22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Proper 17), Year B

Song of Solomon 2:8-13
or Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9
Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9
Psalm 15
James 1:17-27
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

(A Note about this Week's Lectionary Readings: This is one of those weeks when something sort of extraordinary happens in the lectionary - the primary reading from Hebrew scripture is from Song of Solomon...a "wisdom" book that only appears once in the three year cycle (it is the alternate text two or three other times). Perhaps you are familiar with Song of Solomon because it has been read frequently at weddings... It's an interesting book - a collection of love poems of sorts, written in images that could be very suggestive. It is a celebration, pure and simple, of physical forms and of the energy and attraction generated between physical forms. The Rabbis treated it as an allegory about God's love (reverence) for Israel. It was a hotly contested inclusion in the Christian canon (the books that the church recognized as "holy" and "inspired" - books to be revered - that were voted on and affirmed finally and completely (after hundreds of years of use, debate, councils, etc.) by the Council of Trent in 1546 but it had been established as an important work in the Hebrew canon (which, by the way was not established in a way nearly so formal as the Christian canon. The Hebrew canon was arrived at by use - that is, books that were used regularly in worship over tens and hundreds of years were eventually recognized as "canon" for the reason that they had been heavily used (and revered) in worship and daily life).)

We came home after last Sunday's worship service with a few questions (eg. did Clowns REALLY serve communion?), but the primary question was this: "What do we really revere?"

Do you have anything that you hold in deep reverence?

If the answer there is yes, can you explain why that is true?

What does it mean for you (not other people - YOU) to revere something?

Our suspicion is that can take different forms for different people, but it can also take many forms even for one person. We might hold special our marriage relationship in a different way than we revere the holy space of the National Cathedral and that might be different than our reverence for free elections and a free market economy which might be different than how we revere peach cobbler.

There are many situations throughout history and today in our society where one person / group attempts to impose / mandate what others should hold as holy and how. People on both sides of the abortion debate, for example, revere something. Many forms of religion dictate who should believe what and how. In families, parents sometimes strive to dictate what their children will believe, understand and think.

That should be okay, right? How else do we pass on our beliefs?

This week's readings show us some different ways that folks expressed the things they revered and how they hoped others might accept those things.

We've looked at both the primary and alternate readings from Hebrew scripture this week because both illustrate behavior that reflects someone's reverence. In the Song of Solomon, we watch lovers (God and Israel) address one another with terms of affection and endearment, one calling the other to follow in a season of goodness. In Deuteronomy, Moses is addressing the Israelites, explaining that it is the faithful observance of the law he is teaching that will ensure their safe passage into the promised land. But he's not just offering them a safeguard, but he's also suggesting that their obedience should be a grateful response for what has already been done in their lives.

The psalmist provides a couple of models here for reverence. In Psalm 45, the psalmist is overflowing with praise that he/she addresses directly. It's as if this person is overjoyed and knows that the way to exercise that joy is to honor the one who has created it. In Psalm 15, obedience seems to be the avenue. Those who want to dwell in the tent of God will behave in just ways.

The letter of James was attributed early on to James, the brother of Jesus. There is not proof of this, but this is a letter that seems rooted in allegiance to Torah. The letter is largely advice to a community about how to behave. And the particular reading for this week is a reminder that right behavior is a key to God's righteous treatment. The advice is sort of in conflict with Paul's theory that people are justified by their faith alone. James seems to advocate that good works help the process along - but not good works for the sake of gaining something. Rather, he is talking about behaving out of recognition for God's goodness and thereby receiving further goodness.

This week's reading from Mark is a great story about the Pharisees observing the disciples and commenting on their failure to wash before eating. Now...try sharing this with kids. They get that, right? But in the tradition of the Pharisees, there was a lot of ritual - ritual based on Torah - to the everyday things of life, including eating. Food and bodies had to be ritually pure. And it was the observation of the Pharisees that these disciples of Jesus were not keeping the Law in this way. Jesus comes right back at them by quoting Isaiah and names their behavior a keeping of human tradition rather than the Law of God. Now, in all fairness to those Pharisees, we think that they were probably trying really hard to do the right thing -- they are trying to show reverence in their own way -- except that according to Jesus, their way might not be honoring God. And he uses a very vivid image - it's not what is outside of us that makes us dirty, rather it is the things that we choose to do and the behaviors that we choose that are really filthy. Hmmm.

We feel a little bit like we (matt and laura) don't really hold anything in reverence like Moses intended the Law to be kept. And that has us wondering - are we missing out? What do we need to stay true to what we feel called?

Holy One whose name we dare not say out loud because we are not Holy ourselves...
Help us to take something seriously today.
Help us to believe You are worth honoring.
Help us to believe Others are precious and lovely and worth our reverence and respect.
Help us to believe we are your Special Creations that should be treated as such.
Help us to do more than believe these things.
Help us to live as if all of the things and people and special places in our lives were created to honor You.
Help us to take something seriously today...in your Holy Name.

© matt & laura norvell 2009 www.settingourstones.org
we want to share this you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.

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