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Heartwork

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For August 29, 2021:

Katy Stenta
Heartwork
by Katy Stenta
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

It is amazing how many times officials of various kinds try to use Jesus’ own words to trap him. Time and time again he evades the traps, answering questions with questions, or quoting scripture back at the official and letting them draw their own conclusion. Here is a confrontation about cleanliness and eating.

Jesus, true to form, quotes scripture at them, citing Isaiah’s admonition that lip service is not the Lord’s desire. There must be more than “going through the motions” of cleanliness. Serving God is more about a change of heart than traditions.

In a world where people are shrieking about what the rules are or should be regarding masking and vaccinations, this passage puts into sharp perspective what it is God asks of us. Though we humans ask for rules, laws and rulers, time and again the Bible shows us that humanity does not actually function the best with these structures. These can be useful as guidelines, but if our hearts are not in it, then the entire book of Leviticus will not stop humanity from acting in ways that defile. Jesus was right, “there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” The actions and words that are unworthy of us and God — that is what defiles us.

When we look at the world, at the situation in Afghanistan, and try to trace how we got there in the first place, why we stayed so long, and how we departed, it becomes clear that there was very little righteousness behind what went on in that occupation. Very little, in the end, was solved by the war.

And look at how we are handling the reopening of schools in the South and the battle of the mask mandates. Masks have become practically illegal in some states, because they are insensitive to many school district’s ideals of freedom. In the South, where schools open first in the United States, we are seeing some state rules and policy confront the recommendations of doctors and the CDC for the safety of unvaccinated people — especially children.

Where mask mandates are illegal in Texas, but dress codes are not, one school figured out how to make masks a part of the dress code. In Florida, where masks are not allowed to be mandated, very quickly over 8,000 children have been exposed and put under quarantine, causing school districts to pause and call emergency meetings to reconsider the whole idea that mask mandates are against the rules.

Jesus says, though, that it has never really been about the rules, it’s about the intent behind them. What was the intent behind Afghanistan? Probably to show the might and power and money of the United States after the blow of the 9/11 attacks. Probably to show that we can take control of things, after a tragedy in which we had no control.

What is the intent behind stopping mask mandates in schools? Probably not to sicken thousands of children, that is just an unfortunate — and tragic — side effect. The intent was to show the power of the religious right. The intent was to somehow rise above the educated doctors and liberals, and to expound upon the privilege of being able to breathe freely and to know in one’s heart that one who is an American should never have to inconvenience oneself for another, nor should my child have to. Defilement does indeed come from within, does it not? The rule did not work. The result of denying masks did not show superiority or privilege or stop the coronavirus in its tracks. Similar to the Afghanistan experiment, for which I am not knowledgeable enough to dissect but know enough to see as a failure when I see it, did not have the desired result.

Rules — and even intentions — are not enough to get the results you want. Jesus is saying that you cannot wish things into being. You cannot make yourself righteous with traditions and rules, because they are merely tools to help you along the way. They are not whips to somehow force you into shape. God gave us ten commandments. They are really good. If we work on not doing those: “fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly” then the rest will fall into place pretty well. How are we going to work on our hearts (and not the rules) today?



Chris KeatingSECOND THOUGHTS
Religion That is Pure and Undefiled
by Chris Keating
James 1:17-27

The Epistle of James interrupts the lectionary this week, bringing us a word about purity and faith. While that might cause a preacher to reach for a bottle of antacid, James’ exhortations could not be timed better. From the Taliban to the Internet, conversations about purity abound.

As the Taliban overtook Afghanistan last week, it vowed that it was bringing what sounds like a Taliban 2.0 reboot to the country. Following its lightning fast takeover of the country, Taliban leaders promised to respect women’s rights and forgive those who had fought against them. Spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid promised that women’s rights would be guaranteed “within the framework of Islamic law.”

Mujahid provided few specifics, however, leaving many to wonder about the Taliban’s actual intents in its quest for Islamic purity.

Closer to home, American Christians are beginning to wrestle with the impacts of a shame-based “purity theology” that emerged in the 1990s. A YouTube series premiered in June that explores how evangelical movements such as “True Love Waits” resulted in legacies of toxic shame and self-loathing.  

For Christians, purity of faith has frequently been associated with sexuality. The evangelical purity movement emerged in the 1990s as a part of abstinence-only human sexuality education, a debate that is still underway today. Messages about purity were often aimed particularly at young girls and LGBTQ youth. Whatever their intent, the messages are often received as wrapped in shame.

