Sermon March 20, 2022: Jesus Changes Our Traditions (Lent 3)

Image by Ivy Dawned via Flickr; Suit via MaxPixel

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, please click on the link below to watch the entire worship service as a video on your home computer, tablet or smartphone:

Link to Video:

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/690099006

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c3eYn1VFHiP

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If you would prefer not to view the video, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP: Please recommit your life to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord with the Centering Prayer:

Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help. I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life. Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not. Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature. Help me to serve you as I am gifted. Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood. I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

HYMN 467 Trust and Obey
Trust and Obey by The Vagle Brothers
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KB4KcleYiWM

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference, living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; taking this world as it is and not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN 621 Be Present at Our Table, Lord
Purduettes – Be Present At Our Table, Lord
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zl2pj1-std0

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: Jesus Changes Our Traditions
Matthew 15:1-20, Mark 7:14-23
Series: When Jesus Changed Our Mind

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Saturday Video AudioWesley Sermon Audio

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SERMON NOTES

Matthew 15:1 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If any one tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is given to God, he need not honor his father.’ 6 So, for the sake of your tradition, you have made void the word of God. 7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.'”

Mark 7:14 And he called the people to him again, and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him.” 16 * [No text] 17 And when he had entered the house, and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.”

Matthew 15:20 These are what defile a man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”

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HYMN 462 Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus
Alan Jackson – ‘Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus (Live)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFdrQcfLT9g

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

BENEDICTION: Please recommit your life to the service of Jesus as Lord with the words of The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life
Amen

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

from that time, it says Jesus began to preach, never stopped saying, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And if the Kingdom of heaven is at hand, if it’s here, right now, life is going to change because God has a plan. And where our world does not match the plans of God, there’s going to be something different happening.

I don’t know how familiar that picture is to you, but that’s a group of ladies standing on the steps at that doorway right there. Some of you may be related to someone in that picture! I picked it because it’s a beautiful example of a simple truth. Once upon a time, everyone knew how to dress for church. Once upon a time, everybody knew what Christians looked like or were supposed to look like. Once upon a time, everybody knew that we sang this kind of hymns and we read this translation of the Bible. And the way our culture, our tribe does it, that’s the way it ought to be, because our traditions come out of who we’ve always been and what we’ve always done. And if you spend time with people, you will find yourself adapting to what they consider normal. As somebody once said, the favorite words of any church anywhere are, “This is the way we’ve always done it before.”

And for some of us, we have the feeling that there are good old days and they bring us great warmth and joy to consider them. Tradition is still alive and well in our culture today.

Let’s play a little game Where’s the crowd going to line up? Are they going to line up to buy expensive medicine? Are they going to line up to change their lives so they don’t need surgery, they don’t get sick? Which one do you think is going to be popular? Well, I can tell you the traditional preference. We want to ignore our health and then make the doctor fix it, even if that costs us a lot of money. Human nature.

Let’s play a game. Which one’s going to be popular? A reassuring lie or an inconvenient truth? What’s human is to avoid the truth that makes us feel bad. So most people would go for reassuring – to be honest. Maybe not you, I hope, but many, many people.

You see, one of the biggest problems we have in life today is that most people only want to hear what they want to hear. And if you only listen to people who agree with you, you become more and more certain that you’re absolutely right about everything. Where is this most common? Every teenager. Teenagers are absolutely certain! But the people who try to lecture teenagers and make them be different, they’re absolutely certain, too. It takes a great strength of will to be willing to listen to people who don’t agree with you, when really what you want is the comfort of someone telling you that you’re right.

And, you see, that’s the voice of tradition. It tells us what we’re familiar with, what comforts us, what we really want to hear. And so for the scripture today, really, for almost every verse in the New Testament, for life in the Church, we are also tempted to go with what’s popular, with what is familiar to us, with our religious way of doing it, the way we’ve always done it before. And it rarely occurs to us that Jesus might say, I need you to do something different than you’ve always done before.

And so in the scripture today, the Pharisees are saying what you need to focus on is washing your hands. We all know that’s good. But what Jesus says to us this week, just like the sermon was about last week, Jesus says to us, seek first the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of this world. Seek first God’s righteousness, not what tradition says is right, because if you do that, then all the other stuff will fall into place if our hearts put God first.

But tradition keeps pulling people back toward the way we’ve always done things before, even if it’s not working. We’re in Matthew 15 today, the scriptures on the back of your bulletin if you need it. Then the Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem … Now we assume Jesus is out in the wilderness. He’s some great distance from the capital city in Jerusalem, but the scribes and Pharisees, a delegation of leaders of the Jewish religion, seek Jesus out to criticize.

