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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings

Good morning, friends!

I'm getting an earlier start this week to posting. No guarantees that the quality of the post will be different, though.

I've been concentrating on the gospel lesson for this week, Jesus' little talk about clean and unclean, using table manners as his illustration.

When I spent some time in China about seven years ago I was one of the few people in our group who did not eat street food. I was afraid, you see, to get travelers's stomach half way around the world. This is very ironic, since I was the member of the group whose responsibility it was to acquire and maintain the first aid and OTC medicine bag, as the only person with any rudimentary medical training. (I was a certified medical assistant in my previous life.)

The others were happily eating steamed buns, grilled meats, and other assorted vendor-offered delicacies, but I was too afraid. I think that in this regard, I was the typical "ugly American" tourist.

It wasn't that I was afraid of the food itself, but of the difference in sanitation. I just never felt as if I knew where the vendors' hands had been, or maybe it is that I knew very well where they probably had been.

We are so delicate, so protected in our isolated little culture. We seem to want things clean and recognizable--even in our churches. We seem to want things sanitized for our protection, so that we need never see or touch or taste anything that is not 100% safe.

I wonder what we're missing out on--both in terms of what experiences of the divine we have shut ourselves off from, and what secret spiritual "viruses" have we allowed to lurk in our hearts unnoticed while we are out there making sure our churches are "pure"?

Those are my ramblings this early Tuesday morning. What are your thoughts for this homiletical week?


  1. This has little to do with the lectionary, but I thought others might be interested. This is the link for the interview Terry Gross did with Barbara Brown Taylor:

    Sorry the link is so long.


  2. Uh Cheesehead, our guide, and liaison told us not to eat the food on the streets, that they didn't eat it. They warned us agains the parasites in that country which can make one a whole lot sicker, and can cause other problems then just tourista can. We did eat in the local resturaunts they took us to. But on our 2nd trip we all got the Giardia parasite,and we were all sick. Kara had lived with forever and was skin and bones. Once we got rid of that parasite she really blossomed physically. So I don't know...I listen to our liaison.

    Why didn't they wash their hands? It is sanitary. But then Jesus points out to the Pharisees that You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” I can hear my mom, the retired nurse saying, now kids don't listen to him, you must wash your hands before you eat.

    “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” Well I guess it can't defile you, but it sure can make you awfully sick. Maybe the issue is not washing your hands itself to clean them, but the traditions they carried on, that no longer did what they were suppose to. Like we in the church keep up certain traditions that at one time may have helped us be better Christians, but no longer do so.

  3. I hear what you are saying. I send kids on study abroad all the time and I'm always telling them not to eat street food (at least not in Mexico...) but my DH does it all the time with impunity. (And, apparently, with immunity!)

    But it's really more about being willing to SEE each other than it is about microbes, no?

  4. The link I have posted here is for information about Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Someone had mentioned in yesturday's post that the beginning of a school year feels like a new Judiasm it is. In our quest for cleanliness, or purity, I am afraid that we often limit the God of the Universe, who spoke to Job and asked, "Where you you when I created the heavens and earth?" I think we can get smug about our traditions and forget that that is what they are. We do things in our churches because they have always been done that way. In my congregation, many have never attended a service outside their own congregation, the same denomination in a different location or another denomination, let alone experience the worship of another faith in an attempt to understand. It is almost as if we fear contamination, someone elses "dirt" if we expose ourselves to other traditions. When I was a child my father and I would visit other churches, synagogues and houses of worship from time to time. He felt it was an important part of my religious education. I think of the Holocaust and other horrific religious and ethnic "cleansings" when I think about clean/unclean. Just rented a video called Paperclip at the movie rental place about the Holocaust. It was very moving and gave more pause for thought when I look at others and soil myself with judgment and predjudice. Just a few rambling thoughts. Blessings as you think, pray and muse on this topic.

  5. Interesting thoughts - my experience in SriLanka was that the food on the streets was actually better and more sanitary than elsewhere - and provided you avoided ice and also any pre-cut fruit - which they'd sprinkle with water to make it look more appitising - you did fine.

    The best drink of all was drinking coconut - they'd literally cut the top off then and give you a straw to drink it. It was slightly fizzy like lemonade and so refreshing. A lot better than schweps!

    I got really sick in Mexico and am sure it was from eating an icecream at the pyramids!

    As for the lectionary reading- looking at it and wondering!

  6. I think that the "clean plate club," so to speak, also goes on in progressive, non-legalistic corners of Christianity, where we tend to get hung up on issues of theology, doctrine and social justice issues in a way that creates barriers to interacting with others, in the same way that legalistic faith communities get hung up on issues of lifestyle and literal jots/tittles of Scripture. And I say this as a frequent "chief of sinners" in the former category.

  7. I've had my share of nasty parasites in non-Western countries, but I think this is more about the ritual, not about actual cleanliness. As in, you didn't wash your hands the right way...anybody have a Hebrew Scripture citation for how to wash, etc? And it's about Jesus' response...that no amount of ritual is going to make us truly clean, only a pure heart (which is a gift of God).

    I'm preaching in my home congregation this week. Yikes!

  8. And here's an angle right out of the Law/Gospel playbook: Our fear of God makes us think that it's all about being "pure" on some level or the other -- in the OT, if you broke a reg in the holiness code and dared to approach the Ark of the Covenant, you'd die, literally, it was thought, then and there...but God's grace frees us from the terror of not being "pure enough" or "good enough" or whatever "enough," so we can freely love God and our neighbor without the metaphorical gun of the Law at our heads.

  9. I don't suppose anyone has any brilliant thoughts on the James passage? ('Cause I already designed the service around it, but can't seem to find time to write it.)

  10. In the Gospel reading, I'm struck by the fact that the Pharisees were so worried about what the disciples were doing, but not examining whether their own behavior was in accordance with God's commandment. We're so quick to point to the faults of others, even little things that have no negative effect on anyone else, and so hesitant to confront our own sin, even when it clearly harms someone else. For my sermon, I'm thinking of this in terms of my congregation's resistance toward anything that's done differently than tradition dictates. Some traditions are good...but where do they stand between us and God?

    I'm not focusing on James, but it seems to me that the basic idea is that real grace and real faith transform not only how we think about things, but how we act. That's not brilliant, and it's certainly not a new idea, it seems like something we often need to hear in churches that tend to focus on orthodoxy rather than orthopraxy.

  11. SB -preach from the heart :)

  12. I am looking at James...and taking the idea of listening to heart. Maybe sometimes we don't act because we don't know how to listen in the first place. This can be spun in several directions...

  13. Dang the Episcopal lectionary. We got no James this week. We have "put on the whole armor of god." Which I already wrote about in OT.

    But I love that James passage. Here is what I immediately see: my beautiful Sarah D., daughter of my wonderful friend Mary Lenn. When Sarah was born (long before I knew Mary Lenn), she asked for a nun to come pray with her (Catholic hosp., natch). While waiting, she picked up a Bible, and the first verses here were what the Lord gave her for Sarah: "Every good gift and every perfect gift comes from the Father of Lights, in whom there is no shadow of change or turning" is how I remember it. Sarah is now in grad school. Truly a wonderful gift.

    With regard to "being not hearers who forget but doers who act,"
    I am prayerfully considering participation (or an attempt thereat) in the 30 Days of Nothing campaign
    . As I commented when I read this, "This is a hard teaching! Who can accept it!?"

    Can I? I don't know.


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