God, may our hearts worship you (Heart Religion)
Reading: Mark 7:1-23
Additional readings: Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14
Object: a stop sign
Are you a person who keep most signs on the road?
For example, when you drive, you see the stop sign.
Do you really stop and look both ways and then start driving?
Or do you try to stop and if you see other car is coming, you just continue driving?
Or when you see various commandments in the Bible, are you trying to obey everyone of them?
Or you just pick and choose.
When I was a young Christian, there was a medical doctor who suggested people should eat only vegetables.
He used various Bible verses to back up his teaching as well.
He was popular in TV for awhile.
And at that time, I didn’t know the Bible very well.
So I thought he was right.
I trusted his stop sign and tried to eat only vegetables.
But it seems my particular body is designed to have meats.
I could not function very well.
So I started to eat meats again.
So today let’s think about that:
What does the Bible say about food?
Does the Bible talk about what we should eat or what we should not?
What does Jesus say about that?
Shall think about that today?
When we read 11 chapter of the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament, Jewish people were told about what to eat and what not to eat.
So even today some Jewish people eat only kosher food.
You know, they don’t eat pork, shrimp, shellfish (조개) and so on.
Now we are Christians.
Should we eat also kosher food?
If not, why not?
Before we go there, let’s see what are eatable food according to Leviticus 11.
Jewish people were told to eat cattle, deer, goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, pheasants(꿩), turkeys.
They could eat Tuna, Salmon, Bass (농어), Cod (대구), Herrings, Red Snapper, and Smelt: 청어, 적도미, 빙어.
They could eat locusts, crickets, and grasshoppers: 메뚜기, 귀뚜라미와 메뚜기.
But they cannot eat other insects.
They were not to eat pig, horse, rabbit (토끼), squirrel, cat, shrimp, lobster, catfish (메기), squid(오징어), crab(게), oyster(굴), camel, and hyrax (너구리).
They were not to eat vulture, kite, falcon, raven, eagle, owl, seagull, hawk, cormorant, stork, heron, hoopoe, and bat: 독수리, 솔개, 매, 까마귀, 독수리, 올빼미, 갈매기, 매, 가마우지, 황새, 왜가리, 후투티, 박쥐.
They were not to eat rat, lizard, gecko, chameleon: 쥐, 도마뱀, 도마뱀, 카멜레온.
These laws were given 1600 years before the time of Jesus.
Did anyone still practice these laws in the time of Jesus?
Yes, the Pharisees kept these dietary laws.
They also added many more traditions along with it.
For example, they washed their hand before each meal.
If someone didn’t wash their hands, their hands are religiously dirty to eat anything.
For them this was a religious ceremony.
When they came from marketplaces where there were unclean stuff, they washed their hands and then they ate food.
Also in order to have clean hands, they religiously washed their cups, pitchers and kettles.
They wanted to use clean pitchers and kettles to wash their hands.
This was their religious duty.
They practiced their religion like this following the tradition of the elders.
So their religion became more like legalistic rituals.
These become more important than listening to God.
These become more important than having clean hearts that are free from envy, jealousy, bitterness and pride.
Those who lived in Jerusalem might have practiced more rigidly.
Then one day the Pharisees from Jerusalem came to Jesus.
But they saw some disciples of Jesus eating food without washing hands!
So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus:
“Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders?
Why do they eat their food with religiously dirty hands?”
Jesus said something like this:
“Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you.
You are hypocrites who just appeared to be holy.
You honor God with your lips.
You worship God in vain.
Your teachings are only human rules and human traditions.
You let go of God’s commands.
So your hearts are far from God.”
Why did the disciples of Jesus eat food without washing hands?
Because Jesus ignored those rituals and tradition purposely.
Following those legalistic rituals and traditions would not make them holy.
These rituals and traditions could not save people.
Jesus freed his students from carrying all those burden and guilt that the Pharisees placed on them.
The students of Jesus understood.
Then now Jesus called the crowd and said:
“Listen to me, everyone, and understand this.
The food cannot defile a person by going into him, because it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.
But it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”
What is Jesus saying about food here? Mark 7:19
The food doesn’t go into our heart.
The food only goes into stomach, and then out of the body.
What does it mean?
Jesus is saying that all foods are clean!
All foods are clean in Christ Jesus, without saying the right prayers over them or washing their hands in the proper way.
So the food can not make people clean or unclean before God.
So it is not what comes into the mouth defiles a person.
It is what comes out of the mouth defiles a person.
All true cleanliness comes from hearts.
So people become holy by washing their hearts.
They are holy when their hearts are holy.
When good thought comes out of our mouth, we are clean and holy before God.
But when people bring out these dirty thought, they are dirty before God.
Evil thoughts are the thoughts of sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly: 음행, 도둑질, 살인, 간음, 탐욕, 악의, 사기, 방탕, 시기, 중상, 교만, 어리 석음의 악한 생각.
