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Year B, Ordinary 22 (Proper 17, Pentecost +15), 2018 – Foul!

August 31, 2018 / Molly Douthett / Ordinary Time

Greetings!! We are glad you’re back! David is in Los Angeles for a few days and had some time to join me for today’s podcast. We will be taking two weeks off after this one, though. We intend to be back with a show for Ordinary 25 (Proper 20, Pentecost +18). Meanwhile….

Unwashed hands prompt the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees in this passage from Mark. The Pharisees see the disciples eating without first ritually cleansing. “Foul!” cry the Pharisees. I know some people who would echo the Pharisee’s disgust at the disciples’ lax hygiene, but their reason for it would not be the same. We modern people would be thinking about bacteria and food borne illnesses, but the Pharisees would be concerned about purity. What’s the difference? Infection makes you – well – not well, but you get over it after a couple days of unpleasantness. Ew, foul.  But becoming impure is a risk to your participation as one of God’s people; if your impurity is too dire to overcome, you will be cut off from the community. A couple days of illness can be overcome. Being cast out of your only system of support could mean death.

But, Jesus also calls foul. This story in Mark’s gospel presents Jesus objecting to the excessive application of restrictions initially put in place as spiritual guidance. If the law is more important than people, the law has become a hindrance to people finding a place at God’s table. What defiles a person is the evidence of what lives within a person and getting rid of that infection is far more important to Jesus than keeping people away from God’s healing grace. Jesus wants our hearts to be enveloped in God’s heart which is holy enough to withstand and cleanse our unwashed hands.


This week’s text is:

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 20-23 [01:58]

The Lectionary Committee took scissors to this passage, which presents a challenge to preaching, let alone finding illustrations and special effects! We muddled through, though, only occasionally stepping into the holes. In WORD smart, try illustrating unclean hands with Lady MacBeth’s famous soliloquy. David tells a story about the guru’s cat that could be another illustration or a way of demonstrating how reasons for traditions can be lost in the keeping of a tradition. For an EYE smart special effect, bring in items that can and cannot be washed. Don’t forget more esoteric items like personal histories and souls. We turn to The Matrix for a MATH smart illustration. Morpheus urges Neo to learn to think differently – not just outside the box but as though there is no box in the first place. We have two illustrations for BODY smart. The first centers around a thought from Ched Meyer’s book Binding the Strongman and the second is from an old Palmolive commercial. 

We have a selection from the Adi Granth, the holy writings of the Sikh tradition, as a MUSIC smart illustration. We also have two music videos for a special effect. We did not use NATURE smart, but did say we would have links in the notes, so see them below! We have three illustration for PEOPLE smart; the first comes from an essay at Journey with Jesus, the second from the PC(USA) ordination vows, and the third from the experience of encounters with overly zealous adherents to healthy living. For a SELF smart illustration, see the final mediation at Edge of the Enclosure. For a special effect, we have some questions to guide self examination.

  • Smarts – Word [06:17], Eye [09:23], Math [10:34], Body [12:16], Music [14:19], People [16:42], Self [19:46]
  • Mark 7 worksheet
  • Links in Mark


Image Credit: Copyright: ljupco / 123RF Stock Photo. Used by permission.


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