H O M I L Y
17 August 2008
Open my heart and my lips to serve my
God, Saviour and
A M E N.
DEFILE – is an obscure Middle English
word that lies at the core of today’s lesson. The dictionary defines
it as . . .
To trample, to make unclean or impure,
to corrupt the purity or perfection of something, to violate the
chastity or to make physically unclean, especially with something
unpleasant or contaminating, to violate the sanctity of . . . to sully
Jesus explained how our bodies are
DEFILED . . .
As often happened, Jesus had been asked
to comment on the laws of the Torah and the rabbis. And to explain why
he didn’t seem concerned that they be observed in the way that was
expected of a teacher, such as himself. Frequently, these questions
were asked by those who sought to trap him into saying something that
would condemn him. On this occasion Jesus was responding to His
apparent lack of concern for the dietary laws of kashrut: what
we think of as eating kosher food.
For the observant Jew, the meat of cloven hoofed animals is acceptable
while oysters and lobster are unacceptable; dairy products can not be
eaten with meat . . . which many non Jews believe to be a good rule to
avoid indigestion; rules for the slaughter of animals mean that it must
take place in a very sanitary, prescribed manner; utensils, pots and
plates have to be segregated and used only for dairy or meat: not mixed.
There are many, many more and these rules are still observed by the
When we read the Gospel of Matthew we
hear Christ telling us that these rules aren’t what they should be
worried about. But He wasn’t saying they had no value. With our 21st
century knowledge of how foods become contaminated when not properly
preserved, and if we examine the rules without attaching the trappings
of sin, disobedience and the lure of the forbidden, we can see that they
are sensible public health ordinances for a people living in a climate
with ultra hot days and cold nights; without refrigeration and with
Clearly, we need to be sensible about
what we take into our bodies: excessive consumption leads to obesity
and health problems; alcohol and drugs lead to the slavery of
addictions. And our bodies, gifts from God are to be cared for, fed and
nourished, exercised and rested, and enjoyed. And to that end we look
to the Bible for God’s intent for us . . . but not for dietary advice.
What Christ sought to teach us is the
difference between what was essential for the soul’s well-being and what
had become strictures to be mindlessly followed as a discipline and
enforced through an almost superstitious observance of laws. He wanted
us to think about what we were doing and why we were doing it. He told
the people that it was not what they put into their mouths that defiled
them: for what they ate, their body would eliminate.
No, what they needed to worry about and
guard against was the same things that we must be watchful about: and
that is what comes out of our mouths.
What Christ stressed was how important
it is to avoid the poisons of lies and hatred, demeaning and hurtful
words, malice and envy that spew forth from our mouths that harms with
mischief that divides and kills both body and soul. His concern was our
lack of control and His desire to eliminate from our heart and mind and
soul the poisons we create and emit.
Goy . . . Mick . . . Wop . . . Hymie . .
. Limie . . . Chink . . . ‘four eyes’ . . . in my childhood, those
words were flung about indiscriminately.
If those words weren’t part of your
childhood, how about . . .
Tubby, tubby, two by four, couldn’t get
through the bathroom door. So he did it on the floor. Tubby, Tubby,
two by four.
I don’t remember how I learned those
words, or why I remember them 50 years later. They must have been
terribly hurtful to the object of those chants . . . but we thought we
were awfully smart saying them.
To-day the awareness of the damage words
can do has prompted schools to bring in policies against bullying and
name-calling and there are great debates about what words can be used in
public or in print. Look at the great debates on TV over the “N” word.
In fact, sometimes it is hard to remember which word is politically
correct this week! We went from the “N” word to coloured to black to
Afro American and now the debate is over whether Afro-Americans can use
the N-word and it is only other colours who can’t!!!
So, while we think we are so
sophisticated, modern and liberal, and oh so committed to human rights
in our debates and use-age: clearly it is not a new concept . . .
since Our Saviour was preaching about it 2000 years ago.
But for Christ, it was not a question of
the harm done to others as much as it was the harm done to oneself in
harming others. When you use your heart and mouth to plot and scheme
and hurt; when you demean and harm others, you are defiling yourself.
Luckily, the solution is all about a
win-win! From today’s readings we can turn our own selfish advantage
into benefits to both ourselves and others.
If we spread love and respect and
admiration we make the world better and ourselves undefiled.
Forgiveness rather than vengeance is so good for us. When we retain
grudges and hatred we not only imperil our soul, but we also keep
ourselves mired in the past grievances and unable to enjoy the gifts of
to-day. When we seek to “get even”, we waste our energies instead of
working toward a fine future.
When we do not forgive, we are risking
our own destiny. For when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to
“FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US.”
Now, just for a minute think about some
of your finest memories. How often were words involved?
Was it a teacher congratulating you in
front of the whole class?
Or you Dad telling
you that he loved you?
Or, your Mother admiring the lop-sided
bowl you made her in crafts class?
Remember how good that felt?
Yesterday, after hours of games and
rides and junk food and wandering through the CNE, I was dragging my
bedraggled self about trying to keep up with the grandchildren. Just
then, my 3-year-old granddaughter, Olivia, turned to me and said,
“Gran, you’re so beautiful!” That thrill is still rattling my toes!
Nothing compares . . .
Be generous with good feelings . . . try
saying something nice to someone just because it will feel good. Tell
the waitress how her smile brightened your day; or thank the bus driver
as you step off; call your best friend and let her know how much her
friendship means to you. It is amazing how purifying it is for you.
When you go looking for nice things to
share, it changes your perspective. Delights pop out at you everywhere
you look. You begin hearing and seeing and thinking differently. You
start seeing wonderful things instead of ugly things. Inside you start
to grow more beautiful . . . or handsome . . . and your soul starts to
shine forth. Which is what Christ told us to do when He said, “ Let
your light so shine before men, that they can see your good works, and
glorify your father which is in heaven”. (Matthew 5:16).
I invite you to test this morning’s
thought. Try letting these words of our Lord turn your hearts to purify
rather than defile your body. And let us all work to fulfil God’s dream
for all of us as we make this world a finer place for you and me and
A M E N