Sermons 2009
Proper 17B, 30 August 2009, Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Home | Proper 17B, 30 August 2009, Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 | Proper 16B, 23 August 2009, John 6:56-69 | Pentecost 10 (Proper 14B) 9 August 2009, John 6:35, 41-51 | Pentecost 8B (Proper 12B), John 6:1-21, 26 July 2009 | Pentecost 7B (Proper 11B), 19 July 2009, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 | Pentecost 6B (Proper 10B), 12 July 2009, Mark 6:14-29 | Pentecost 5B (Proper 9B) 5 July 2009, Mark 6:1-13 | Pentecost 4B (Proper 8B), 28 June 2009 | Pentecost 3B (Proper 7B), 21 June 2009 | Pentecost 2B (Proper 6B), 14 June 2009 | About Pentecost, Pentecost B, 31 May 2009, | On the Trinity, Trinity B, 7 June 2009 | Jesus and Prayer, Easter 7B, 24 May 2009, John 17:6-19 | How can we love? Easter 6B, 17May 2009, John 15:9-17 | 2 Sermons: Vineyard and a Baptism, Easter 5B, 10 May 2009, John 15:1-8 | Who's in? Who's out? Easter 4B, 3 May 2009, John 10:11-18 | Sacramental Meals, Easter 3B, 16 April 2009, Luke 24:36b-48 | Resurrection, continued, Doubts, and a Baptism, Easter 2 B, 19 April 2009, John 20:19-31 | He is not here, Easter B, 12 April 2009, Mark 16:1-8 | The Seven Sayings from the Cross, Palm Sunday B 2009 | We wish to see Jesus, Lent 5B, 29 March 1009, John 12:22-33 | For God so loved the world, Lent 4B, 22 March 2009, John 3:14-21 | Out with the money changers! Lent 3B, 15 March 2009, John 2: 13-22 | On taking up the Cross, Lent 2B, 8 March 2009, Mark 8:31-38 | News or the real Good News?, Lent 1B, 1 March 2008, Mark 1: 9-15 | Listen to Him! Epiphany Last B Transfiguration, 22 February 2009, Mark 9:2-9 | What do you mean, demons? Epiphany 4B, 1 February 2009, Mark 1:21-28 | Immediately and discipleship, Epiphany 3B 2009, 25 January 2009, Mark 1:14-20 | Right in front of your eyes, Epiphany 2B, 18 January 2009, John 1:43-51 | In the beginning, water and the Spirit, Epiphany 1B, 11 January 2009, Genesis 1:1-5; Mark 1:4-11 | In God we trust, Christmas 2B, 4 January 2009, Jeremiah 31:7-14; Matthew 2:1-12

Proper 17B 2009                           Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23


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


Take traditions in families.  Husband and wife each bring their own traditions and rituals to their marriage and blend them together, particularly at Thanksgiving and Christmas.


There is a well known story about the feast prepared for those two occasions.  In a certain family the tradition was always to have a baked ham in addition to the traditional turkey.  But the ritual seemed to be that no matter what, they cut an inch off each end of the boneless ham and baked in the same pan beside the ham proper.  Finally the newest husband in this extended family challenged his wife and mother and sisters in law to tell him the reason.  “We’ve always done it this way in our family,” they answered.  “It’s traditional.”  His mother in law also pointed out that her mother, the grandmother of the family, did it this way.


When the grandmother was asked, she replied likewise, “Well, my mother did it this way.”  The great grandmother was in a nursing home at a very advanced age, but was lucid.  When they all visited her that afternoon, the youngest husband asked her why she sliced off the ends of the ham before she baked it.  She laughed and said, “My pan was too small and so I sliced off the ends to make it fit.”  Hence a traditional ritual.


We cannot even remember our first touch with ritual and tradition.  There are rituals of celebration when a mother learns she is pregnant.  There is the tradition of the baby shower.  And then usually for Episcopalians and some other Christians, there is the sacrament of Holy Baptism, followed traditionally a decade or so later by Confirmation. 


School years involve other traditions and rituals.  In my day school began traditionally with a devotional and  included the pledge of allegiance.  For many the rituals and traditions of life soon included those of the various scouting or similar programs.  Nowadays ritual and tradition are associated with completion of annual events:  graduation ceremonies for the completion of Preschool to what seemed the most important of all, High School Graduation.  Not to mention other traditions of the high school years:  junior and senior prom, extra-curricular activities, and their rituals.  And then visiting and selecting a college. 


And there are military rituals and traditions that have their origins in the mists of antiquity and are dear to the hearts of many.  Rituals and traditions of birth, life, and death surround us, support us, shape us all our days. 

Ritual and tradition like those at dispute between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees in today’s Gospel remain a central part of the lives of observant Orthodox Jews throughout the world.  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 and traditions of Christianity.


These rituals of Orthodox Judaism come down from the most ancient of times.  They are inscribed – indeed, enshrined -- in the Hebrew Bible, our Old Testament, in parts of Deuteronomy and Leviticus.  This was the only Bible available to Christians until the adoption of the present canon of Old and New Testaments in the 2d and 3d Centuries A.D.


Jesus accused the Pharisees and scribes of abandoning the commandment of God and holding to human tradition.  These laws prescribed in excruciating detail the requirements of human life, from ritual washing to dietary laws,  to what was clean and unclean.


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. 


No longer was it necessary to obey the rituals and traditions of a thousand years earlier for the survival of a small group of tribes in a hostile land.  The Israelites had survived, but they had made the rituals and traditions the object of their worship and not God.   


They used human tradition to control themselves and 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.