22 Sunday B


Michel DeVerteuil
Textual Comments
Today’s passage contains several sayings of Jesus which are very well known; we must therefore make an effort to read the passage not as an abstract teaching but as a story, letting the message emerge from the interplay of characters.

There are three characters, all representing roles in a human community.
1. Jesus’ disciples are humble people. They are not “respectable” or refined. They do not conform to social norms (“the traditions of the elders”) in how they speak, dress or, in this case, “eat with unclean hands”. In the gospels they are classified as “sinners”, those who “break the law”. To judge from Jesus’ remarks in this passage, they are not malicious, their hearts are not unclean.
2. The “Pharisees and scribes” are those who set the norms, in words and in practice. They observe and teach the rules of respectability, their etiquette is beyond reproach. But they are judgmental of those who do not conform; they do not take time to understand them and in the process they are blind to the fact that they go against basic virtues such as humanity and compassion.
Very significantly, the text says that they have “come from Jerusalem”. The company of Jesus and his disciples is not their home territory; they are out of place among these new people.
3. Jesus as always is the protector of the poor. He sees the greatness and beauty that lie beneath their rough externals, defends them passionately against their oppressors. He is harsh with the scribes and Pharisees, but his harshness (as God’s harshness in the Bible) is because of his concern for the poor.
The movement of the story shows the process by which the Church, and every human community dedicated to noble ideals, gradually becomes set in its ways and ends up accepting the false values of the surrounding culture. The Bible always gives a simple criterion for recognizing when this happens – the poor and the marginalized in a country end up being poor and marginalized in the Christian community as well.
The root problem lies with laws which exist originally to protect the weak but end up on the side of the powerful. Someone like Jesus must come on the scene and expose the “hypocrisy” of the community by standing up for the lowly. The community is then forced to revisit its laws in order to distinguish the true ideals of the community (“God’s commandment”) from the “human regulations” which maintain the status quo.
Every community and movement needs laws and customs, as Jesus always taught; but they must be constantly re-examined to see of they conform to God’s laws.
The passage invites us to recognize God-in-Jesus at work in this way in our Church communities and in the world.
We will recognize him at work within our individual selves too. Often we allow ourselves to be oppressed by so-called “laws” that are not from God but are social taboos (gender or ethnic stereotypes, for example). Now they simply block our true selves (“the heart”). One day Jesus comes into our lives – through a friend, a spiritual guide or a moment of prayer – and rescues us from oppression.
Being God’s instrument of liberation is often the principal role of the counsellor or spiritual guide. It is also the lofty vocation of the moral theologian in the Church.

Prayer Reflection
Lord, we remember times when we felt out of place,
– among people wealthier or better educated than ourselves;
– when we returned to church after staying away for many years;
– because we were not as successful as our brothers and sisters;
– in a strange country where no one understood what we said.
It was like when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come to Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus and noticed that his disciples
were eating without first washing their hands.
We too were made to feel that we were unclean
because we did not respect the traditions of the elders.
We thank you that you sent someone like Jesus who protected us
– one of our parents, an uncle, an aunt or a grandparent,
– a teacher or community leader,
– a friend who understood what we were going through,
– a book that touched us.
They taught us that what counts in life are the things that come from within,
these are the things that make us unclean.
We were able then to recognize what is merely custom
and in fact keeps people far from the truth of themselves.
Lord, forgive us members of your Church
that we focus on being loyal member of your Church and keeping its laws,
while we put aside your first and only commandment of universal love and compassion,
ignoring sexism, racism, elitism, cultural imperialism and religious intolerance,
all these evil things which come from within the worst of the human heart
and make humanity unclean.
Lord, we thank you for sending us Bernard Haring
and other great moral theologians of   our time.
Church discipline had become set in its ways
and was reinforcing the false values of our culture
– laws on divorce and remarriage were weighted against deprived families;
– liturgical rules reinforced the superiority of Western culture;
– seminary studies did not reverence traditional religions of Africa and Asia;
– sexual morality favoured men;
– the laity were deprived of our teachings on mysticism.
Bernard Haring and other prophetic figures were the presence of Jesus among us,
showing that judgements were being passed by an elite,
isolated from the reality of people’s experiences
like the Pharisees and scribes coming down from Jerusalem.
What were called the customs of the elders were rules concerned with external cleanliness
which the humble could not live up to.
Doctrines were put forward as if they came from you
when in fact they were only human regulations;
your commandment of universal love was put aside so that traditions could be upheld.
We thank you that Jesus was in them, calling your Church to listen – all of us –
and understand that nothing which comes to us from outside can make us unclean;
only the things that come from our hearts make us unclean.
francis and homeless 
Lord, we pray that in our parish liturgies
we will give every opportunity to the marginalized,
– allow those without much education to read
– arrange processions in which the disabled can take part
– ensure that foreigners can understand the homily
– give special welcome to those who cannot receive communion.
In this way we will not honour you only with lip service
but our hearts will be close to you, our worship will be precious to you,
and we will be following your teachings, not mere human regulations.
Lord, your will is that we should live with people very different from us
– those of other religions
– ancestral cultures of Africa, Asia, and  Latin America,
– different ethnic groups
– the world of high technology
– the youth culture of today.
Help us not to become like Pharisees and scribes coming to Galilee from Jerusalem,
noticing how others do things differently from us.
Help us to discern what in our culture is merely human regulations
which do not make anyone clean or unclean,
so that we will repent of paying only lip service to the lofty principles we proclaim
and recognise that so much of what we call holy is worthless
and that many of what we call doctrines are only human regulations.