Verse 2: Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat. That was a big deal for the Pharisees. It was a custom. They would always wash their hands before they eat because they did not want to defile themselves by something unclean entering their mouths. Remember the Jewish kosher rules, you don’t eat pork. There are all these foods you don’t eat. So you wash your hands to make sure that that’s not even on your fingers.

And apparently, the disciples didn’t do that because Jesus doesn’t even disagree with them. He goes on and changes the subject, and he says and why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition, for God commanded honor your father and your mother? It’s one of the ten Commandments. And he who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die. But you say, if anyone tells his father or mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.

Now, let’s understand what this means. Part of the commandment to honor your father and mother is to be there to care for them in their elder years in times of need. But one of the traditions in Jewish society was that if you had an intention to give this amount of money to the temple, once you dedicated it to the temple, once you said, “This is given to God,” nobody else could touch it. You’re going through bankruptcy; they can’t touch what’s been given to God. You’re being sued; they can’t touch what’s been given to God. And so Jesus says, “What your mother and father needed, in a sense, you’re stealing from them to give it to God.”

So, verse six, “For the sake of your tradition, you’ve made void the word of God.” If you look in Mark chapter seven, where the same event is talked about, the word corban is used.
And apparently, for Jesus’s words to be valid, there were people going through and saying, “Well, this is corban, and this is corban, and this is corban, and this is corban. And, oh, I’m sorry, bill collectors. I’m sorry, people I owe money to. I’m sorry, mom and dad, because the temple outranks your need to have that.” This was a tradition. Wasn’t in the scripture. And it’s called corban.

Jesus goes on to say, “You hypocrites. Well did Isaiah prophesied of you when he said, ‘These people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines, as commandments, the precepts of men.'”

It’s very interesting. Jesus changes the subject. The Pharisees come and say, “Let’s talk about washing hands.” Jesus says, “No, let’s talk about the commandments and how you invalidate the commandments with another tradition.”

And then Jesus changes the subject abruptly again. Mark 7:14, He called all the people to him again. And he said to them – and this, by the way, is a parable – “Hear me, all of you, and understand.” And the parable consists of this one line. “There’s nothing outside a man which, by going into him, can defile him. But the things which come out of a man are what defile him.”

So Jesus changes the subject again and says this to the whole crowd. What does this mean? And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable, and he said to them, “Then, are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from the outside cannot defile him since it enters not his heart but his stomach and so passes on?” Now, this is the private explanation given to the disciples but notice what Mark says it means verse 19: “Thus he declared, all foods clean.” In other words, Jewish people don’t have to eat kosher anymore. It doesn’t matter whether it’s pork or beef.

I don’t know if you know this or not, but the Old Testament rules say you can’t eat a calf boiled in its mother’s milk. In other words, you do not bring together in a dish a parent and a child, because that’s cruel. Therefore, Jewish people won’t eat cheeseburgers. And Jesus says, “Go ahead and eat the cheeseburgers. It doesn’t matter.” Now, let this sink in. What we eat is one of the strongest rules of Jewish tradition. And Jesus says, “It doesn’t matter.” Because Jesus is King of Kings, He is King over all the traditions and we need to seek his Kingdom and his righteousness.

And in his Kingdom, cheeseburgers don’t matter the way they do in Jewish tradition. This is an astonishing statement. Now please note also – because it doesn’t matter – you can still avoid eating cheeseburgers. You can still avoid eating pork. It doesn’t matter what you choose to eat from a spiritual point of view because it just goes in your stomach.

But it’s what’s in your heart that’s important. And so the King of Kings says, “My Kingdom is a Kingdom where hearts are important.” And he said, “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man from within. Out of the heart of man come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, all commandments, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.” All these evil things come from within. And what’s already inside of us, pouring out of us, that’s what defiles a human being.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the only thing that came out of your heart was love and joy and peace? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the only thing in your heart was kindness and patience and gentleness? Trustworthiness, faithfulness, self-control? Jesus is saying, “What I want you to do is pay attention to the heart and not traditions like what you eat, what you wear, what you spend your money on.” We talked about that last week.

Matthew, of course, is a little more conservative. Matthew says in verse 20, “These are what defile a man. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” And so Matthew brings it back full circle.

