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30th August 2015 - Revd. Preb Maureen Hobbs

Proper 17
Mark 7.1- 8, 14, 15, 21-23 A meditation by Judith Dimond

Hands are always a fascinating way into thinking about God and his relationship to us. Perhaps because our hands are so distinctive - they are individual and they mark us out among the animal kingdom... the fact that we - along with a very few of our primate cousins, have opposable thumbs, has probably been a bigger influence on evolution than almost any other human feature. And hand say a lot about us; about the work we do; about the values we share. We like to hold the hand of those whom we love. What we do with them matters to us. And hands feature strongly in our Gospel reading for today...

Gaze on Jesus' hands wiping the dust of the journey away.
Large, tough hands, rough from years of carpentry; prone to splinters, cut from slips of the saw, nails blackened from a slipped hammer.
Hands that poured water for friends, drew in the sand, distributed pieces of fish; that hauled the ropes on the boat, pulled up the nets, and lit the fire.
These hands would have been scarred long before the cross. Now these hands are stretched out to touch you, to reach you where you are, or to point the way.

His hands would feel warm yet light, for they won't force anybody to go in a particular direction. Is he waving hello or goodbye? Though these proffered hands may be grubby, grasp them and never let them go.

Consider how fond we are of our human traditions and how often we teach human precepts as doctrines. 'But we've always done it that way', we whinge from the back pew when the new vicar slightly changes the service - as if the service is there for our satisfaction and not for God's glory.

We are unwilling as ever to leave our comfort zone.

But it is more dangerous than that when we argue that our prejudices are God's law. It was done to justify slavery; it was proclaimed to support apartheid. Yet the hearts of those who clung to power and riches could hardly have been further from Jesus.
They could scarcely have been more defiled by the rejection of their sisters and brothers in Christ.

This sort of earth-bound worship, Jesus tells us, is quite in vain. We may as well pour out our prayers into the drain along with the shower water we used to make ourselves clean - or so we thought.

Contemplate the evils that come from within: the pride that deafens us; the hypocrisy that blinds us; the greed and envy which keeps our western economy functioning yet withers the rest of the world by our excess. (Don't get me started on our response to those who come desperate to improve their lot by moving to this country.... and which commentator was brave enough to remind us that Mo Farah - now called the greatest athlete this country has seen - came to the UK as an 8year old child, a migrant from Somalia)

We may not recognize our defilement as burglary and murder. But surely our rape of the natural world is a form of theft?

Think about slander, and all the hurtful words we will have spoken over our life. How they pile up, making an iron barrier between us and Jesus.

They defile our soul and stain our nature.

Bring these failings to God in penitence.

There was no defilement in Jesus. Nothing he did rejected God's ways or harmed his creation. Everything he did was honest and positive, helping others towards fuller, cleaner lives.

As we desire to imitate him

Lord, forgive the way I fool myself into believing
My preferences are sanctioned by your word.
Forgive the times I judge others
Because they don't do things the way I think they should.
Cleanse my heart, my thoughts and speech,
Of all that defiles your image within me.
Help me day by day grow more in your likeness. Amen