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Sunday, 29 August 2021
 
This morning we met at 10 am  for a Parish Eucharist, celebrated by Father Roger. Another lovely summers day, the last of the summer holidays, and much to think of and to commit to God's care in these difficult times.
Father Roger preached the sermon, based on today's gospel and discussed the difficulty of the Jewish dietary rues, and how fortunate we are that Christians don't have to follow them! The point of the story however is that it is our inner life that determines our behaviour, not what we eat or how we clean our plates!

Once again we sang some well known hymns, and set off home ready for the coming week.

Next week we will have our Family Service  and Father Luke will be with us, we look forwards to seeing every one back from holidays and ready for the new term.









James 1:17-27

A reading from the letter of James.

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, 
is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, 
with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

In fulfillment of his own purpose 
he gave us birth by the word of truth, 
so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

You must understand this, my beloved:
let everyone be quick to listen, 
slow to speak, slow to anger; 

for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. 

Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness 
and rank growth of wickedness, 
and welcome with meekness the implanted word 
that has the power to save your souls.

But be doers of the word, 
and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 

For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, 
they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 

for they look at themselves and, 
on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 

But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, 
and persevere, 
being not hearers who forget 
but doers who act—
they will be blessed in their doing.

If any think they are religious, 
and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, 
their religion is worthless. 

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: 
to care for orphans and widows in their distress, 
and to keep oneself unstained by the world.


Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark.

When the Pharisees and some of the scribes 
who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus,

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 honors 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.”


Address

We had best try to think about this slightly awkward Gospel.

Jesus is - as so often - disputing with the Pharisees. Because of these quarrels we tend to think of Pharisees as the bad guys. But, of all the Jewish groups, it seems that, on the questions of Jewish doctrine current at the time, the Pharisees were the group that Jesus was closest to. Maybe we will want to argue with those close to us, when we think they have blundered. But we might not be bothered to argue with those with whom we’ve little in common and not much interest in. 

On this occasion, it is the Pharisees and their pals who start the dispute. ‘Yuk’, they say, ‘Jesus’ people are not bothering to wash their hands properly before eating. We think that’s disgusting, and surely the Almighty won’t like it either! It’s not the proper Jewish way!’

Jesus accused them of hypocrisy. He isn’t, of course, really against hygiene, but the critics are making their slight revulsion about lack of hand-washing on that occasion into a big deal and making it an issue concerning God.  But, at the very same time, they are drawing a veil over, more serious unsavoury things within their own behaviour, which God very certainly wouldn’t like. 

So… our feelings of disgust about someone’s behaviour may well not be a sound and reliable assessment of a situation. Many people, for instance, may have a built-in inclination to find same-sex relationships distasteful, but distaste is not, in itself, an adequate response to those situations, or to what God might say about them. 

Jewish ways are complicated. They focus on the Old Testament scriptures, and especially on the first books, the Torah. But they also have an oral tradition, the collective wisdom, interpretation, and elaboration of the centuries. So, Jesus was accusing some the critics of trying to look good, fussing about the small print of the tradition, whilst not being genuinely Godly within themselves. He called them hypocrites, meaning play actors. He called some Pharisees ‘whited sepulchres’ because they made efforts to appear worthy and Godly, but concealed interior corruption, where godliness should be.

It is certainly tricky being Jewish. You should eat meat from animals with cloven hooves. Pigs have cloven hooves, but they are blacklisted, because they also need to be ruminants - like cattle. That is, animals which have a complex digestive system to deal with a plant diet, giving them two sessions of chewing everything. The pig is also objectionable because it seems dishonest: outwardly looking fine, showing the correct hooves, but sneakily hiding the wrong sort of digestive system inside itself!

First and foremost, of course, we must monitor our own selves, and be wary of hasty, harsh judgement of others. Very much easier to say than to do! But Jesus says that, in the long run, people will reveal themselves for what they really are. By their fruits you will know them. By what they do, rather than by what they say or how they present themselves. 

There are the sayings in St Matthew, in the Sermon on the Mount. Always poignant for me, because they apply to congregations, and with imagery that ends up with plants. 

We read:
‘Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.’ 

We, and others, are members of the flock of Christ. We wear, as it were, sheep’s clothing. But, frighteningly, Jesus suggests, someone, perhaps ourself, is really a wolf in disguise, - very possibly without even knowing it, and without meaning any harm, and thinking that we’re making a sound contribution. But – in practice - being selfish, power-seeking, dominating, not attending closely enough to the Gospel, or the Christian community - and – whilst possibly putting in much useful work, or money, - being significantly destructive to the life of the Church. The shepherd, the priest, is one who must address such issues, and try not to be a wolf themself.

Some of my plants are cacti, bred for large colourful flowers. I’ve crossed an inconveniently large prickly plant, which has a few very big mauve and white flowers, with a small neat plant which has lots and lots of nice yellow flowers. It’s the crazy sort of cross that a serious breeder wouldn’t make! You would normally seek to improve things in small steps over many years. The dozens of offspring will grow for a few years. But sooner or later each one will flower and make its value clear, and a few might just prove quite special. Eventually, they will all show their true colours.

I remember a bride at a wedding at another church. She was so caught up with the idea that she had seen the groom’s true colours, and loved him for them. She wanted only the song, ‘True Colours’ played at every conceivable point of the service. ‘I see your true colours, that’s why I love you.’ Should the Church refuse, or try to argue her out of that? No, I decided.

Very soon, in the early days of the Church, Christians were freed from keeping the Jewish food laws. Christians now who might like a bacon double cheeseburger are in luck, but for the Jews it still fails their tests very badly, not just for including bacon but also by combining meat and dairy products, which is very much forbidden.

As the Gospel suggests, we must focus on what comes from within us, in terms of discipleship, rather than obsess about meals and menus.

Fr Roger

Service Times

First Sunday in the Month:
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Family Service

Second Sunday in the Month
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Parish Eucharist

Third Sunday in the Month
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Sung Matins

Fourth Sunday in the Month
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Parish Eucharist

Variations can be found in the Parish Magazine or the Calendar at the bottom of this page.

Useful links


Here are some links to resources you may find helpful:


  1. Chichester Cathedral will be live streaming services. For the Eucharist and order of service Click here before 10:00am Sunday and follow the instructions.
  2. The BBC Daily Service is available here.
  3. Prayer for today.
  4. The C of E youtube channel.
  5. Hearing You is a new phone help line launched by the Diocese of Chichester in partnership with Together in Sussex in response to the impact that Covid 19 has had on Just about the whole community. It aims to provide pastoral support and a listening ear to the recently bereaved and people directly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
  6. COVID-19 advice from the Diocese of Chichester here.

Please note that St Mary's are not responsible for the contents of external links

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