers – is Jesus Himself – who is the fulfilment of all the early scriptures

 

Jesus is the one in whom God has given – for us to copy and follow –

 

from the beginning – God’s plan has been to make us like His Son – and through His word and His Spirit – He is looking to transfom us into His likeness-

 

Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God –by responding to Jesus in faith and obedience – His truth and love will change our hearts forever

 

Conclusion           God in us

 

So – when we look in the mirror what reflection do we see?

 

The fairest of the them all?

 

There can only be one perfect reflection and nature – one likeness that we all – want to be changed into – inside and out – Jesus Christ –

 

And that’s no fairy tale

 

Closing prayer

 

AMEN