Sunday Homily - August 15, 2021 - Inside and Outside


Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10
James 1:17-27
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

I.

I want to tell you a story
 about a very talented man.

The man was a towering 6'6" tall,
 260 lbs.,
  and could throw a football, no joking,
   70 yards kneeling on one knee.

A supreme natural talent,
 he played at the Louisiana State University,
  the LSU Tigers.
   He won the Manning Award,
    the award presented to the nation's best quarterback,
     and was a part of the LSU team that won the Sugar Bowl that same year.

Scouts from ESPN raved about him
 as being on of the most sure-fire picks
  that any NFL team could make in the NFL draft,
   where college players are selected by NFL teams.

He had every physical talent you could ever wish for.
 A true video game player at quarterback.

And with the 1st overall selection of the draft that year,
 the Oakland Raiders took him.

And that's where the story starts going strange places.

This immensely talented quarterback
 holds out of training camp for rookies
  because of a contract dispute over money.
   It gets resolved by him signing a 60+ million dollar deal,
    which at the time,
     was one of the richest rookie contracts ever.

But it gets even stranger.
 Stories start circulating about how this talented man
  is not putting in the work required to be a successful NFL quarterback,
   including this shocking story:

his coaches send him home with some game tapes
 to evaluate and take a look at to prep for an upcoming opponent.
  When he arrives, the coaches ask him which play was his favorite
   and what he thought about the game play he watched.
    He gave them a pretty standard answer 
     and talked about Cover 2 defense that he watched.
      Except, to the coaches alarm,
       the tapes given to that immensely talented player
        were blank.
         And the coaches quickly realized
          they had a man who would lie to their face about game preparation
           and not do the work.

This immensely talented quarterback
 lasted only 3 seasons in the NFL. 

And it was well-known even from the beginning of his career
 that in spite of the God-given talent
  the incredible outward gifts
   could never overcome the inward lack of discipline.

Even though this dude had everything you could ever want on the outside,
 what was inside was what doomed his career in football.

Even though the outside looked perfect,
 the inside was his downfall. 

And while this is of course only a story of his NFL career,
 it should be noted that he is still a football coach in his home state of Alabama.
  And that hopefully he has a wonderful career in that aspect.

But it cannot erase a truly disappointing layer of his life,
 one that I guarantee you he wished he had back.

But it goes to show that the outward appearance
 doesn't indicate what is truly on the inside.

II.

Which leads us to Jesus's words this morning.

Now, I do want to say something before moving on:

PLEASE keep washing your hands. 
 Because Jesus isn't talking about basic hygiene
  in his challenge to the Pharisees and scribes.

Instead, the "washing" in question is actually a reference
 to ceremonial washing.

And this is made clearer by the context of Jesus's own words.

First, notice that the Scribes and Pharisees are speaking to Jesus and his disciples
 in the context of a shared meal.
  And the washing that would happen in the ceremonial fashion
   would be happening immediately prior to the meal
    and in the sight of everyone.
     It isn't like the disciples are coming to eat with obviously dirty hands,
      rather it is the outward show of cleanliness that Jesus is criticizing.

This is made more clear by Jesus's use of ceremonial defilement.
 He says, "It is not what is on the outside that defiles a person"
  again, which is pointing towards something far more spiritual
   than hygienic or physical.

Rather, Jesus is getting after the unbalanced nature
 of when someone's inside doesn't match one's outside.

If you are clean and polished on the outside,
 what good is that if inside is still broken and marred by sin?

Likewise, the letter of St. James this morning
 emphasizes this point in a similar way.

"Do not just be hearers of the Word, but doers..."
 In other words, if we really are sanctified by Christ on the inside,
  the our outside should be in parallel with that reality.
   If we just say pious things or only say that we intend to serve others,
    and yet do not practice what we say,
     what good is that?

But rather, friends, we are called to live in such a way
 that both our outside and inside reflect the same holy salvation
  that our Lord Jesus demands of all of us.

We are to live in such a way
 that our inward life in Christ
  is seen in our outward self.

We are not called to only an outward show
 but rather to a change of heart,
  which will result in genuine expression of our faith in Jesus.

III.

So, how do we begin to live in the way
 that Jesus calls us to live?

Well, I would like to give you two practical ways
 that you can start making this shift in your life.

And it is these two things:
 Prayer and Work.

Now, y'all who know St. Benedict and Benedictine spirituality in the Church
 probably know where I'm going with this one.

Prayer:
 if we say that we love God,
  then we should be fostering our relationship with God
   through daily prayer.

Find ways to say your daily prayers.
 And hey, if you need a place to come start that practice,
  join me right here on Tuesday-Friday for Morning Prayer at 8:30 A.M.!
   Let's listen to God together
    and love God with all our heart.

And second, Work:
 there is a little red box at our Education Building next door
  called the Little Free Pantry.
   This is a genuine place that feeds those who are poor and less fortunate than us.
     Give to the poor who need it,
      do it without letting anyone know.
       Do it to practice following Jesus in serving the least in our community.

In both of these practices,
 practice what the Christian Tradition calls the reciprocal principle
  of Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi:
   "As we pray, so we worship; as we worship, so we pray."

And it is all so that our inside matches our outside:
 that our inward life given only through Christ
  shows truly in our outward actions of service.

That the world may know who we love and serve.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

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