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Homilies from Nola Crewe
17th August 2008


17 August 2008                                        Matthew 15:10-20

Open my heart and my lips to serve my God, Saviour and Companion.                                                                             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 or dishonour.     

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 faithful Jew. 

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 limited water. 


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 everyone.


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