bible study
Lord, we thank you that in our time the Bible has become once more the soul of your Church’s  theology,  enabling us to recognise that many of what we called biblical doctrines  were no more than human regulations.
Lord, we thank you for moments of deep prayer
when you showed us clearly that the laws we were breaking
did not make us unclean because they were only human regulations,
that we could go beyond them and find our purity of heart.
 Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration
We gather here because Jesus has made us welcome. He has called us, he has chosen us, he desires that we love one another around his table.
This is our great religious gathering: we affirm who we are, what we believe, we ask the Father for our needs, and we thank him for our lives and all our blessings.
jesus- calls
So what are the characteristic human qualities with which we should approach God? For many, it is some notion of being ‘clean’, or having observed all the minute rules, having done and said all the correct things connected with religion. Today, Jesus lifts us completely out of that view. In order to be able to stand here in the presence of the Father, we must be people whose lives bring forth good for others, who do not injure others, and who seek to care for others.

Homily Notes
1. This gospel’s message can seem trite to the point of irrelevance. Our society takes three things for granted — indeed, it makes them the basis for much of its thinking about religion in general and about Christian observance in particular. First, active morality is more important than religious ritual. Second, intention is more important than following prescriptions about details: following conscience is the high road to moral integrity. Third, what’s really important in what religious leaders, such as Jesus, have taught is basic human morality: so avoiding murder, theft, and avarice are more important in living a good life than regular prayers or obeying rules on ‘observances’. All that ‘mere ritual’ can be put to one side, so long as we behave morally towards others. There is much truth in all of this — so is today’s gospel simply Jesus’s affirmation of this position?
caring for others
2. If this is so, then this piece of gospel, good news, is not really good news at all! Moreover, in the early communities where this was preached they were careful about regular prayer, gathering for the Eucharist, and conveying a new style of living — so is this gospel really saying that all that activity was really irrelevant, and that so long as people conscientiously followed a way of respecting others, then the ‘religious bits’ were dispensable? That is how many would read or want to read this gospel: care of others is fine, care of the planet is fine, some spirituality (as a private commodity) is fine. But ‘religion’ with its group observances, its gatherings, and its demands is just old hat! And, according to the way that many people read this gospel, it seems that Jesus agrees.
3. Therefore, this is a very good day to point out just how easy it is to hear ancient scriptures, imagine that one understands them, and then go off with totally the wrong idea. The essence of all fundamentalism is to take ancient writings from another culture, another way of thinking and understanding, and to colonise them so that they mean what we think they mean in our culture. Therefore, preaching today should have two objectives. First, to show the gathering just how easy it is to read a text and take completely the wrong message from it — and, thereby, to show them the dangers of biblical fundamentalism. The second objective is incidental: to show how this gospel still has a key message for us, and how we might get at it.
4. Showing the dangers of fundamentalism is something that has to be done in a number of steps.
Step 1: To show that a ‘simple’, so-called ‘obvious”plain’ reading of the text, leads to a contradiction. Namely: if it is the case that the ‘religious bits’ can be just sidelined in favour of being kind to one’s neighbour, why did the early Christians who first heard this gospel — and were in a far better position to understand it that we are — pay such attention to those very religious bits?
