14th Sunday after Pentecost

Sermon Title: 14th Sunday after Pentecost

Preacher: Rev’d Susanne Chambers

Date: 30th August 2015

Church Calendar Date: 14th Sunday after Pentecost

Lectionary Reading: Song of Songs 2:8-1.3, Ps 45: 1-2, 6-9, James 1:17-27, Mark 7:1-8, 14-23

“The voice of my beloved!  Look, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills….arise, my love, my fair one, and come away:”..

“The church has long been embarrassed by the unabashed sensuality in [the Song of Songs] this series of love poems.  As far back as Hippolytus and Origen “in the third century AD” and Calvin “among the Reformers,” the book has been interpreted to be an allegory that describes the love of God for Israel and the love of Jesus for the church.  However, neither is the topic of these poems.

This series of poems is about the joys, the ups and downs, even painful longing when apart and violence against the woman by her community when she searches for her lover, of a relationship between two human beings who love one another. While the contemporary writer is likely to use different metaphors than those used by the ancient authors and compilers of the Song of Songs, words such as stag and gazelle are designed to compliment and entice the beloved.”[i]

I think of those newly in love –Laura and Andrew, getting married next Saturday (6 more sleeps!) and Lek and Kevin in November…just a few more sleeps!. Can you hear the women say “The voice of my beloved! Look, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills!!  I’d like to see both Andrew and Kevin doing that! J

Love affects the heart. Love-hearts are painted to show a heart in love or a broken heart, cracked through the middle when love has been hurt.

Love is the most potent, healing, forgiving, caring, reconciling potion in the world.

Love is the hardest to live by though, no matter what religion or no religion you belong to.

Both the letter of James and what Mark has written today in his gospel, show how hard it is to love because of our own desire to have our own needs met or if the ‘loving thing’ for someone else doesn’t quite suit us we tweek the tradition or whatever for our needs which puts the care and understanding of others down the list.

In the gospel, it appears that Jesus is having a go at the Pharisees and scribes regarding their traditions…and yes he is.

The issue is not just about washing hands, it’s about how to care. It’s about the tradition behind that practice that Jesus is concerned about.  The lectionary skips over one part of the argument from Jesus by raising the issue of the commandment ‘honouring your parents’ because they had found a religious loop-hole by which they can declare their wealth an offering to God and thereby not having to share it with their parents.

So Jesus is saying that traditions are important but not at the expense of caring for others.

We have traditions too. Here at church, in our homes, at work places and sports and among our friends. “They are markers of what has been accepted as right and wrong and thereby serve to lend us a sense of stability. (Never mind that our traditions do in fact change over time- what’s important is that they appear unchanging in the moment!)” [ii]

And so sometimes, our traditions can cut people out.  Maybe it’s some ritual you have always done at family gatherings or who can be part of our circle of friends at certain outings.  Maybe it’s in our liturgy and the way we ‘do church’ that cut people out.

When our traditions have become more important than people, we need to look honestly at why we do them in the first place and whether they are alienating or inclusive.

Of course we know change is hard. You know the old joke “‘how many Anglicans does it take to change a light bulb? Change? Change? My grandfather donated that lightbulb!”

We laugh but ironically know this is so true.

We have grown comfortable with many ‘traditions’ and it’s hard to change them.

We had quite an interesting conversation at the Wednesday Eucharist with some saying we should have chairs in the church instead of pews to allow more flexible styles of worship and meetings.  Despite someone loving BCP, they even felt the language we use today in our liturgy can seem alien for those who are brave enough to step through the doors of a church.

They weren’t wanting to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but to open up conversations that we all find hard to talk about.

What traditions are spiritually leading us to live Christ-like lives? What in this liturgy challenges us to think beyond our small worlds to the neighbour down the street, the amazing large number of homeless people just in Boroondara or those fearing for their lives and are starving in other countries?

When Laura and Andrew, and Lek and Kevin marry, they will be bringing into their relationship ‘traditions’ that have been made by themselves or taught to them by their parents. I think those who have partners, can understand the negotiations that need to take place with strongly held traditions…the most difficult one I hear is around Christmas gatherings..

It’s not about the traditions..it’s how we care for each other and to be inclusive.

I hope I haven’t opened a can of worms here…some families and parishioners are adamant about what has to happen and when and it is so difficult to work through without compromising your own traditions..those things that give us a sense of security and stability.

It’s all a matter of the heart.  Our traditions, what we practice, what we preach. ………….How we say it!

Jesus says “it’s what comes out of a person that defiles.  For it is from within, from the human hearts, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.” It’s a tough list to hear!  These are corruptions of the human heart.  All these intentions spring from a desire to take, to grasp, to own, to devour. It’s all about self and not about anyone else.

We all have these corruptions…I don’t have a pure loving heart…wish I did, but sometimes without thinking I have shown my prejudice, my pride, my quick judgement, and although I’ve been taught not to say bad things, it hasn’t stopped my thinking them at times…  L

When I realise that it’s been my pride or I have made a quick judgement about someone, I find it helpful to look at myself and wonder why I made those judgements.  What is it in my story, the influence of parents, culture, etc that have formed this in me?  When I can get in touch with my ‘inner heart’, without fear, I find that I can see where these thoughts and feelings have come from and learn more about myself….and love myself despite my failings.

It’s a life long journey for all of us, but well worth it and you may find that the Spirit may be inviting you to have a look at some of the assumptions you have made in your life.

The Prayer of the Day I find most helpful: “Living Presence, wise and discerning, taking no account of appearances, but seeing deep into the human heart, bring to our awareness the evil intentions that so often lurk unnoticed, and before we have time to act upon them dissolve them in your goodness, that we may always incline our hearts to serve your just and gentle rule. We pray this after the pattern of Jesus and in the power of the Spirit. Amen.

To love is to live a life without fear.

To love is to live a life with traditions that are life-giving and inclusive.

To love is to leap upon the mountains and bound over the hills!

To love is to know you are loved by God and by yourself.

The Lord be with you.

[1] Commentary on Song of Solomon 2:8-13 by   Alphonetta Wines

2 David Lose ‘In the Meantime’ website