29th August – Andrea’s letter: Trinity Thirteen

30th August 2021

Dear All

I hope you are well, enjoying the recent lovely weather. Last week we had a vestry meeting, here are some dates for your diary.

Saturday 18th September – Cake Walk – Meet at Church 12.00-2.30.  Followed by tea in hall.

Saturday 9th October     –  Rev Kirstin Freemans’ Institution: Cumbernauld (12 noon) & Monklands (5pm).

Sunday 10th October       –  10am Harvest Festival Eucharist followed by coffee, cakes, produce stall

Sunday 24th October     –     AGM after 10am Sung Eucharist

Tuesday 30th November –    St Andrew’s Day  – Patronal Festival Eucharist 7.00pm followed by fish & chips!

Guest preacher and celebrant Bishop Kevin.

We were also going to think about the possibility of having a coffee morning and discuss it at our next Vestry meeting. Its great to be able to plan some social events and festival services again!

Below is a copy of the sermon for this morning’s service. Unfortunately, no YouTube version as there was a technical hitch.  Ill try again tomorrow to download the service.

Trinity 13 2021 St Andrew’s Milngavie

James 1:17-end     Deut 4:1-2,6-9   Mark 7:1-8,14,15,21-23

Today’s readings all have at their core themes of hypocracy and cleanliness. Cleanliness is a matter which is very close to our hearts as over the last 18 months our lives have been shaped by handwashing and sanitising. I’m sure you can all remember at the outbreak of the pandemic we were encouraged to wash our hands at every opportunity at the same time as singing happy birthday to ourselves – twice! Now we can’t leave the house without the armour of a tube of sanitizer and mask.

In years to come we may think this all sounds ridiculous; we may think that already, but cleanliness has and always will play a large part in infection control and so has therefore been a significant feature of our daily habits.

The Jews in Jesus’ time held the view very strongly:  that cleanliness is close to godliness, and they lived by many rules and rituals of purification and cleanliness.  Of course, a level of sanitation is desirable and, as we have said, important for healthy living but in the gospel today Jesus is saying “What about the state of cleanliness of our souls? Clean hearts should not come second place to clean hands” This brings him into conflict with the crowds.

In the passage today the Pharisees in Jerusalem were shocked to see how people in the provinces disregarded the Law of Moses. They asked Jesus to explained how he could let his disciples so blatantly disregard the traditions of their religion. But the Pharisees probably weren’t trying to trick Jesus here.  They were genuinely troubled and understandably so for an institution can become very dependent on its traditions for its sense of identity and worth. That if they were all stripped away like barnacles off a ship’s hull, it might reveal so many holes that the ship would sink.

Jesus responds by quoting the words from Isaiah 29 where God deplores the hypocrisy of Israel. It is a devastating prophecy for God calls the worship of Israel a vain show and her doctrines merely based on human precepts.  Jesus goes on to say, “You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition” Something perhaps we can see in our own church at times?

Jesus then calls the people around him to hear his answer to the specific complaint of the Pharisees about dietary and cooking traditions. He explains nothing which goes into a person’s mouth will defile them – only what comes out of their heart. Clearly Jesus in this passage is explaining the danger of hypocrisy and how easy it is for all of us to fall into that trap.
We don’t have to look very far to see hypocrisy in today’s world. Politically, personally, it’s all there. Practise what I preach, one rule for them and one rule for us, mantras we often hear. But it has been ever thus: from the people of Jesus’ time, through to the puritans and the Victorians, the higher the moral bar is set the further we fall. And fall we do because we are human and therefore fallible.

In our church life it is easy to understand and to perform to a high standard the rituals the traditions and doctrines of a religion We can sing lustily, pray fervently, receive the sacrament faithfully and loyally – rightly so – but the practical application of our Christian faith – the going out into the world

“To love and serve the Lord” as we say in our liturgy is not nearly so clear cut in its prescription and can at times be very challenging and complex. At an intellectual level we may know about God’s love and forgiveness – loving our neighbour. But do we practise it?

James in his letter puts it quite clearly, “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”  James 1:26

In our lives today we may reflect the state of our own souls and what is unclean in our own hearts. So often the barriers we put up which prevent us from “Living as Christ calls us to be” stem not so much from evil idleness or lack of compassion but perhaps from the more complex emotions of guilt resentment, negativity, doubt and uncertainty, and these need to give way to the positive emotions of love, forgiveness, hope and acceptance.

In the responses in the Book of Common Prayer we chant “Make clean our hearts within us And take not thy Holy Spirit from us”

We need God’s spirit. May we pray earnestly for it, for God’s spirit – the Holy Spirit – to cleanse our hearts, transform our souls and in so doing bring new life to us.