Roman Catholic/Methodist/URC - 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Anglican - Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 17
Song of Solomon 2:8-13 or Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9 * Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9 or Psalm 15 * James 1:17-27 * Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Today we get back to the Year of Mark, after our Summer detour into John ( what a pity that this fantastic passage and one of the few which is read year in year out in the cycle, ends up in the Summer hols when we know our congregations are lower ! )
The Pharisees are out to trick Jesus again but as usual he is too wise for them and refuses to fall into their trap. His swift answer must have surely sent them away thinking "foiled again !"
The passage from Deuteronomy has something to say to us as an ecumenical grouping, about tradition and custom, again something which can get us in knots in ecumenical discussions. We often look at the traditions which another denomination has and don't quite understand them and where they came from. There is always the temptation to think that another Christian group has "added" to what was given by God in terms of customs. However, the adding and taking away of customs, especially in the liturgy is something which has been going on since the start of the Church. If a First Century Christian attended any of our Sunday services then they would see some elements they recognised, but others they wouldn't. Liturgy is constantly evolving and that in no way is a contradiction to Moses' command to the people of God. If we don't understand why another denomination's worship developed in the way it did, the best way is to go and see and ask ! ( I'm off to Mells Group today )
What is important though in the context of liturgy is what Jesus quotes from Isaiah. There is always the risk that our liturgy is "lip service", that we get so hung up on tradition and custom ( and don't get me wrong they are important! ) that we loose sight of what our Sunday liturgies are. They are not only our weekly act of worship of God Almighty, but also the public expression of all that goes on in our Christian lives for the rest of the week. If we leave the building and the liturgy has no effect on us, then we have offered "worthless" worship. Sunday worship is the celebration and thanksgiving for the week past and the thing which sets us up for the week ahead. It should encourage us to live publicly all week, what we do behind closed doors for an hour on Sunday.
In my own Catholic tradition, Mass does not end ( there is no Amen at the end ! ) but is a beginning, and as Deacon I send the congregation out "To love and serve the Lord". Today, I encourage you as you leave worship, to make a conscious effort to do that. Sign up for one of the FACT activities going on in the coming months ( or if you're reading this later get in touch with someone and sign up the contacts are on this site ) If you do you won't be falling into the same trap that the Pharisees did.