Sanctified Ordinary

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

So what do I mean by the sermon title “Sanctified Ordinary?” I mean, with that simple juxtaposition of terms, that God makes all ordinary things holy. That is the crux of the message Jesus is giving us in today’s passage.

Douglas Hare, commentator for the Feasting on the Word series, points out that to the Pharisees, food should be eaten with sanctified hands, not ordinary hands. Verse 2 reads the Pharisees “noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them.” However, the Greek word used for “defiled,” or in other translations “unclean,” is koinos, which actually means “common,” as in, “ordinary.”[1]

What the Pharisees really were complaining about was the fact that the disciples’ hands had not been ritually cleansed, rendering them sanctified. From the perspective of the Pharisees, living in accordance with the command from Exodus 19:6 “You shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation” meant that all Israelites should act and be as holy as priests, and ritually wash their hands before eating.

On the surface, of course it sounds like Jesus is challenging the Pharisees and their basic premise underlying the whole of priestly laws; that of ritual purity, but there is more to the passage.

Phyllis Tickle, engaging this text, says Jesus is actually asserting a “new definition of the human being.” She says Jesus is asserting that in addition to being a part of the created order, “we are, in effect, a portal between the Creator and the creation, between that which is outside of space-time and that which is caught within it.”[2] In wrestling what she meant by that, what I came up with was we actually take part in creating; our environment; our culture, ourselves to a certain extent, our earthly “kingdom.”

No wonder Jesus is saying what comes out of us is what potentially defiles all around us. In God’s sight, what really counts is what we do and how we act toward others, not what we eat.

We can further back that up with examining the number of times Jesus mentions the state of our hearts in this passage. Listen to Commentator Dawn Ottoni Wilhem’s thoughts on this:

“Jesus uses the word “heart” three times in 7:1-23, and with each reference we sense the importance of the human heart for religious faith and practice. Since the heart was thought to be the center of one’s will and decision-making abilities, to turn one’s heart away from God (7:6b) or to have it filled with evil intentions (7:21) was a grievous sin. [Other] passages [in Mark] such as 3:5; 6:52; and 8:17 also remind us that hardness of heart is among the most damning of spiritual conditions, revealing a lack of compassion toward others. In these and other verses, Christ urges us to examine our own defiled hearts rather than our neighbors’ dirty hands.”[3]

That being said, let us not forget the good news in this passage: Jesus proclaims all food is clean. With that we are reminded, in effect, that, he also cleanses us from our own list of shortcomings, whatever they may be. Jesus lists several; but the point is whenever we raise awareness of the hidden intentions of our hearts, there is a direct relationship in growth of our capacity to love, and a cleansing of our own beings, sanctifying us for service in God’s kingdom.

Commentator Amy Howe writes,

“Our challenge today is to recognize how we, like the Pharisees, misinterpret what is important to God. Do we look at the dirty fingernails of our homeless brothers and sisters and think to ourselves, “They do not belong in our sanctuary”? Do we hear a crying baby during the worship service and think to ourselves, or even whisper to our neighbor, “Children should not be allowed in worship”? Do we watch a gay couple join the church and think, “They are not welcome here”? We seem to put our energy into keeping people out of our sanctuaries, rather than into examining the sins that stain our own lives.”[4]

The flip side of that, of course, is trying to act on becoming more spiritual. Dawn again reminds us,

“There is renewed interest among many Christians in “practices,” “values,” and “spiritual disciplines” that encourage faithful living. What kinds of ritual activities or practices may help us develop a meaningful relationship with God and our neighbors? How do practices of Sabbath keeping, charitable giving, public worship, private prayer, service work, hospitality, and forgiveness deepen our sense of God’s presence and power among us?”[5]

For our part, when we address those questions, both in our individual lives and in our corporate life together, then we will be well on the road to “sanctified ordinary.” Amen? May it be so.

[1] Hare, Douglas. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ).

[2] Tickle, Phyllis. The Words of Jesus; A Gospel of the Sayings of Our Lord. Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint, 2008.

[3] Wilhem, Dawn Ottoni. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ).

[4] Howe, Amy C. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ).

[5] Wilhem, Dawn Ottoni. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ).

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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