Step 2: If the ‘plain, simple’ reading leads to a contradiction (i.e. ‘it just does not add up’), then are we missing something in today’s gospel? We should note that the Pharisees do not accuse Jesus’s disciples of being bad people, nor do they accuse them of being unjust, or even of lacking in holiness. What they accuse them of being is unclean.
Step 3: We still use in everyday life the notions of being just/unjust (this is a quality of individuals); we also use the notions of being caring / uncaring (again, a quality of individuals); and we even, sometimes use the notion of being ‘holy’ — but we tend to think of it in terms of individuals so we say X or Y is a holy person, but we have difficulty nowadays in thinking of a collectivity as holy as in ‘the holy church of God.’
However, we do not use the notion of clean/ unclean as a category for people.
So to understand today’s gospel, we must first discover what the notion of clean / unclean (alien concepts in our culture) meant in a culture that is very foreign to our own.
Step 4: Clean/unclean are not individual virtues, but social qualities: the real danger of someone doing something unclean is not what it does to the person as an individual, but what it does to the whole group to which the person belongs. This is a very different way of thinking to how we think: the whole group is affected by what we think of as purely private actions. The reason that the Pharisees are worried about what the disciples are doing is not because they are concerned for the souls of the disciples, but because they are concerned for themselves! The impure actions of the disciples is making everyone — who is gathered in the same place as the disciples — unclean!
We can barely understand this type of thinking. Perhaps the nearest we come to it is when there is a flu bug about and people are asked to stay at home, not because it will make them better, but because it will stop it spreading and make the larger group unwell. Uncleanness is like a contagion: the whole group suffers because of the carelessness and lack of group awareness and group care of individuals.
Step 5: Knowing that, how are we to understand this gospel? Jesus does not dismiss the notion of uncleanness, he changes the list of actions by which an individual can damage the whole group, and its ability to stand before God as a holy people. The actions of individuals that damage the whole group, its ability to be the people of God, its ability to stand before God and ask for its needs and the needs of humanity (as we will do in the Prayers of the Faithful) and its ability to reflect God’s love to the world is the list given at the end of the gospel.
Step 6: Each hearer of the gospel gathered today (especially clergy in the aftermath of child sex-abuse scandals within the church in recent years) have to ask how his/her individual actions have not only damaged them as individuals, but have had the effect of making the whole people unclean, unholy, unfit to stand before the world as the Body of Christ.
5. Discovering how easy it is to slip into fundamentalism is something that takes most people by surprise: and it is a lesson we have to learn over and over again. Discovering the ‘deeper’ meaning of the gospel — as opposed to a trite message that suits us — can also be a painful surprise: today is a case in point.
Sean Goan: Gospel 
infinite_loveAs we return to Mark we find ourselves in yet another story of conflict between Jesus and his opponents. Here the Pharisees are reprimanding the followers of Jesus for not engaging in ritual washing before they eat.
This is an example of a tradition handed down in Pharisee circles which had come to have the full force of the written Law. Jesus has little time for their legalism and quotes from Isaiah to make his point. This is only lip service to God who does not care about their external observances but who desires a true worship of the heart. A person cannot be made unclean by external factors, eg the failure to observe purely religious ritual; rather we are made unclean by that which comes from within, from our hearts, the source of our moral action.

