The elephant in the room

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 &

James 1:17-27

“The elephant in the room”

If today is Father’s day, what does that say of the other 364 days of the year? Not that I’m complaining, one day is good considering I’m still trying to work out this “being a Father thing”. In this confusion I went to the good old dictionary. A father is, or can be amongst other things:

– a male parent

– a respectful term of address for an old man

– a male who originates something e.g. the father of modern psychology

– the head of an organized crime family

And my old favourite: the father of a specified kind e.g. the father of a whipping

If you fall into any of those categories it’s your day and as Steve Irwin said to his young girl when she asked him “if she could have ice-cream for breakfast”, “yer, why not, treat yourself”.

Another definition is “fathers of the church” and in today’s Gospel we see some of the equivalent in Jesus day asking him why his disciples were not following in their tradition of washing their hands before eating. To which in reply Jesus starts with “you hypocrites..

With this in mind, each morning this week I’ve been going down to the public toilets, stepping over the people sleeping there and lambasting all the hypocritical “hand washers”. I think I’ve stumbled onto something that can initiate our “church growth”-the church for all the unclean-literally.

Like the Pharisees and scribes in today’s Gospel, I think I’ve missed the point because in my teaching as Pastor Steve the Father of filth, I would become as one with those to who Jesus is talking too and calling hypocrites for teaching “the doctrines and commandments of men” because of all the myriad of laws given to the Jews, this was not one of them, these were human made conditions and rules that excluded rather than included.

The saying the elephant in the room: where everyone is discussing what the problem may be by talking of insignificant or minimal diversions, when the problem-the elephant in the room is right before their eyes but they either are not game, or it’s too big a problem to address.

So Jesus addresses the elephant in the room-the problem is not what enters from outside defiles, but rather what lurks inside. This is not what they wanted to hear but it is hard for us as humans to judge them considering their upbringing within the traditions of the day up and against Jesus’ radical teachings.

Jesus teachings that are just as radical in our world today. Love your neighbour-what the one who is so rude to me, or those at work who lie to win the deal or to get in good with the boss. Be humble-see how far that will get you in the job interview. Be servants to others and look for the good in them-to not play the blame game but have a cold hard look at yourself first-do I have too?

It’s a bit like going to a party-you think all the others are strange, and all the others think you are strange-you might just be the strange one.

A legendary Richmond footballer said it well when as walking off the field after a bad loss and hearing two young players blaming the coach said “the coach is not the problem, you’re the problem, so you do something about it”.

Jesus says forget about washing your hands, the elephant in the room, “the problem is you, us, you’re the problem-so I’ve done something about it”.
I’ve done the work for you, and because of that you are now free of the curse of constructing human ways of self-redemption. (and) by the way, it’s best if you wash your hands so that you don’t catch the flu that’s going around.

And that’s the deal, given that gift of life, Jesus gift of not needing to weigh up our ledger of good and bad things, of not having the pressure of having to do works and deeds, we are then free to go for it. Where it’s not like good works, because it’s not work so to speak-in the freedom of being forgiven as we are, those good “works” don’t seem like work but just an extension of ourselves.

In the epistle today James says we are to be doers of the Word and he is right, but if we read that on its own It’s a bit daunting, but read after the Gospel of John-where John just cuts to the core of the Gospel-justified in faith in Christ alone-James words of do this change from hearing it in the response “if I don’t do this I’m stuffed” to “oh yer, thanks for the reminder”.

I reminder that those in need are loved by God-and that we should go to them, but also a reminder of God’s love to us-and how he comes to us.

Father’s Day, like life can be a day of happiness or a day of sadness. When my dad died, a friend of mine framed the words from Archie Roach’s song “There is a garden”.

“When all the trees have gone, and all the rivers dry.

Don’t despair when all the flowers have died.

For I have heard that there’s a garden somewhere.

When you hear the children cry, when you see them die.

And mother can’t sing a lullaby.

When everything is gone, and when you’ve lost all hope.

And you have come to the end of your rope.

I believe that the flowers will bloom again.

We are young, and we are old.

But what we have can’t be bought or sold.

What we have is Jesus, and he cannot be bought by our good works, and nor will he be sold by our sin, and in that garden where the flowers bloom we will all one day unite.

God tells us there is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, and in Jesus, we have times to love and times to beloved, times to serve others and times to be served by others, because in Him, we are free to do so. Amen.


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