Christian purity culture is also examined in the recent Netflix’ movie “Pray Away,” a documentary about so-called homosexual conversion therapy. The film’s director says that her intent was to portray the “undeniable pain and drama of the conversion therapy movement.”

"It is a type of wound that never necessarily fully heals for people," Kristine Stolakis said in an interview with Newsweek. "It creates self-hatred in the deepest and darkest of ways while self-harm is such a part of this movement."

Those lesions are deep, however, and certainly not unique to Christianity.

Memories of the Taliban’s violent past and strict prohibition of women’s rights sliced open the unclosed wounds of many in Afghanistan. Women, journalists, and civilian supporters of American military activities feel targeted by the Taliban. The images of mass chaos at the Kabul airport as thousands this week have created waves of emotions for Americans no matter how they may have felt about the military’s presence in Afghanistan. Accounts of thousands of desperate, vulnerable Afghanis fleeing their homeland have  become seared into our minds.

Senior Taliban military commander Waheedullah Hashimi spelled out that the Taliban will govern the country by strict interpretations of Islamic law, and not democratic principles. “There will be no democratic system at all,” Hashimi said. “Because it does not have any base in our country. We will not discuss the type of political system we apply in Afghanistan because it is clear. It is Sharia law and that is it.”

Taliban is a Pashto word which means students. The movement arose following the withdrawal of Soviet troops in the 1990s by making promises to restore peace and unity through a particularly fundamentalist reading of Sharia law. Afghans initially reacted positively to the movement as it weeded out corruption and lawlessness. Soon the Taliban initiated strict interpretations of Sharia law, including amputation for those convicted of theft, restriction of women’s rights, and tolerating the presence of terrorist factions such as al-Qaeda.

The Taliban emphasizes a strict interpretation of Sunni Sharia law, often focused on purity. In 2001, the Taliban instituted a government department in Afghanistan for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice. Just months before the 9/11 attacks, Taliban militants destroyed a pair of 1,500 year old Buddhist statues as a demonstration of its demand for religious purity.

Heart-breaking scenes of babies being lifted into airplanes create a volatile mix of feelings: was withdrawing from Afghanistan the right decision? Shouldn’t this mess have been anticipated? What is the “purity” of faith that we seek?

Along with those questions comes another that rises directly from the first chapter of James. As James calls out the hypocrisy of a religion more concerned with words than actions, the author reminds Christians that the “doing” of faith includes a hefty dose of humility mixed with dedicated serving of others. “Pure” religion flows from a Christ-like commitment to serving others.

Such morality is rooted in the gracious gift of God. It is pure in its humility and ability to live into the integrity of the great commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” It values getting dirty in the world so that God’s grace may wash away stubborn stains.  

The straightforward honesty of James calls out the hypocrisy of a religion that places words above actions. In other words, praxis makes perfect. Or, more humbly stated, less imperfect.

Over a century and a half ago, Harley Proctor decided purity could be obtained simply by washing your hands and face. Proctor, one half of the founders of Proctor and Gamble, sat in church one day in 1879 thinking not about scripture but about soap. When the pastor read Psalm 45:8 (“All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad,”), “Ivory Soap” was born.

But marketing the soap required more than a name. Proctor decided to jump on the spiritual purity movement promoted by evangelists Dwight Moody and Billy Sunday. He took out ads in a Christian magazine extolling the virtues of their new, white soap. Soon journalists chimed in, saying “Wherever there is stainless white cleanliness, there you may find Ivory soap.”

These days, we’re old pros at washing our hands. What seems to be taking longer to learn is the search for a pure and undefiled religion free from the ugly stains of rage, shame, and self-centered righteousness.

A few weeks of reading James may prove helpful.



ILLUSTRATIONS

Dean FeldmeyerFrom team member Dean Feldmeyer:

Mark7:1-8,14-15, 21-23
How to Say Thank You (Words)

Late in July of this year, the Cincinnati Reds were playing the St. Louis Cardinals. Reds pitcher Luis Castillo is on the mound, trying to turn around a season that has not been good to him so far and it looks like this could be the game where he makes that happen.

The Reds were ahead 3-1 in the seventh inning. Castillo has a runner on first base with two outs when Cards outfielder, Dylan Carlson, hits a low arching line drive to right-center field. If it makes it to the wall, the game is tied but, in a spectacular play, Reds center fielder Shogo Akiyama robs Carlson of an extra-base hit with a leaping catch at the fence. Inning over, the Reds go on to win the game, and Castillo is credited with the win.