If a survey were to be conducted among churchgoers in which they were asked for a definition of religion it is unlikely that many would come up with the simple answer provided by James. Coming to the help of orphans and widows would be for many a kind of agreeable by-product of religion whereas James places it right at the centre of who we are and what we do. This is surely a message for today when so many people go to such great lengths in their search for wisdom and the knowledge of God. A religion that can be observed at a purely external level has a certain appeal. It is easy to feel we are making progress and that we are better than those who do not measure up. We imagine that by our own efforts we can come close to God. However, Jesus wants no part in such a sham. He is concerned with the heart and a faith that does justice.
From the Connections:
Today’s Gospel returns to Mark’s story of the Christ event with a confrontation that Mark’s first Christian readers knew all too well.  A contentious debate raged in the early Church as to whether or not Christians should continue to observe the practices of Judaism.  Jesus challenges the scribes’ insistence that faithfulness to ceremonial washings and other rituals constitutes complete faithfulness to the will of God.  He scandalizes his hearers by proclaiming “nothing that enters a man from outside can make him impure; that which comes out of him, and only that, constitutes impurity.”  It is the good that one does motivated by the spirit of the heart that is important in the eyes of God, not how scrupulously one keeps the laws and rituals mandated by tradition.
Through the centuries of Judaism, the scribes had constructed a rigid maze of definitions, admonitions, principles and laws to explain the Pentateuch (summarized in Moses’ eloquent words to the nation of Israel in today’s first reading).  As a result, the ethics of religion were often buried under a mountain of rules and taboos.  Jesus’ teachings re-focus the canons of Israel on the original covenant based on the wisdom and discernment of the human heart.  Such a challenge widens the growing gulf between Jesus and the Jewish establishment.
Faith begins with encountering God in our hearts; our faith is expressed in the good that we do and the praise we offer in the depths of our hearts, not simply in words and rituals performed "outside" of ourselves.
The kind of human being we are begins in the values of the heart, the place where God dwells within — but the evil we are capable of, the hurt we inflict on others, the degrading of the world that God created also begins “within,” when God is displaced by selfishness, greed, anger, hatred.
In the hurts, indignities and injustices perpetrated against us, what is often worse than the act itself is what the act does do us as persons: we respond with suspicion, cynicism, self-absorption, anger, vengeance.  To be a disciple of Jesus is not to let those things “outside” us diminish what we are “inside” ourselves, not to let such anger or vengeance displace the things of God in our hearts but to let God’s presence transform the evil that we have encountered into compassion and forgiveness.  
With the change of seasons, you’ve probably been doing alot of shopping — especially clothes for school and work.
So did you buy the right things?
Will you be wearing the right suits in the right colors and the right styles?  Have you paid close attention to the labels?
Are you wearing the right shoes, the smartest footwear in the coolest colors?
What about your hair?  Is it styled the right way?  Will your cut make you fit in with your team, your company, your gang, your circle?
Have you been listening to the right music, reading the right books, seeing the right movies?  Can you articulate the right opinions?  Know how the political winds are blowing?  On board with the accepted positions on the issues?
Is your calendar set — the right parties to go to, the right meetings to attend, the right places to be seen?
Clothes, styles, labels, music, social rituals and beliefs are important to all of us.  They mark our identity.  Every group of human beings has a tendency to be exclusive; every group wants to know who is on the inside and who is on the outside.  So we adopt “identity markers” — visible practices of dress or vocabulary or behavior that serve to distinguish who is inside the group and who is outside.
And nobody wants to be on the outside.  We all want to be in, we all want to be a part of the scene, we all want to be on the right side.
So mark well.
The Pharisees in today’s Gospel cherish the “markers” that identify them as part of the Jewish community.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  But Jesus teaches that the markers that should identify us as the people of God are “diets” of justice and peace, the cleaning away of hatred and division, tables that are set with places for all, traditions that honor charity and forgiveness.  Our identity as disciples is centered in our hearts, in the spirit of humble gratitude and compassion that we lift up to the Father.  
[Adapted from “Pharisees Are Us” by John Ortberg, in Living by the Word, published by The Christian Century.]


A. Fr Jude Botelho:

In the first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses exhorts the people to heed the statutes and ordinances of God so that they might inherit the land promised by Yahweh. While advising them to follow the laws and commandments of God, at the same time he warns them against adding or taking away anything from what they have received from God. Today's reading reminds the people that they have to be faithful to the written Law and not add their own interpretations and customs to the Law. In our own experience, we know that often in interpreting the law we apply it as we think best rather than as God wants us to live. We can be observing the letter of the law while missing its spirit.

