Mt. McKinley in Alaska, originally known as Denali, "the Great One." .... "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge..." (Ps. 61:2-3)

       "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus asked.  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."  And Jesus answered, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! ... You are Peter (petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church..."  Jesus then began to speak of the rough road ahead. And Peter took him aside and rebuked him... "Get behind me, Satan!" Jesus replied. "You are a stumbling block..."
                                                (Matthew 16:13-23)

May these words of this Peter be like a rock,
not a stumbling block!

"Whatdefilesa person"

Message preached August 14, 2005
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland USA

based upon Matthew 15:1-20

Order of Worship

            In this "amble and ramble" sermon, I intend to begin as myself, apologizing for what I am about to do (exaggerating the legalism of the Pharisees with an eye to the legalism behind our "Brethren" heritage, and picking on certain individuals in the congregation). As I talk, I slowly transform into The Very Right Reverend Dr. Farah Seah, putting on certain "garments" (a t-shirt from a Neil Simon play our church dinner theater performed several years ago with "God's Favorite" emblazoned across the front, a construction board tall hat with "VIP" or some such on it, etc.). If he is well and present, I may begin with our oldest member (age 94) and make some pre-arranged comments on some area in which he has slipped up recently according to "law and tradition." I may also aim some jabs at a member with whom I was out to eat this week, on his plate being soft shell crabs - "Did you eat any creatures who crawl on the bottom of the sea?" Some youth (my own son among them) who attended an all-day-long rock concert this week definitely need some picking on. There must be something in there to playfully nit-pick - if I have the sense they are playing along (the reason for the apology at the beginning which sets the stage).

            Along the way, I'll start talking about the episode retold in Matthew 15:1-20, revealing what really bothered me - first about Jesus' disciples and what they were doing (or not doing), and then about Jesus himself. We were just trying to correct some dietary improprieties of these unlearned fishermen, I'll say, and then Jesus laid into us for things we allowed in the area of caring for elders, whipping us with a barb from Isaiah. It was all quite offensive!

            How easy it is to take offense. At this point in the message I'll start removing my "Pharisee" garments and shift from The Very Right Reverend Dr. Farah Seah to just me. Along the way I'll confess the Pharisee in myself, something which is a part of everyone. If timing allows I may give an historical note on how Brethren at our Annual Conference shifted in the early part of the 20th century from nit-picking (should a brother wear a tear? a sister a prayer covering? etc.) to a general philosophy called "the simple life." The question is "what defiles a person?" Jesus made clear that it's what comes out of the human heart, something with which we struggle every day. Baptism, as Luther once said, is a daily dying to sin and rising with Christ... This will lead to the unison scripture reading (Ps. 51) and a final song.

online resources for this scripture text

For commentaries consulted, see Matthew.

(para traducir a español, presione la bandera de España)


©2005 Peter L. Haynes
(you are welcome to borrow and, where / as appropriate, note the source - myself or those from whom I have knowingly borrowed.)

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