Friday, August 31, 2012

keep it simple Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Jesus in Mark 7 fits right in line with the ancient prophets of Israel like Isaiah and Micah.  They taught that what matters most in religious life aren't ritual actions. What mattered most for Jesus is the content of a worshiper's heart. Jesus was trouble for the Pharisee's who looked with scorn on his friends. They saw their unclean hands and eagerly wagged fingers. The ancient fathers wouldn't have approved they said chiding Jesus and his friends.

Read Mark 7:1-8 the animosity is palpable. Jesus met the hypocrisy of the pharisees head on. He knew that the heart of the worshipper mattered then--just as it does today. And He gave a really clear direction to us today as his followers in Mark 7:14-15. Focus more on what come out of us than what comes into us. It's a challenge in our age to look not with scorn on the world but to start by looking at what we say and do first. In Mark 7:20-23 Jesus' point is most clear to pay attention to what is coming out of you to know the state of your heard. The trouble with the Pharisee's was never their religion--rather it was their hearts and what came from inside of them. The church like the religions of the pharisees has long been filled with traditions, rules, and rule keepers. And Jesus confronted the pharisees as he would likely confront the ruler makers of the church today with strong words. Look at your heart. Repent of the ugly things.  Turn back to God from the inside.

Worship is a Heart Matter, A few years ago a church in England put away it's instruments, band, and sound system for a season.  Their pastor challenged them to focus on God in their midst rather than on what they could do.  As David Schrader tells the story one of church's member, Matt Redman, wrote inspired by the experience about coming back to God.
When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come / Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart… / I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, Jesus
There's a challenge for the church today--just the same as it was in Jesus day. Keep worship simple.  In fact we are invited to live out our worship focused on God present in our midst. As a pastor I've committed my life to Word and Sacrament ministry--keeping Christ present in the Word of God, the Bread and Wine in Communion, and the water of baptism. Everything else--as important as it may seem today--might very well fade away: but Jesus present in Word, Bread, Wine, and Water will not fade.  Many pastors seem to run scared today uncertain of the future--but with confidence We ought to move forward trusting that God is working in us and our churches today.

Keep it Simple our faith and our salvation as Christians starts and ends with trust in God.  And we like to make it complicated.  But the truth is we are saved by faith.  Put aside the religious actions--what's at the heart matters.  And for Chirstians faith is about confident trust in Jesus.  We add extra steps and hoops to jump through--but God in love saves those who believe.  Religious leaders especially invent disciplines and ritual practices for believers--but Jesus saves those who believe no those who fulfill every religious command.

I've been intrigued this week by a question David-Heim asked several theologians. How would you summarize the Christian faith?  Limit the number of words you use to a small number: like 7 words.  How do you explain what we believe and know about Jesus and who we are as the church in light of his saving death and resurrection?

Like Jesus confronting the Pharisees Heim is asking us in churches today to think clear and simple about faith in Christ.
here's my attempt to answer Heim's question.

Jesus died and rose freeing all believers
love one another as Jesus loves you

What's yours?

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