The Rev. Thomas Nibbe
Sunday, August 29, 2021
Claiming loyalty to God means more than worshipping in church…
…it involves truly serving others…
CENTRAL CALIFORNIA MISSION DISTRICT RETREAT
Just a reminder of how extremely important it is that you
get your registration in ($50 includes food, so forth) to
Teresa Naqishbendi, or me today, Sunday, August 19th…
so you are included in the “Discipleship Retreat” to be held
at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 1165 Seville Drive, Pacifica,
California. There’s a direct connection between this appeal
for registration and the message included in this e-mail.
Yes, Pastor, I will!
a touch of humor
Why shouldn’t we follow the example of a Sadduce?
— because…they’re sad, you see! —
“…observe them carefully, for this will show your
wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will
hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this
great nation is a wise and understanding people’…”
“…The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me
with their mouth and honor with their lips, but their
hearts are far from me…their worship of me is based
on merely human rules they have been taught’…”
“…you who are trying to be justified by the law have
been alienated from Christ…you’ve fallen away from
grace…the only thing that counts is faith expressing
itself in love…”
“Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
—–the one whose walk is blameless—–
who does what is righteous…
who speaks from the heart…
whoever does these things will never be shaken…”
(Psalm 15:1,2,5b – a Psalm of David)
“…religion that God our Father accepts as
pure & faultless is this: to look after orphans
and widows in their distress and to keep
oneself from being polluted by the world…”
“…nothing outside a person can defile them
by going into them…rather…it is what comes
out of a person that defiles them…”
“…do not add to what I command you and do
not substract from it, but keep the commands
of the Lord your God that I give you…”
Would you pray with me?
All honor and praise we offer up to you this day.
Forgive us all our sins. If we ask from the
teart, you are faithful to forgive. You are gracious
and you are wise, and you offer yourself to us
that a very special righteousness might be
imputed onto us…thank you for the bywords
of righteousness and confidence and assurance
that are ours because of your divine perfect plan
for imperfect people just like us who pray to you
this day. We want to return your overwhelming
love for us with our humble offering this day.
We love you, Lord, and we want to please you
with lives devoted to the good and proper things
of life. In Jesus’ name.
In the Mark’s Gospel lesson for today, namely chapter
seven, the so-called official religious establishment
sent their representatives — from their high perch
in Jerusalem to, literally, check up on Jesus. You and
I can run into the same kind of folks in our world today.
The delegation didn’t like what they observed. Jesus
scolded them for focusing in upon religious rules and
regulations, rather than being men of reasonable faith.
These so-called representatives of “true religion” were
merely lost in a pursuit of human perfection, embodied
in a set of religious of rules and traditions…largely for
the sake of looking holy (“more holy than thou” perhaps)
instead of sincerely honoring God the Father and at the
same time, seeming normal…yet…people of God.
The prophet Isaiah (circa 700 BC) had in his time
accused the religious leaders then of doing the
same thing (Isaiah 29:13). Jesus appropriately used
Isaiah’s words to accuse these men. We should never
feel intimidated by religious people who put us down
for living a reasonable, normal lifestyle. Saint Paul
reminds us that, having received Christ into our lives,
we aren’t prisoners of a restraining, confining practice
of religious tradition. We’re called to personal freedom:
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm,
therefore, and do not let yourselves be burdened again
by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1,
In one sense, the predominance of religious tradition
is to Saint Paul a form of slavery. When I first read this
passage, I was shocked…and might I add…mightily
informed by the Holy Spirit. Frankly, I had had the
the wrong idea. I’d been on the side of the Pharisees.
Human perfection and “concentration upon self” had
been my key. Certainly, this had to be the way And,
the harder I tried to be perfect, the more I would
stumble and fall. Eventually, it didn’t make sense.
I finally realized that I was profoundly “lonely” in a
spiritual, as well as social, sense. I was unhappy.
I didn’t enjoy my life. I didn’t feel satisfied. I’d been
been caught, snagged, in a spiritual trap.
Finally, I came to my senses. The Bible set me straight.
God freed me from my personal slavery and gave me
back my life. The seventh chapter of Mark became
a very personal landmark of faith for me.
Before, my pastor had preached, but I had a better way.
Yes. I could make it on my own. I didn’t need God’s way.
I was a touch wiser and better than other people. I wasn’t
aware of what was going on inside of me. The Gospel
(the good news) broke through the prison I had made for
myself and set me free. I’ve never seen a need to return
to my former self…I live for God. I live for Christ. In the
balance, you can observe the holiness within me and
you can see the shortcomings and occasional “fall-backs”.
I was glad at one point in being part of the Billy Graham
Crusade team to hear Graham say, “…the Christian walk
is two steps forward and one back…”
A thought came to mind. Whether we live completely for
ourselves, selfishly, seeking the lower road in life and we
do things that are downright wrong OR on the other hand,
we intently focus upon being humanly perfect, seemingly
without fault in thought and conduct…either way…the
concentration is upon one’s self…in either alternative…
it’s not what God has in mind for us…
the perspective of faith is focus upon God…
that focus upon God is done passionately in
a profound sense of passionate love…
it’s not so much belief in God
as it is a passionate love for God…
“…you believe in God… Good!
