Sermons 2006
"Rituals", Proper 17B, 3 September 2006, Deuteronomy 4:1-9; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Home | "Light and Darkness", Christmas 2C, 31 December 2006, John 1:1-18 | Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2006 | "What then shall we do?", Advent 3C , 17 December 2006, Luke 3:7-18 | "Luke's Gospel", Advent 1C, 3 Dec 2006, Luke 21:25-31 | Which Jesus? Proper 29B 2006, 26 November 2006, John 18:33-37 | Apocalypticism and Fundamentalism, Proper 28B, 19 Nov 2006, Daniel12; Mark 13:14-23 | "The Widow's Mite: All and Everything", Proper 27B, 12 November 2006, Mark 12:38-44 | "The Commandments to love God, Neighbor, One Another" Proper 26B, 5 November 2006, Mark 12:28-34 | "Sight -- and Seeing" Proper 25B, 29 October 2006, Mark 10:46-52 | "Baptism: Overwhelming Washing", Proper 24B, 22 October 2006 Mark 10:35-45 | "God's Transforming Love", Proper 23B, 15 October 2006, Mark 10:17-31 | "Divorce", Proper 22B, 8 February 2006, Mark 10: 2-9 | "Hard Sayings and Sharp Words", Proper 21B, 1 October 2006, Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48 | "First or Last?" Proper 20B, 24 September 2006, Mark 9:30-37 | "Unintended Consequences", Proper 19B, 17 September 2006, Mark 8:27-38 | "Ephphatha! Open up!" Proper 18B, 10 September 2006, Mark 7:31-37 | "Rituals", Proper 17B, 3 September 2006, Deuteronomy 4:1-9; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 | "Choices." Proper 16B, 30 August 2006, Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-25; John 6:60-69 | "Come to the Table." Proper 15B, 20 August 2006, John 6:53-59 | "Do not be afraid." Proper 12B, 30 July 2006, Mark6:45-52 | "General Convention and Jesus' Compassion", Proper 11B, 23 July 2006, Mark 6: 30-44 | "Basics for the Journey", Proper 10B, 16 July 2006, Mark 6:7-13 | "Jesus and Rejection", Proper 9B, 9 July 2006, Mark 6:1-6 | "Trust, Faith, and Belief" Proper 8B, 2 July 2006, Mark 5:22-43 | "Storms, Fear, and Faith" Proper 7B, 25 June 2006, Mark 4:35-41 | Mighty things from Small, Proper 6B, 18 June 2006, Mark 4:26-34 | Trinity, Pentecost 1, 11 June 2006, Exodus 3:1-6; John 3:1-16 | The King Jesus Fire-Baptized Holy Spirit Church, Pentecost , 4 June, Acts 2:1-11; Jn 20:19-23 | "That they may be one" General Convention 2006, Easter 7B 28 May 2006, John 5:9-15 | "Friends, friendship, and love" Easter 6B, 21 May 2006, John 15:9-17 | Mother's Day, two mothers' love!" Easter 5B, 14 April 2006, John 14:15-21 | "Interesting, this Good Shepherd!" Easter 4B, 7 May 2006, John 10:11-16 | "How do you prove you are alive?", Easter 3B, 30 April 2006, Luke 24:36b-48 | "Do you believe because...." Easter 2B, 23 April 2006, John 20:19-31 | "He goes before you to Galilee...." Easter B 2006, 16 April, Mark 16:1-8 | "Journey into darkness", Palm Sunday B, 9 April 2006. Mark 11:1-11, 14:32-15:47 | "Sir, we would see Jesus!" Lent 5B, 2 April 2006, John 12:20-33 | "Miracles and Faith, Ordinary and Not", Lent 4B 2006, 26 March 2006, John 6:4-15 | "Rage, Rampage, and Outrage", Lent 3B, 19 March 2006, John 2: 13-22 | "Images of the Cross", Lent 2B, 12 March 2006, Mark 8:31-38 | "Baptism, Temptation, Redemption," Lent 1B, 5 March 2005, Mark 1:9-13 | Ash Wednesday , 1 March 2006, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 | ""Nanny McPhee' and transfiguration", Epiphany Last B, Mark 9:2-9 | "Jesus, leprosy, and the law of Moses", Epiphany 6B, 12 February 2006, Mark 1:40-45 | "Healing, wholeness, forgiveness, and love", Epiphany 5B, 5 February 2006, Mark 1:29-39 | "Haints, Unclean spirits, and demons" Epiphany 4B, 22 January 2006, Mark 1:21-28 | Epiphany 3B, 22 January 2006, "God's Call -- and Our Response", Mark 1:14-20 | Epiphany 2B, 15 January 2006, "Call and Response", John 1:43-51 | Epiphany 1B, 8 January 2006, "The Baptism of our Lord -- and Ours", Mark 1:7-11 | The Holy Name, 1 January 2006, Luke 2: 15-21

Proper 17B 2006 Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Ritual. In the broadest of senses, ritual controls and shapes our lives from birth to death and all the years in between. Ritual encompasses more of human life than we realize. But when you think about it, ritual pervades the ordinary routines of life to the most profound of sacraments and ceremonies, ceremonies whether in church or secular.