Castillo and Akiyama are both new to the English language and usually speak through interpreters. This time, however, no interpreter was needed when, in the dugout, Castillo hugged Akiyama, bowed so that their foreheads touched, and said, “domo arigatou.” Thank you.

* * *

Mark7:1-8,14-15, 21-23
What Not to Say (Words)

Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Thom Brenneman shocked viewers of the Kansas City Royals-Cincinnati Reds baseball game on August 19, 2020, when he used a gay slur on-air before the pregame show started.

He said that he didn’t realize that his mike was on when he referred to some unidentified place as the “one of the f** capitals of the world” but the comment went out live over the airwaves.

Brenneman apologized profusely during and after the game but was suspended by Fox Sports. The following week, Fox announced that Brenneman had resigned.

This spring it was announced that he had been hired by the Roberto Clemente League in Puerto Rico as its play-by-play man for the 2020-21 season, a serious career comedown from being the lead announcer for one of baseball’s premier teams, the Cincinnati Reds, all because of one, little, three-letter word.

* * *

Mark7:1-8,14-15, 21-23
One Little Word (Words)

In 1631, the royal printers of London, Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, published a reprint of the King James Bible. Were it not for one little missing word, the publishing of such a common tome would probably have gone unremarked.

That edition of the Bible, however, became popularly known as the Wicked Bible, the Adulterous Bible, and the Sinners’ Bible because the word ‘not’ in the sentence “Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery” was omitted.

A year following the blunder, the printers were fined heavily and were deprived of their publishing license. The majority of the copies were cancelled and burned. Today there are 15 known copies still in existence: 7 in England, 7 in the United States, and one in Australia.

* * *

Mark7:1-8,14-15, 21-23
Eggcorn or Acorn? (Words)

What’s the difference between an eggcorn and a malapropism?

British-American linguist Geoffrey K. Pullum coined the word “eggcorn” following a discussion in 2003 with American linguist Mark Liberman about a woman who had long believed the word acorn to be egg corn. An eggcorn, then, is a wrong word that sounds like the right word but, when used, changes the meaning of the phrase, but only slightly. Examples include: deep-seeded instead of deep-seated; deformation of character instead of defamation of character; and old timer's disease instead of Alzheimer's disease. The wrong word has a kind of logic all its own.

A malapropism substitutes a wrong word that sounds like the right word rendering the intended phrase meaningless. Examples: “It ain’t the heat; it’s the humility.” (humidity) [Leo Gorcey]; "The law I sign today directs new funds... to the task of collecting vital intelligence... on weapons of mass production." (destruction) [George W. Bush]; "The police are not here to create disorder, they're here to preserve disorder." (order)

[Richard Daley, former Chicago mayor].

A “perfect” malapropism substitutes a wrong word that sounds like the right word and, in doing so, creates a meaning that is the exact opposite of the original and intended meaning of the phrase.

Probably, the most common form of eggcorn or malapropism we hear in everyday life is when we misquote the words to a popular song. My daughter used to sing “Just my magic ninja” (imagination) along with my Temptations album and “You make me feel like a man and a woman” (natural woman) along with Aretha Franklin.

* * *

Mark7:1-8,14-15, 21-23
The Road to Rio (Words)

Between 1940 and 1962, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby teamed up with singer Dorothy Lamour to make seven comedy-adventure-satire-musical movies called the “Road” pictures, each containing the phrase, “The Road to…” in the title. The films included in-joke references to other Hollywood actors and jabs at Paramount Pictures, the studio that released the films. There are also frequent instances in which Bob Hope breaks the “fourth wall” to address the audience directly, such as in Road to Bali, in which he says of Crosby, "He's gonna sing, folks. Now's the time to go out and get the popcorn."

In “The Road to Rio,” the fifth movie in the series, Hope and Crosby play two inept vaudevillians who stow away on a Brazilian-bound ocean liner and foil a plot by a sinister hypnotist to marry off her niece to a greedy fortune hunter.

At on point in the film, the not so dynamic duo have convinced a theater owner to hire them and their band, only they don’t have a band so they hire three Brazilian street musicians to pose as Americans. Since the three don’t speak English, Crosby decides to teach them some “hep talk,” popular American phrases that will allow them to pass as Americans.

Each musician gets one phrase. They are: “You’re tellin’ me;” “You’re in the groove, Jackson;” and, “This is murder!” A few minutes later, when the theater owner shows up and wants to shoot the breeze with what he assumes are five Americans, pandemonium ensues as the Brazilians insist on repeating their assigned phrases over and over, without any knowledge of or regard for the context.