Little to drink

William Barclay, the Scottish theologian, tells the story about an old rabbi who was in a Roman prison. He was on minimal ration of food and water. It was just enough for him to survive. As time passed, the rabbi grew weaker and weaker. Finally, it was necessary to call a doctor. The old man's problem was diagnosed as dehydration. The doctor's report confused the prison officials. They couldn't understand how the rabbi could be dehydrated. Although his daily ration of water was minimal, it was adequate. The guards were told to watch the old man closely to see what he was doing with his water. It was then that the mystery was solved. The guards discovered that the rabbi was using almost all his water to perform religious ritual washings before he prayed and before he ate. As a result, he had little water left to drink.
Mark Link in 'Sunday Homilies'

In today's Gospel, we find the Pharisees attacking Jesus by finding fault with the behaviour of his disciples. They notice that the disciples were eating without washing their hands as the practice of the law demanded, and so they ask Jesus: "Why do your disciples not live according to the traditions of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?" Around that time there arose on the part of many Jews the desire to imitate the ritual holiness of their priests. For example, according to the written law, ritual washing was required of all priests before they entered the temple sanctuary. Its purpose was to wash all uncleanliness so that they could worship God more worthily. Gradually the people began to imitate the priests and wash their hands before praying. In a similar way, the washing before meals evolved. By the time of Jesus the Jews observed these oral traditions just as minutely as they did the written laws of the Torah. Perhaps the idea behind all these observances was noble; it was to make religion permeate every action of daily life. But in the course of doing this, religion degenerated into an activity of performing rituals. Observance of these rituals was equated with pleasing God and they became a yardstick of measuring one's own holiness and a criterion of judging others as well. God was out of the picture and the observances became an end in themselves. Rightly, Isaiah said: "This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me."

Lip Service

A story is told of a Moslem who, while pursuing a man with an upraised knife to kill him, heard the muezzin's call to prayer from the minaret. He stopped, extended his prayer rug, said his prescribed prayers, and then continued his original pursuit after the man he wished to kill. He had said his prayers now he could go about his sordid business. Unfortunately, changing what has to be changed, the same could be observed of some Christians, who while pursuing their sinful activities, may stop to attend church services before getting back to their same old sinful pursuits.

Do we stand for God?

Centuries ago in one of the Egyptian monasteries, a man came and asked to be admitted. The abbot told him that the chief rule was obedience, and the man promised to be patient on all occasions, even under excessive provocation. It chanced that the abbot was holding a dried-up willow stick in his hands; he forthwith fixed the dead stick into the earth and told the newcomer to water it until, against all rules of nature, it should once again become green. Obediently the new monk walked two miles every day to the river Nile to bring a vessel of water on his shoulders and water the dry stick. A year passed by and he was still faithful to his task, though very weary. Another year and still he toiled on. Well into the third year he was still trudging to the river and back, still watering the stick, when suddenly it burst into life. -The green bush alive today is a living witness to the mighty virtues of obedience and faith.
F. H. Drinkwater in 'Quotes and Anecdotes'

The Wrongs of Rites

A disciple once boasted about the effectiveness of his prayers and pilgrimages. His Guru advised him to take a bitter gourd along with him on his pilgrimage to place at every altar, to dip into every holy river and to be blessed at every shrine. When the disciple returned, the Guru reverently conducted a liturgy with the bitter gourd, cut it into pieces, and distributed it as sacramental food. Tasting it he declared, "Isn’t it surprising that all the prayers, pujas and pilgrimages, have not reduced the bitterness of this gourd?" Many people spend much time discussing rectitude of rituals and reinforcement of rites. Isn't it time to stop fighting about rites and rituals and begin fighting for the rights of those orphans and widows mentioned in the Scripture?
Francis Gonsalves in 'Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds'

