Sunday 2 Sept 2018: 14th Sunday after Trinity

An American man suffered a serious heart attack and had to have a heart transplant. He woke up to find that he was in the care of nuns at a catholic hospital. When he had recovered sufficiently a nun began to ask him questions as to how he was going to pay for the treatment he had.
The nun asked…"Do you have health insurance?"
The patient replied in a raspy voice…."No health insurance.."
The nun asked …."Do you have money in the bank?"
The patient replied…"No money in the bank."
Somewhat impatient the nun asked…"Do you have a relative who will be willing to help you settle the account for your treatment?"
The patient replied…"I only have a spinster sister who is a nun."
The nun became agitated and announced loudly.."Nuns are not spinsters! They are married to God."
The patient retorted. "Then send the bill to my brother in law.”

In today’s gospel Jesus tells his followers that everyone needs a heart transplant. v21. “out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man `unclean.' "

The question posed by our gospel and epistle today is “How should God’s people live?”

Does God want His people to be religious? To live life according to rules in their own strength? The Pharisees and teachers of the law followed this route. They had over 300 rules that they tried to follow every day. These were man made and not from God. Indeed, some of them went against God’s law. Jesus gave one example of this in verses 9-13.

The Pharisees thought they could earn their way into God’s kingdom because they were Jews and they obeyed God’s laws. This led them to believe that they were better than others, to rely on themselves rather than God, and to judge people whom they felt were not good enough. This included Jesus and his disciples.

There may be a Pharisee lurking in you and me! We may think the way we act is right and that we are better than some people. We may, secretly think that God loves us a bit more because of this. But, Jesus said that our human hearts are corrupted.

21 For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man `unclean.' "

In the epistle James warns about moral filth and evil that can express itself in not listening, quick speaking, anger, and not controlling the tongue.

Jesus summarised the law by saying we are to love God with all of ourselves all of the time and to love other people like ourselves. None of us do this. We all sin and fall short of what God wants us to be and do.

So, how can we get a new heart? James tells us. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3 that he must be born again or born from above. The prophets Jeremiah (24.7, 31.33) and Ezekiel (11.19, 36.26) both looked forward to a time when God would give His people new hearts.

This comes at God’s instigation. He chose and chooses people to give new life to. People who are dead spiritually, who have hearts that are dead to God, are given life through a new heart that enables them to live for God and with God. To know, love, worship, obey and serve Him.

James writes about the freedom in God’s law v25. The law enslaved and condemned the Pharisees. To the Christian the law is an expression of the perfect will of our loving, heavenly father who has saved us. So, we seek to follow this as those who love him and knows that he loves us and wants the best for us and everyone.

Although this new life, the new heart, is through God’s grace, or undeserved favour, it does not mean that Christians are to be passive.

James writes of God’s word. 21 “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”

I mentioned earlier that Jeremiah, over 500 years before Jesus, looked to a time when people would get a heart transplant. 31. 33 ‘This is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, “Know the Lord,” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the Lord. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’

James wrote that we should listen to the word, verse 22. He wrote in verse 25 we should look intently at God’s word, continue in God’ word, remember God’s word.

James not only writes about God’s word, he writes about our words. How we should speak. 19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.

James also writes about our works. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. The orphans and widows were those in need in James’ day. We can add many other categories to this today that represent people in need. God may call us to help them personally and practically. He may call us to help some by giving financially, perhaps through a relief organisation.

How can we respond to today’s readings

If you have not dome so yet, give your heart to God. He loves yo and wants the best for you. He has paid the price for you to have a heart transplant. Humbly accept what he has done for you.

If you have already given your heart to God, continue giving your heart to God. Look intently at His word, continue in it, remember it. And do it. Turn away from the sin that is within you and live in the power of the Spirit. Every Christian has sin in their heart and God in their heart. Paul wrote of this battlefield in Romans 7. We are to continue in God’s grace, helped by His word and His Spirit.

30/8/09 Trinity 11/Proper 17 James 1:17-27,  Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23.