3-minute clip. (57:00 – 1:00:00)
* * * * * *

Quantisha Mason-DollFrom team member Quantisha Mason-Doll:

Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Creation is to be rejoiced
Song of Solomon is one of my personal favorites. We don't often preach on the songs of Solomon. We deem them too risky or too scandalous to be preached from the pulpit yet what keeps us from rejoicing the way our religious ancestors once did? In my opinion, the best way to love God is to love God's creation and that means the entire breadth of creation. Have you taken a moment to read a love poem to Creation? I think it would be interesting if we were swept up in the romance and the intrigue that comes with falling in love. Here we see the seductive power of creation calling us to come away. Leave the hustle and bustle of modern life and take a moment to rest. This is a siren song that begs us to allow ourselves to be whisked away and caught up in the profound beauty that is the Lord's creation. If anything the Song of Solomon should be an ignition point to give ourselves permission to see the world for what it actually is: a profound extension of the love that the Lord our God has for us. Conversely, this is also a call to care for ourselves the way creation rests if we want to be as bountiful as the fig tree. If we are to be the first fruits of our Lord then we must be rested, healthy, and strong of body so that we may be able to better carry out the divine call.

* * *

James 1:17-27
Listen so that you may hear.
This is another of those quotable sections of our biblical canon. This collection of words found in the letter of James makes for great wall art or interesting door hangers that announce loudly “I am a Christian and I fear the Lord.” Here in this context fear of the Lord is in reference to obeying God's will and thus God's command. We pride ourselves on being God's chosen. As we hurdle deeper into modernity and questions of what our world is going to looks like after we process the traumas of the past few years we should sit with the words of James and not just look at them. On any given day we process tens of thousands of bits of information. At any given moment we have access to the entire breadth of human understanding and knowledge and we are asked by this world to have an opinion on everything. With that being said, the words of James are more important than ever before. It's not the line about being slow to anger but the section where we are tasked with being quick to listen and slow to respond. We know that anger does not solve anything. All anger does is build a deeper divide. A better understanding comes from taking the time to process information that we have been given. God has called us to kindness but God has not called us to arrogance. God asks that we pause so that we may understand. Sometimes understanding requires you to listen more closely to the things that go unsaid.

* * * * * *

George ReedWORSHIP
by George Reed

Call to Worship
One: Come into the presence of our God!
All: How shall we worship God?
One: Walk blamelessly and do what is right.
All: We will speak the truth from our hearts.
One: Do not do evil to your friends or reproach your neighbors.
All: We will worship God as we act justly to others.

OR

One: Come and hear the word of God.
All: We long for the words of life from our God.         
One: God does not speak just so we can hear the word.
All: God speaks so that we may hear and act.   
One: The word of God is life to those who follow it.
All: We will listen and follow God’s holy Word.

Hymns and Songs
Wonderful Words of Life
UMH: 600
AAHH: 332
NNBH: 293
NCH: 319
CH: 323
W&P: 668
AMEC: 207  

Break Thou the Bread of Life
UMH: 599
PH: 329
AAHH: 334
NNBH: 295
NCH: 321
CH: 321
LBW: 235
ELW: 515
W&P: 665
AMEC: 209  

O Word of God Incarnate
UMH: 598
PH: 327
NNBH: 296
NCH: 315
CH: 322
LBW: 231
ELW: 514
W&P: 670
Renew: 97

O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
UMH: 57/58/59
H82: 493
PH: 466
AAHH: 184
NNBH: 23
NCH: 42
CH: 5
LBW: 559
ELW: 886
W&P: 96
AMEC: 1/2
Renew: 32

When in Our Music God Is Glorified
UMH: 68
H82: 420
PH: 264
AAHH: 112
NCH: 561
CH: 7
LBW: 555
ELW: 850/851
W&P: 7
STLT 36:
Renew: 62

Word of God, Come Down on Earth
UMH: 182
H82: 633
ELW: 510

Jesus Calls Us
UMH: 398
H82: 549/550
NNBH: 183
NCH: 171/172
CH: 337
LBW: 494
ELW: 696
W&P: 345
AMEC: 238

Breathe on Me, Breath of God
UMH: 420
H82: 508
PH: 316
AAHH: 317
NNBH: 126
NCH: 292
CH: 254
LBW: 488
W&P: 461
AMEC: 192

For the Healing of the Nations
UMH: 428
NCH: 576
CH: 668
W&P: 621

All Who Love and Serve Your City
UMH: 433
H82: 570/571
PH: 413
CH: 670
LBW: 436
ELW: 724
W&P: 625