Their heart is not in it…

A man died recently and went to heaven. He was very happy up there, as he wandered about, exploring the place. One Sunday morning he bumped into Jesus (it could happen up there, just as sure as down here!). Jesus called him over to show him something. He opened a sort of trap door in the floor of heaven, so that the man could look through, and see even as far as the earth below. Eventually, Jesus got to focus his attention on a church, his own local church at home, where there was a full congregation at Mass. The man watched for a while, and then something began to puzzle him. He could see the priest moving his lips, and turning over the pages. He could see the choir holding their hymnals, and the organist thumping the keyboards. But he couldn't hear a sound. It was total silence. Thinking that the amplification system in heaven had broken down, he turned to Jesus for an explanation. Jesus looked at him in surprise. "Didn't anybody ever tell you? We have a rule here that if they don't do those things down there with their hearts, we don't hear them up here at all!"
Jack McArdle in 'And that’s the Gospel truth!'

B. From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:
1. Ritual   washing   using   drinking-water:   
William   Barclay   in The   Daily   Study Bible tells  the  story  of  an  old  Jewish  rabbi   in  the  Roman   prison  diagnosed  with  acute dehydration  which  would have  led  to his death.  The  prison  guards  insisted that  the  rabbi was  given   his  quota of  drinking  water.   So  the  prison  doctor  and   the  officer  in  charge instructed the guards to watch the rabbi  and  ascertain what he was doing with his ration  of water.  They were  shocked to find that  the rabbi  was using almost all his water for traditional ritual washing before prayer  and  meals.  Todays gospel tells us how  the  tradition-addicted Pharisees started questioning Jesus when  his disciples omitted the ritual washing of hands in public before a meal. 
2) Pursuit  of  enemy  not   hindered  by  prayer:  
Barclays  second  story  is  about  a  Muslim pursuing an  enemy to kill him. In the  midst of the  pursuit the  Azan, or public call to prayer, sounded.  Instantly  the  Muslim  got  off  his  horse,  unrolled  his  prayer  mat,  knelt  down and prayed the required prayers as fast as he could. Then he leaped back on his horse to pursue his  enemy in order  to  kill him.  Jesus  opposes  this  type  of  legalism  in the  Jewish  religion  in todays gospel. 

3)  "Put  your  hand  in  Jesus'  hand":    
For  30  years  Mother  Teresa  worked  in  the   slums of Calcutta, India. She worked among the most forsaken people on earth.  You and  I would recoil  from  most  of  the  people  that   she  touched every   day     the   dispossessed,  the downtrodden, the diseased, the desperate. And yet, everybody who met Mother Teresa remarked on her warm  smile. How, after  30 years of working  in conditions like that  did  she keep   a  warm   smile  on  her  face?  Well,  it's  interesting.  She  said  that   at   age   18  she left Yugoslavia to  become a  Christian  servant.  She  said,  "When  I  was  leaving  home,  my mother told  me  something beautiful  and  very strange. She said, 'You go  put  your  hand in Jesus hand and  walk along with him.'" And  was the secret of Mother Teresa's life ever after. (Rev. King Duncan). Most  of us here  have  good jobs. And  we  live in nice homes, and  we have  easy  situations.  But we  don't have  the  warm  smile  on  our  faces  that  this  little  nun, working  in the most desperate situation imaginable, had  on her face. What's the difference? It may  be that  we've never put our hand in Jesus hand. It may  be that  we have  Him only on our lips.
C. From

 1)    Lip Service
 According to the story, Queen Victoria was once at a diplomatic reception in London. The guest of honor was an African chieftain. All went well during the meal until, at the end, finger bowls were served. The guest of honor had never seen a British finger bowl, and no one had thought to brief him beforehand about its purpose. So he took the finger bowl in his two hands, lifted it to his mouth, and drank its contents--down to the very last drop!
FFor an instant there was breathless silence among the British upper crust and then they began to whisper to one another.

All that stopped in the next instant as the Queen, Victoria, silently took her finger bowl in her two hands, lifted it, and drank its contents! A moment later 500 surprised British ladies and gentlemen simultaneously drank the contents of their own fingerbowls.
It was "against the rules" to drink from a fingerbowl, but on that particular evening Victoria changed the rules---because she was, after all, the Queen. It is "against the rules" not to wash your hands before you eat and on that the Pharisees called the hand of the disciples who follow Jesus. But Jesus recognizes their hypocrisy and he quotes from Isaiah, "These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me."

