Sermon for Trinity 10 August 20th 2017

Sermon for Trinity 10

20th August 


When I was reading the gospel for today one sentence in particular jumped out at me.


“Do you know that the Pharisees took offence when they heard what you said?”


Why do you think they took offence?


The initial response of course is that this is all about food laws and how they had put the rules above loving and caring, and here Jesus want to redress the balance.

On that score we may understand why the Pharisees too offence, he was undermining things they had been telling people.


On another hand what Jesus was saying may not have been about ignoring food laws at all and he was just stating the obvious… namely that the stuff we blurt out of our mouths can really hurt, offend and can really spoil how we live and get on with each other.


What offence could be taken at that? After all the Pharisees may well have agreed with Jesus on that point.


Another interesting issue arises in that we hear the Pharisees took offence, who were the Pharisees?


Now I find this angle particularly interesting because there are a number of scholars now that have surmised that Jesus was a Pharisee himself.


We have often lumped Scribes and Pharisees together but in fact this is very far from accurate.


The Pharisees were found out and about in the Synagogues, they were a mixed bunch of people holding a variety of opinions. They were a lay based movement, not priestly based. They may be liberal and ready to think. They learnt through discussion and debate. They loved discussion and airing issues. They wanted to get to the heart of the matter and not to rely on simple tradition or this is the way we do things. Pharisees mixed well and served well the local people, they were found in the countryside and yes indeed even Galilee that seedbed of religious thoughts. Some Pharisees had earned a recognized position alongside the “priestly authority” people like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who we know Jesus got on well with and had mutual admiration I suspect.


On the other hand we have Scribes. Scribes belonged to the ruling classes. They were Temple based and liked sticking to what was right (in their opinion) Scribes and Pharisees did not apparently see eye to eye, yet both groups had a place in the Judaism of the day. Pharisees being more popular and Scribes mistrusted due to their connection with ruling classes.


Rachel made the observation the other day that it was a bit perhaps like lumping The Baptist Church with the Roman Catholic church and suggesting all was common ground.


Another group worth mentioning in Jesus Day were the Sadducees. Again establishment and Jerusalem based. Very traditional Jews who had strong feelings against the Resurrection of the Dead, unlike Pharisees who along with the popular believers did believe in this in the years before Jesus was on the scene.


So it is against a broader picture that I am left wondering why the Pharisees took offence. One though is that Jesus had taken as his own teaching something they were talking about anyway…. Like sharing outside a formal meeting something that had been said before it was agreed.


We know that many of the issues around Jesus teaching were being debated in the society of Jesus day…. How to keep the law in today’s society, how to stay true to God in Todays roman occupied world…. How to be Jewish away from Jerusalem….Was there life after death?


Clearly in any rule governed society, religious or otherwise, common sense can sometimes seem to be ruled out. “Walk the walk, not talk the talk”


I met yet another person the other day who has chosen not to belong to a church because of how she sees the Christian Church behaving towards each other. She felt that being loving and compassionate was the most crucial thing. I did not take offence at her words.


I am left realizing that Jesus did indeed put his finger on the point. People’s words are so often the thing that endures, and they are the things that are hard to move away from or even sometimes forgive. By comparison whether or not we stand or sit at points in our liturgy are meaningless.


Let us take to heart then the need to listen with compassion and to respond with compassion, for it is what comes out of our mouth that defiles who we are.