Act of Worship at Home
Reading Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23
The Tradition of the Elders
Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’ He said to them, ‘Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, “This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.” You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.’
Then he called the crowd again and said to them, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.’ For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.’
In our reading from Mark some Pharisees and teachers of the law who’d come from Jerusalem had gathered around Jesus. They’d noticed that some of his disciples were eating their food with hands that were ritually unclean, they hadn’t washed them the way the that the Pharisees said people should wash them.
To be fair to the Pharisees each rule, each tradition, had been devised to try to help people be in close relationship with God. And each rule, each tradition, was based on scripture, in the same way today, in some churches, regulations about divorce, advice about how you should raise your children, and how women should be subject to their husbands, are all based on Biblical passages.
Unlike the traditions of the Pharisees these kinds of tradition don’t require us, to worry about how we wash before eat, or the countless other rituals of the day, but they can be made just as restrictive, and just as soul destroying as the kind of rules the Pharisees tried to enforce.
Whether it is how we read and understand the Bible, how we pray, who we mix with, what we eat or drink, whether we’ve had a dramatic ‘born again’ experience, or believe in evolution, we can find ourselves judged by others and find ourselves rejected.
I have married couples who have been rejected by churches because they were not considered worthy
to be married in their sanctuary. I have taken funerals of people rejected by others because they were not considered to be really Christian for one reason or another.
So, what is it that makes a person acceptable to God?
Our faith says it is not what we say, do, or even believe. It seems to me that Jesus taught that whether they know it or not every person is a child of God, that God’s image is within each and every person. So we can rest in the knowledge that we ARE acceptable to, and accepted by, God, and that wherever out life’s journey has taken us, whatever wrongs turns we’ve taken, whatever we’ve got wrong, and whatever we’ve got right, we always start from the basis of that wonderful acceptance.
From that knowledge of complete acceptance we are invited to grow in relationship with God and to try to follow more closely Christ’s example to us of what it means to be a son or daughter of God. Always remembering that Jesus taught that this is never a trap, this is never a condition for God’s acceptance of us or love for us.
Church traditions have often been about what we think God requires and how we should act. And of course we should wash our hands before we eat, not for God’s benefit but ours, and we should work to build relationships with God and others not to gain God’s love but to celebrate it. God loves you, God accepts you, and God stands ready to enable you to express that love in and through your life. He does that for you, for me, and for anyone we may ever think of judging. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Time of Prayer
Loving and living God, we rejoice that this is your world. So now we bring it to you,
seeking your blessing on all its affairs.
We pray for peace, that the leaders of all nations may work to reduce weaponry and promote dialogue.
We pray for justice, that the abundance of this earth’s resources may be distributed more evenly.
We pray for liberty, that moves towards greater equality and freedom may grow.
We pray for harmony, that everyone, irrespective of race, sex, or creed, may be valued for what they are.
Lord, we do not just pray for the big things in life but also the little, rejoicing that all situations are important to you, all people matter in your sight.
So we bring the business of each day, small in the eyes of the world, but important to us: the responsibilities of family life and parenthood; the cost of buying and running a home; the problems and pressures of earning a living and making ends meet; the joys and sorrows of marriage and relationships;
the well-being of our loved ones; our places of work and recreation, worship and relaxation.
We put these into your hands, knowing that they matter to you as much as they matter to us.
Loving and living God, we rejoice that you are involved in our world, and involved in our lives, not distant or remote, but seeking the good of everything you have made. Gratefully we put our trust in you.
Thank you loving God that you see to the very heart of our being. You see past the smiles that mask the messier reality of our daily lives. You see past this harsher reality to the complex reasons that make us who we are. Thank you that you understand us, and know the stories that have shaped us, and the struggles which trouble us every day.
Thank you that you see past even these superficial depths of human nature, to the very heart of our humanity, and know us as your own, made in your image, destined for eternal life.
Thank you that you hear our prayers, accept as we are, and long for us to become what we truly are. Amen.
Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
Be all else but naught to me, save that thou art
Be thou my best thought in the day and the night
O waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.
Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word
Be thou ever with me, and thy with me Lord
Be thou my great Father, and I thy true son
Be thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.
Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight
Be thou my whole armour, be thou my true might
Be thou my soul’s shelter, be thou my strong tower
O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.
High King of heaven, thou heaven’s bright Sun
O grant me it’s joys, after victory is won
Great heart of my own heart, whatever befall
Still be thou my vision, O Ruler of all.
Let us go from here to love and serve the Lord,
and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be with us all, this day and forever more.