…just remember that the demons also believe…
and that’s what makes them shudder…”
“…and we know that in all things God works
for the good of those who love Him, and are
called according to His purpose…”
Jesus suggested that the most important and profound
teaching of the Scriptures is Deuteronomy 6:4,5:
“…Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One,
love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your strength…”
Mark went out of his way to explain these Jewish
rituals because he was writing to a gentile audience.
Before each meal, devout Jews would perform a
short ceremony, washing their hands and arms in
a specific way. Please note. The disciples didn’t
have dirty hands. They angered the religious
leaders by not carrying out this traditional cleansing.
The Pharisees thought this ceremony cleansed them
from any contact they might have had with anything
Jesus said the Pharisees were wrong in thinking
they were acceptable to God just because they
were clean on the outside.
Followers of Jesus become like Pharisees when they
worry that contact with people who don’t have faith
may leave them tainted. They may avoid “worldly”
places where sinners hang out and reject books or
speakers whose ideas don’t conform to theirs.
Christians who have this attitude have a lot in common
with Pharisees. Both would try to stop Jesus from
working in certain places or talking to certain people.
Jesus wants us to go out into the world and make
contact. He didn’t intend for His followers to withdraw,
never reach out, purify ourselves, and basically, sit in
our pew, so to speak…
I’m thinking about a local pastor in town, who doesn’t
drink alcohol himself, but he receives a lot of negative
comment and criticism because he regularly goes
into bars to talk to customers and bartenders as part
of his ministry profile. One day I saw him in a local
establishment. I went in and praised him for boldly
representing his Boss (Jesus) in such a place, and
at the same time, rejoicing in the freedom Christ gives
him to serve in places other ordained types would
never find themselves. Now this kind of testimony
for Jesus is outstanding, and falls in line with the
lesson the Gospel writer wanted to pass along to us.
Hypocrisy is pretending to be something you are not
and have no intention of being. Jesus called the
Pharisees hypocrites because they worshipped God
for the wrong reasons. Their devotion and worship
was not motivated by love, but by a desire to attain
profit, to appear holy, and to elevate their status…
We become hypocrites when we…
pay more attention to reputation than character
carefully follow certain religious practices while
allowing our hearts to be distant from God
emphasize our virtues…but others’ shortcomings
The Pharisees had added hundreds of their
own rules and regulations (613)to God’s holy
laws…(the ten commandments) and then
they tried to force people to follow these rules.
They claimed to know God’s will in every
detail of life. There are still religious leaders
in our day who add rules and regulations to
God’s Word, causing a lot of confusion among
believers. It is a grave error to assume that your
interpretation of God’s Word is as important as
God’s Word itself. It’s especially dangerous to
set up unbiblical standards for others to follow.
Instead, friends, we need to look to God’s Word
alone for guidance about our own behavior, and
then, let God lead others in details of their lives.
Jesus wasn’t against all tradition, but He was
against those who made their traditions as
important, if not more important, than God’s
Word. Good faith traditions shine a spotlight
on God’s Word. They move us to obedient
service. They help our hearts to sing. They
explain and reinforce the God’s teaching…
God’s Word should always be the focus.
Tradition is a means of bringing His Word alive.
As Pharisees interpreted the dietary laws of
the eleventh chapter of Leviticus, they believed
they could be clean before Yahweh because
of what they refused to eat.
In this regard, Jesus taught that sin begins in the
attitudes and intentions of the “inner person”.
Jesus didn’t degrade the law, but He paved the
way for the change made clear in Acts 10:9-29.
At that time in salvation history, God removed
the cultural restrictions regarding food. However,
that doesn’t mean that we should make unhealthy
food part of our food plan in exercising Christian
freedom. It’s good to be “as innocent as a dove
and as wise as a serpent”!
While being concerned about what we put into
our bodies is a good, healthy practice, very few
people are as careful about what they put into
their minds…through what they watch, read, or
hear. Jesus was more concerned about thought
processes and mind-set than about food laws.
An evil action begins with a single thought.
Allowing our minds to dwell on violence,
revenge, lust, envy, or hatred will lead to
sinful actions. It seems such a subtle
inducement of the entertainment industry.
Comments suggest that violent and sexual
movies, etc., don’t have undesirable, negative
consequences. I disagree. The advice of
Saint Paul seems to me to be a great guide:
“…whatever is true…whatever is noble…
whatever is right…whatever is pure…
whatever is lovely…whatever is admirable…
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy…
think about such things…”
Think about these positive alternatives.
How does that match up to what is good
entertainment for you, or me?
So how does all of this have to do with
the Gospel lesson for today? I think Jesus
is masterful in putting this teaching into its
“…don’t you see that nothing that enters
a person from the outside can defile them…
for it doesn’t go into their heart, but into
their stomach…and then…out the body…
what comes out of a person is what defiles
them…for it is from within—out of a person’s
heart that evil thoughts come—lewdness…
sexual immorality…theft… murder…greed…
slander…arrogance…and folly…all these evils
come from inside and defile a person…”
It’s my constant prayer for the members of my
family, my congregation, those others I know
and love, and those I attempt to serve, that we
together may experience the blessing of the
freedom we have in the Gospel message…to
forgive and be forgiven, to be kind and helpful,
to know truth and also know we are able to live
“free and happy”, day by day, under God’s grace.
Have a terrific day!