The parable gives a warning to the people, but there’s not an explanation. And after the people get the warning, the crowd sorts itself out. As Michael Wilkins in the new International Version Application Commentary says, “Those in the crowd who are unreceptive to what Jesus is saying will turn away from this saying to follow the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.” They will line up at the table that says what’s really important is washing your hands. “While those in the crowd who are responsive, who are receptive to the words of Jesus, will respond by following him, by becoming his disciples, and seeking to understand further through his teaching.”

So Jesus changes this topic because what the Pharisees want to talk about is not what Jesus wants to talk about. It’s not important in terms of the kingdom that Jesus is telling us about – because what’s really important, brothers and sisters, is the state of your heart.

So let’s change the subject, just like Jesus did, and talk about the heart. There’s a pastor by the name of Bert Lancaster, who’s in heaven today, but he was one of my role models. And he was famous for looking over his very large congregation and saying, “There’s a broken heart in every pew.” If you think about that, it’s true. No matter how crowded the church is, there’s a broken heart in every pew. There is within a person a hidden core of suffering. And it’s all dressed up for church so that it looks really nice and pretty. But underneath that suit, underneath that good looking, highly polished exterior, there is a broken heart and a place that hurts. And quite often, it’s all wrapped up with a secret for a companion.

And that’s what Jesus wants to talk with you about today. Not whether you’ve washed your hands, not whether you have eaten the proper foods or whether you’re dressed the proper way. Jesus just wants to talk with you about your heart – which, all too often, is a heart that’s broken.

And friends, what we need is a focus on hearts today. They need to be our priority. We need to get away from all the arguments about washing hands, about the right hymns to sing, whether there ought to be guitars up here or no guitars allowed or there’s even a denomination that doesn’t allow instruments at all. We need to get away from all those arguments about traditions, no matter how much we love our traditions, because we need to talk about our hearts. We need to get away from hiding our hearts behind the way we’ve always done it before and traditions, this human tendency we have to dress up what is ugly inside and to hide it. Because if somebody noticed it, they might show compassion to us and we might be healed. If somebody noticed how much we were hurting, they might begin to pray for us. And when there’s something terrible within us, the thing that we secretly want the most is for no one to see it, for no one to know.

There’s a broken heart in every pew that fills up with suffering, and it’s often caused by a secret hurt. But let’s be honest. It might not actually be your heart. It might be the person who’s sitting ten feet away from you. Or maybe even on the other side of the church. But is your heart the kind of heart that is ready to pray for people to find wholeness? Seek first His righteousness, His wholeness. Is your heart the kind of heart that would pray for someone else to see that Jesus’ way is better and will help heal their heart? We need in the church to focus on the heart.

So let me ask you this question. How is your heart today? And that’s when everybody wants to talk about how clean their hands are because they washed them just before church. That’s where everybody wants to say, “Don’t you like my Easter bonnet?” But friends, sincerely, how is your heart today? There’s all kinds of hymns we could have sung, one after another after another, that remind us of this:

Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrow share?
Jesus knows our every weakness.
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Friends, you can trust Jesus Christ with your heart no matter what is in your heart. And you can trust Jesus Christ with the heart of the person that you feel you want to pray for because you see how much they’re struggling. You can trust Him with their hearts.

But if we get lost in our traditions, if we let our focus be on the way we’ve always done it before, if we let our focus be on whether we’ve washed our hands or any one of one hundred other rules that we think are important, we may lose sight of the fact that – whatever it is for you – Jesus can help you right here, right now, and today. Seek first His Kingdom, His way of doing things. Seek first His righteousness, His rules, His wholeness, His healing, and you know everything else – all these things – shall be yours as well … if we put Jesus Christ and our hearts at the front of the line.

Lord Jesus, help us to be the kind of church that the Scripture talks about, and help us, Lord, to be more than the kind of church that people out there think that we are.
Help us to be more than a church that people think is all about rules and asking for money and long sermons and all the other artificial versions of religion.
But Lord, help us to be a church that cares about the human heart because people matter to God. And how they feel– whether they’re hurt or suffering or whether they’re angry and yelling, how they feel is important to God.
And Lord, help us to be a church that is aware of the human heart within each of us and within people around us, and to know that Jesus loves us and loves them. Help us, Lord, to turn away from what tradition says is right and wrong and begin to pay attention to what’s inside our hearts so that our hearts might more reflect the way You are. And Lord, we pray that your presence, your healing presence, would grow within our hearts.
Help us, Lord, to let go of everything that distracts us from Jesus being Lord of all. And we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

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