What Comes out of the Mouth Defiles

The Rev. Robert P. Travis

11th  Sunday after Pentecost Sermon – 5pm and 10:00am Church of the Ascension

Proper 15 RCL Year A 8/20/2017

 

Scripture Text:

Isaiah 56:1,6-8

Psalm 67

Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32

Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28

Sermon Text:

It is hard to imagine a gospel passage,

A set of scripture readings coming up in the lectionary

That fits more perfectly with the events

That dominate our headlines from

The preceding week.

With all that is going on,

Though I have traditionally avoided doing so,

I feel I must speak directly about a political leader.

I hope you will see that what I am doing

Is not to encourage a political position,

But to challenge us to live in a more overtly

Christ-like way in a time when

Some leaders and their followers,

Are distinctly not doing that.


Jesus tells his hearers to “listen and understand,

It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles

A person, but it is what comes out of the mouth

That defiles.”

His disciples tell him that the religious leaders,

The Pharisees, are offended by his saying that,

For his teaching challenged

The traditions and rules they had made,

That kept them separate from other people.

This week Donald Trump made himself

An example of that teaching from Jesus.

After a group of Neo-Nazis, KKK,

And other white nationalist groups,

Perpetrated a violent demonstration,

Of hate-filled rhetoric,

Intending to insult, harm, and belittle

Other human beings because of their different

Ethnicities and religions,

Trump made statements that failed to condemn

This kind of rhetoric,

And because of what came out of his mouth,

He was defiled in the public eye.

As the week progressed,

And he was called to account for his words,

He became defensive rather than apologetic,

And defiled himself further.

What came out of his mouth defiled him

In public so much that members of his own

Party criticized him and tried to distance themselves,

From his remarks, lest they too would be defiled.

They seemed worried that he was like the blind guide,

Leading the blind that Jesus warned,

Would lead to both falling into a pit.

No one wanted to be in the pit with Trump,

And for good reason.

 

It seems that though his words have defiled him before,

When faced with an actual tragedy,

Rather than just the bombastic rhetoric

We are used to, people started to see that

This is truly a sign that,

As Jesus said “what comes out of the mouth,

Proceeds from the heart,

And this is what defiles.

For out of the heart come evil intentions.”

Trumps words revealed,

That he was unwilling to criticize the evil

Hateful groups from the Charlottesville protests

Whole-heartedly, because his heart

Is sympathetic to their cause.

This is something we cannot stand for or tolerate

From a leader,

For we have seen in history what happens,

When a people tolerate such ethnic hatred

In their political leaders.

 

The reading from Isaiah challenges us

To “maintain justice and do what is right.”

And to remember that foreigners who join themselves

To the Lord will also be brought to his holy mountain,

For his house “Shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

This is a vision of the ethnically diverse

Community that God has in mind for us.

 

And the second part of the Gospel,

Shows how in a time when such ethnic divisions,

Were even more pronounced,

Jesus overcame his cultural bias,

Because of the persistence and humble request,

Of a foreign woman.

The woman was a Canaanite,

And in case you don’t remember,

The Canaanites were people who in the history

Of Israel, were always causing Israel to go

Astray from their obedience to God.

They worshipped other Gods,

And Jews were not supposed to mix with them,

Because of the idolatry they practiced.

So Jesus was perfectly justified,

In the 1st century Jewish mindset,

To say that he “was only sent to the lost sheep

Of the house of Israel,”

And to tell her “it is not fair to take the children’s food

And throw it to the dogs.”

But she humbles herself before him,

Taking the words he said,

And turning them to accept that in their world

Of ethnic division, she may be a dog,

But “even the dogs eat the crumbs

That fall from the master’s table.”

This causes Jesus to be surprised.

Her words do the opposite of defiling her,

They raise her in his eyes,

To a woman of great faith,

And he feels compelled to grant her request,

To heal her daughter.

Sure, she could have gotten defensive,

She could have let being offended

Get in the way of her plea to Jesus,

But she had faith that overcame the offense

She might have taken.

 

Having faith is the opposite of being offended.
The Pharisees were offended by Jesus,

And it prevented them from having faith in him,

But rather made them want to get rid of him.

The disciples were offended by the woman,

And it made them tell Jesus to send her away.

Jesus could have been offended by her,

But he allowed himself to be open enough,

To hear her petition.

His faith and her faith and persistence,

Helped him come out of a position,

In which his words may have defiled him,

Into a place of healing,

In which his whole mission opened up

To people who were different from Jesus.

This woman, this ethnically different woman,

Helped Jesus come to the fuller reality

Of his calling,

That he was not just here for his own Jewish people,

But for the healing and salvation of everyone.

 

This is a situation, in which faith

Overcame the ethnic division and offended people

Who were common to that time and place.

 

We are his followers, followers of Jesus,

So rather than just be offended

By what has been happening in our country,

what can we do in faith?

What can we do that will help overcome

the ethnic divisions,

And offended people who are more visible,

Now that our president has given them tacit permission

To come out of hiding

And express their ‘til now unacceptable views in public?  

 

Well, amazingly, and thanks be to God,

There is a small action we can take this very week.

We have been invited by our neighbors

at First Church of God to help provide hospitality

To people in the Champagne Heights housing project,

At a cookout next Saturday.

This is nothing less than a chance

To show our support of racial and ethnic diversity

In our community against those who

Would have us divided.

They are looking for cookies and brownies,

That we can bake.

They need our tables and chairs, for a place to sit.

If anyone has some small party tents,

They can use those for some shade from the August sun.

But most of all, they need us,

People who are different from them,

To be there with a friendly presence that says,

Our differences are less significant

Than our common humanity.

Will you join me in attending this cookout,

As a way of standing against the hate-filled rhetoric

We have heard this week?

 

It is only by extending ourselves,

Perhaps outside the comfort zones,

Of our groups of similarity,

And sharing fellowship with people who are different from us, that we can show that those who espouse

The divisions that lead to racial hatred are incorrect.

 

We can stand up against the groups and forces

In this world who would promote division

And hatred.

But rather than be drawn into their defiling language,

And violent protests,

The best way to stand up against them,

Is through loving deeds,

That bring different people together.

 

Amen

The Rev. Robert P. Travis

Father Rob goes by Father so that he remembers his duty to the people of God whom he serves. He’s been ordained since 2006, serving in Florida and Tennessee and before that served as a youth minister in Long Island, NY. More details