I Am Loved
CCB: 80

We Are His Hands
CCB: 85

Music Resources Key:
UMH: United Methodist Hymnal
H82: The Hymnal 1982
PH: Presbyterian Hymnal
AAHH: African American Heritage Hymnal
NNBH: The New National Baptist Hymnal
NCH: The New Century Hymnal
CH: Chalice Hymnal
LBW: Lutheran Book of Worship
ELW: Evangelical Lutheran Worship
W&P: Worship & Praise
AMEC: African Methodist Episcopal Church Hymnal
STLT: Singing the Living Tradition
CCB: Cokesbury Chorus Book
Renew: Renew! Songs & Hymns for Blended Worship

Prayer for the Day/Collect
O God who is truth and who speaks the Word that is life:
Grant us the courage to also speak the truth
so that we may perceive the world rightly;
through Jesus Christ our Savior.  Amen.

OR

We praise you, O God, because you are truth. The Word you speak is life for us and all creation. Help us to take the courage to speak truth always so that we may perceive the world rightly. Amen.

Prayer of Confession
One: Let us confess to God and before one another our sins and especially when we speak falsehoods and create a world that does not reflect your reality.  

All:   We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. We have not spoken the truth to one another. We have deceived others and ourselves. We have set up false scenarios and pretended that they were reality. We have harmed others through our deceit. Forgive us and call us back to your truth and to your reality. Amen.  


One: God is truth and seeks to find the truth in us. Receive the grace of God and share it fully with others so that we may all know God’s presence in our lives.

Prayers of the People
Glory and honor are yours, O God, because you are Truth. Your Word comes forth and creation comes into being. Your truth is the foundation of all. 

(The following paragraph may be used if a separate prayer of confession has not been used.)

We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. We have not spoken the truth to one another. We have deceived others and ourselves. We have set up false scenarios and pretended that they were reality. We have harmed others through our deceit. Forgive us and call us back to your truth and to your reality.

We give you thanks that we can trust in you, O God. In creation we find your truth expressed in the consistency of nature. Even when we are unable to unlock the mystery of things we know that we can rely on your truth being there. 

(Other thanksgivings may be offered.)

We pray for one another in our need and, especially, for those who find themselves the victims of falsehood. We pray for truth to come forth so that we may live in harmony and peace.

(Other intercessions may be offered.)

All these things we ask in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together saying:

Our Father....Amen.

(Or if the Our Father is not used at this point in the service.)


All this we ask in the name of the Blessed and Holy Trinity. Amen.


* * * * * *

Tom WilladsenCHILDREN'S SERMON
Every Gift Comes from God
by Tom Willadsen
James 1:17-27

After the kids gather at the front of the sanctuary, tell them this story.

When my friend David was a little boy in preschool, when he was about four years old, his teacher told them that every good thing comes from God. She asked the kids to name good things. Can you think of any good things?

As always, putting the microphone in front of a child in worship will be your most prayerful moment of the day.

If they are slow to respond, ask them if they’re looking forward to seeing their friends when school starts again (maybe it has in your community, adjust). Maybe they like ice cream on a hot day, or watching the meteor shower a few weeks ago, or catching fireflies. Maybe ask some of the adults to name some good things.

In David’s class the teacher would ask, “Who made the food we eat?” and the students would answer, “God made the food we eat.”

Who made the stars in the sky?

God made the stars in the sky.

It grew into something of a litany.

Then the teacher asked, “Who made the trees?”

The children answered, “God made the trees.” But David raised his hand and said, “Sometimes squirrels bury nuts in the ground and forget they put them there and trees grow from those nuts.”

The teacher was not pleased and asked David, “Who made the squirrels?”

David knew the answer: “God made the squirrels.”

Every Sunday we sing a song that says “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” Do you know what that means? It means everything, everything, everything is made by God, or made by something or someone who was made by God. Everything.

Will you pray with me? God who makes everything. We thank You for all the things that we enjoy. You are so generous giving us everything we need to live. Help us to see all Your gifts. Help us to remember that You made them all. Amen.


* * * * * * * * * * * * *


The Immediate Word, August 29, 2021 issue.

Copyright 2021 by CSS Publishing Company, Inc., Lima, Ohio.

All rights reserved. Subscribers to The Immediate Word service may print and use this material as it was intended in sermons and in worship and classroom settings only. No additional permission is required from the publisher for such use by subscribers only. Inquiries should be addressed to or to Permissions, CSS Publishing Company, Inc., 5450 N. Dixie Highway, Lima, Ohio 45807.
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P: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.
C: Amen.

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Silence for reflection and confession

P: Gracious and holy God,

Special Occasion

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