When these evil thoughts come out, that makes people religiously dirty.
When I have these thoughts, I am dirty.
It does not matter whether I have been coming to church for a long time or not.
It doesn't matter whether I am a pastor.
I need to ask God’s forgiveness.
I need to pray:
“Jesus, please forgive my thoughts.
Guide me so that I may only have good thoughts.”
Change me us to think your pure and true thought.”
But those who don’t know about this heart religion, may say:
“I have no sin, because I didn’t kill anyone, or steal anything.
I might have wanted something that belongs to someone else.
I might have wanted to do something that is not right.
But that was just a thought.”
When we don’t know God, we may say like that.
But when we know God, we know our hearts and our motives are important for God.
God does not judge our outer appearances.
God judges our hearts.
God listens to our heart and our motive.
When we have truth in our heart, God is pleased.
But we also know that Jesus accepted every sinner.
Jesus freely accepted the outcast, the guilty, the lonely, and those who doubt.
Jesus also accepts us and welcomes us, even though our hearts may not clean.
Then Jesus may try to make our hearts holy.
Jesus may try to make our hearts clean.
Jesus also tries to make the hearts of his first students pure and holy.
Jesus wants their hearts to be holy and full of faith.
So Jesus often asked these rhetorical questions:
Why did you doubt? (Matt 14:31)
Where is your faith? (Luke 8:25)
Do you understand? (Matt 16:8)
Are your hearts hardened? (Mark 8:17-18)
Why are you afraid? (Matthew 8:26)
Why do you worry about that?
Can you by worrying add a single moment to your lifespan? (Matt 6:27)
If even this smallest thing is beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest? (Luke 12:26)
Jesus asked these questions to change their hearts.
Why did Jesus want to change their hearts?
Because then God could use them.
When God chooses people for God’s service, God chooses looking at their hearts.
God uses those whose heart is pure and clean.
God uses those who have gentleness and calmness in their hearts.
God uses those who love others.
God uses those who pray for others.
God uses who who think like God.
So God may ask:
I care about what kinds of thought you have.
Are you protecting your hearts to serve me?
Do you bless people?
Do you have some people that you hate?
Have you forgiven everyone?
Do you pray for your enemies?
Do you bless your enemies?
Do you think like Jesus?
That's what I care about.
Then I can use you.”
We live in the world where other people care about appearance.
We live with those who are busy cleaning the outside.
They dress beautifully.
They have a clean house.
But if they start talking gossips out of wicked hearts, they are dirty before God.
They need to focus on cleaning the inside.
But then some people tend to make a mess of their home.
They may have tattoo and so on.
But now if their heart is clean and pure, then God uses them.
When they believe in God, God can use them.
When they want to serve God with their hearts, God can use them.
Jesus was a homeless, you know.
So his outer appearance might have been dirty according to the Pharisees.
But his inner part is holy.
Jesus is clean inside.
So he is free from sickness, germ and virus.
Being a pastor, I think about how to dress in the church.
I don’t wear clerical dress.
I do not want to wear too formally because then young people may not be comfortable with it.
But then let’s say one day I come wearing jeans and running shoes on the Lord’s Day.
Are you ok with that?
Are you ok that we become a church where people come wearing casually?
So I think about what to wear when I come to church from time to time.
But Jesus may say:
"Why are you anxious about clothes? Matt 6:28
I want your hearts to worship me.
I care about your hearts more than your outer appearance.
I care about what kind of heart you bring to church.”
Being a pastor I heard about some churches argued about various issue.
Some argued about what color of carpet was better for their church.
Some argued about what kind of music should they used in service.
God may not care.
God cares about what kinds of thoughts they bring to church.
If am mad at someone, I need to come to God and pray about that.
Because when I have mean thoughts, I stop God from blessing me.
If I have mean thoughts, God may not come close to me, because God is holy.
So God may guide me to have other thoughts that is ok with God.
God may guide me away from mean thoughts and guide me into good thoughts.
Then as I ponder good thoughts, God may use me.
If I have good thoughts toward others, Jesus may say:
“Now you are blessable.
I can use you.”
Again I may be a pastor, a deacon, a elder.
The title is not important.
If I live with a good and pure heart, God can use me to change the world for good.
God can bless me when my heart is right with God.
So we pray:
“God, guide my heart.
Guide me to have a better heart so that you may bless me.
May I worship you from my heart.
May I think about what you ask me.
May I honor you with my life.
May I see your possibility in me.”
Anyway, today, we learn that all food are clean in Jesus.
We also learn that we don’t want to ponder just any thoughts.
We want to have good thoughts.
We want to imagine along with the holy imagination of God:
We want to imagine God healing everyone, restoring everything and making this church pure and holy until Jesus comes.
We want to be holy before God.
We want to dream God’s dream.
That is our prayer.
Jesus, guide us to think good thoughts.
Guide our heart.
Save our heart.
May we want what you want.
May we serve you and live with you.
In Jesus name we pray.