When a young couple meet and discover they are interested, perhaps even falling in love, there are the rituals of courtship. In my day there were the rituals of engagement: asking one to marry the other, usually traditionally the man asked the woman – who usually said yes. Then there was the ritual of seeking permission from the girl’s father, then the engagement ring then the bridal shower, the whole series of rituals surrounding and including the wedding itself. And then there is the honeymoon.

We cannot even remember our first touch with ritual. In fact it begins before our birth in many instances. There are usually but not always rituals of celebration when a mother learns she is pregnant. There is oftimes the ritual of the baby shower, the ritual of guessing whether the baby is a boy or girl, the ritual of preparing the nursery, and so on. And then usually for Episcopalians and some other Christians, there is the sacrament of Holy Baptism, followed a decade or so later by Confirmation. And certainly one of the earliest rituals in the life of a small child is when its parents teach it to call their names and say Please, and Thank you.

Our schooling involves another whole set of rituals. In my day it meant being escorted by mother and sometimes father, too, to the first grade classroom. Nowadays it might be preschool, prekindergarten, or kindergarten. School began with a devotional and in later years included the pledge of allegiance.

For many of us the rituals of life soon included those of the various scouting or similar programs. Brownie Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Campfire Girls for the girls; Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Explorer or Sea Scouts for the boys.

Nowadays there are rituals associated wit completion of annual events: graduation ceremonies for the completion of summer Bible School, Preschool, Pre Kindergarten, Grammar School, Middle School (used to be called junior high in my day), and what seemed the first and almost most important graduation of all, High School Graduation. Not to mention other rituals of the high school years: junior prom, senior prom, extra-curricular activities and their rituals.

And then the ritual of visiting and selecting a college. Clemson College, I have to say, was the only one I had visited before I went North to school, much to the everlasting chagrin and dismay of my father, who was a Clemson graduate. And dismay when I chose the Military Academy and the life of a professional Army officer rather than returning after college to South Carolina and going into the family peach growing business.

Some of us are aware of the rituals that fill the lives of military people and I won’t go into them now. Military rituals that have their origins in the mists of antiquity and are dear to the hearts of most of us. I never liked parades, though! Even though these days I’m in one twice every Sunday.

Rituals of birth, life, and death surround us, support us, shape us all our days. You can add the ones I’ve keft out, such as family rituals and traditions for Christmas and Thanksgiving. And so on and so on.

Those of us who are readers of Faye Kellerman’s detective mystery novels gain a hint of how ritual remains a central part of of the lives of observant Orthodox Jews. Detective Peter Drucker and his wife Rina keep kosher and obey the laws of ritual washing before and after every meal, even in a public place. Her hair is always covered outside of the home and he always wears a yarmulke – the little round cap – inside it. It is second nature to them -- these daily ritual requirements of Orthodox Judaism, and they feel that something important is absent when, for any number of reasons, they are unable to comply. They believe their lives are enriched by their observance – just as we Christians believe our lives are enriched by the ritual practices of our religion.

These rituals of Orthodox Judaism come down from the most ancient of times. They are inscribed – indeed, enshrined -- in the Hebrew Bible, which we know as the Old Testament and which was the only Bible available to Christians until the adoption of the present canon of Old and New Testaments by the councils of the Church in the 2d and 3d Centuries A.D.

Which brings us to our Gospel and Old Testament Lessons for today.

Jesus accused the Pharisees and scribes of abandoning the commandment of God and holding to human tradition. The human tradition he meant included certain laws in parts of Deuteronomy and Leviticus. These laws prescribed in excruciating detail the requirements of human life, from ritual washing to dietary laws to special laws of what was clean and what was unclean concerning human beings.

You know, the more things change the more they remain the same. The same sorts of questions about the status of the laws in Deuteronomy and Leviticus face us today. Selective quoting of so called “proof texts” from the Old Testament to defend a particular position it sounds much like just what Jesus was talking about two thousand years ago.

What is important, said Jesus, is who you are and what you do. And those things he enshrined in the great Summary of the Law: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment grater than these.

Jesus knew that humankind had developed high ability to think and reason over the millennia. No longer was it necessary to follow rigidly the regulations set down a thousand years before to ensure the survival of a small and endangered group of tribes in a hostile land and among a hostile people. The Israelites had survived, but they had made the regulations the object of their worship and not God. They used the regulations to control their neighbors and not to love them and set them free. Enough, said Jesus. I bring you a new commandment to add to the summary of the law. Love one another as I love you.


Wicomico Parish Church
PO Box 70
Wicomico Church, Virginia 22579