Brett Blair, Thanks to Winfield Casey Jones for ths story

2)    How many of you had "night lights" as a kid?
Can you remember your "night light?" Do any of you still have your "night light?"

What is it about the night that cuts us all down to size? Whatever you felt in the day--loneliness, lostness, despair-is magnified in the night. Thank God for "night lights" -those calming, gleaming points of brightness in darkened rooms that helped muzzle monsters and banish the bodysnatchers.

All you kids present-I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Adults still use "night lights." Only we rationalize them as guidance systems to the bathroom, or emergency lighting systems. Basically though, we are all still afraid of the dark.

Fear of the dark isn't just some childish weakness. It is a genetically ingrained reaction, programmed into our earliest ancestors who struggled to stay alive when the nocturnal predators came out to hunt. Children might fear imaginary monsters, but there are enough real life things that go bump in the night to encourage us to keep a dark-defying light on throughout the wee, small hours...

3)    Melting Mountains of Ice 

William Lloyd Garrison was the greatest abolitionist this country has ever known. He was a publisher of a newspaper called the Liberator, an antislavery publication. Garrison was an angry man, angry with indignation caused by the unbelievably inhumane treatment many of the slaves experienced. He hated slavery with everything that was in him. One day one of his best friends, Samuel May, tried to calm him down. He said to Garrison, "Oh, my friend, try to moderate your indignation and keep more cool. Why, you are all on fire." Garrison replied, "Brother May, I have need to be all on fire, for I have mountains of ice around me to melt." Well, the only way any of us can melt mountains of ice is to be on fire.

The only way Christ can use any of us is when we are driven by a great passion, when we feel or hear his voice within our heart showing us a great cause that needs to be championed. Nothing is accomplished in this world by people who have no passion. That's one reason we need God in our hearts as well as on our lips.

King Duncan, Collected Sermons,
4)    A Person of Good Heart or Excellent Habits

Rev. David Chadwell posed a rather interesting question: Which would you prefer for a next-door neighbor: a person of excellent habits or a person with a good heart? Which would you prefer for a good friend: a person of excellent habits, or a person with a good heart? Which would you prefer for a husband or a wife: a person of excellent habits, or a person with a good heart? Which would you prefer for a child: a child with excellent habits, or a child with a good heart?  

It is wonderful to have a neighbor who conscientiously cares for his property while respecting your property. It is wonderful to have a friend who always treats you with consideration. It is wonderful to be married to a husband who always is thoughtful and courteous, or to a wife who always is gracious in her comments and deeds. It is wonderful to have a son or daughter who shows respect and uses good manners.

As wonderful as those situations are, none of them compare to having a neighbor, a friend, a husband, a wife, a son, or a daughter with a good heart.

When you discuss good behavior, you are discussing the quality of a person's self-control. When you discuss a good heart, you are discussing the quality of the person.

This is the focus of today's Scripture...

5)    Seeing Only the Smoke, Never the Fire

 In Luke 7:32, Jesus observed that this generation is like school children who pipe and their friends won't dance, who wail and their chums won't cry. "There is no pleasing you!" We simply find something wrong with everything.

John Wesley pointed out that every gift God gives man is quickly sullied by human hands. He said every revival comes with defects. So he'd pray, "Lord, send revival without the defects." But then he told the Lord, "If you won't do it, then send the revival with the defects."

Pharisees only see the smoke, never the fire. They complain about defects, never seeing the revival. Negative, critical persons, they are judgmental.  

Stephen M. Crotts, Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost, CSS Publishing

 6)    Tradition Is a Powerful Thing 

Years ago Harry Emerson Fosdick told about a church in Denmark where the worshipers bowed regularly before a certain spot on the wall. They had been doing that for three centuries -- bowing at that one spot in the sanctuary. Nobody could remember why. One day in renovating the church, they removed some of the whitewash on the walls. At the exact spot where the people bowed they found the image of the Madonna under the whitewash. People had become so accustomed to bowing before that image that even after it was covered up for three centuries, people still bowed.

Tradition is a powerful thing. The Pharisees had learned to substitute tradition, custom, habit for the presence of the living God. Traditionalism rears its head in many ways, in many times and in many places.  

King Duncan, Collected Sermons,

7)    Fault-Finding 

Shakespeare said, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet." Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? I'm sure it would. You see, the truth is that the thing is what it is, not what someone calls it. Names are assigned to us, based on our outward circumstances by ourselves and other people. "Sinner, Failure, Stupid, Dummy, Unclean" all are names which label us. But what we are called, either by others or by ourselves does not determine who we are. It might speak of those external circumstances, but it might be wholly inaccurate. You see, a failure is not someone who fails. In reality, the people who fail the most are the ones who succeed. You only get to success by taking risks and risk-taking brings many failures along the way. A failure is someone who simply doesn't try. No, names do not determine who you are. You are who you are on the inside.

So, the first important lesson is that we must cultivate the inner person.
The inner person is the person who counts. The apostle Paul desired that we
be strengthened in the inner man.

It boils down to relationship. We are only as strong as our personal relationship with Christ. 

J. David Hoke, The Inside Story, Mark 7:14-23.

 8)    The Shoeshine Boy

A certain downtown businessman became fond of the little boy who shined his shoes every day. He did such a good job that one day the businessman asked him, "Son, how come you are so conscientious about your work?" The boy felt complimented. He looked up to the man, and said, "Mister, I'm a Christian and I try to shine every pair of shoes as if Jesus Christ were wearing them."

The businessman saw something genuine in the shoeshine boy. Soon after that he began reading his Bible. When he decided to be a Christian himself, he credited his decision to the little boy who shined every pair of shoes "as if Jesus Christ were wearing them." That's a blessing. 

Charles R. Leary, Mission Ready!, CSS Publishing Company.
9)    Which Flowers Are Real? 

The queen of Sheba came to visit Solomon, and one day she put him to the test. She brought artificial flowers so perfectly formed that no human eye could detect them from real flowers. She put them in a vase on Solomon's table, in his throne room next to his flowers. As he came in, the queen of Sheba is reported to have said, "Solomon, you are the wisest man in the world. Tell me without touching these flowers, which are real and which are artificial." It is said that Solomon studied the flowers for a long time and spoke nothing, until finally he said, "Open the windows and let the bees come in."

There are ways to tell the artificial from the real-let the bees come in; they will know where the real is. If we live with the authentic Jesus long enough, we will recognize the artificial when we see it.  

Brooks Ramsey, When Religion Becomes Real  

10) Amazing  family  tradition:  

 Isaac  Ole  had   heard  from  his  grandma stories of an  amazing family tradition in his family.  It seems that  his father,  grandfather and great-grandfather had  all been able  to walk  on water on their 21st birthday.  On that  day, they'd walk  across the  lake  to the  boat club for their first legal  drink.  So when  Isaacs 21st birthday came around, he and  his pal  Sven took  a boat out to the middle of the lake.  Ole stepped  out  of  the  boat and  nearly  drowned!   Sven  just  managed to  pull  him  to  safety. Furious and  confused, Ole went  to see his grandmother.  "Grandma," he asked," it's my 21st birthday, so why  can't I walk  across the lake  like my father,  his father,  and  his father  before him?"  Granny  looked into Ole's eyes with a broad smile and  said, "Because your father, grandfather and  great-grandfather were born in January  when  the lake was frozen and  you were born in hot July!"

11) The  Jewish  tradition:  

Late in the evening, the young Jew knocked at the door  and  asked as an elderly  man  opened the door.  "Sir, what time is it?"  The old Jew just stared at him and did  not  answer.  Sir, forgive  me  for disturbing you at  this time, said the  young Jew, “but I really want to know  what time it is.  I have  to find a place to sleep.  The old Jew said, Son, the inn on the next street is the only one in this small city.  I don't know  you, so you must be a stranger.   If  I answer  you  now,  according  to  our  Jewish tradition, I  must  invite  you  to  my home.   You're  handsome  and  I  have  a  beautiful  daughter.   You will both  fall  in love  and you'll  want to  get  married.   And  tell  me,  why  would  I  want a  son-in-law  who  can't even afford a watch?