Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

by Crossings

Jesus for the Outsiders
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 17)
analysis by Ed Schroeder

We Apologize for the lateness of this issue. Due to numerous things such as vacation schedules, miscommunication, and missing lectionary schedules, we have missed our assignment to you the readers. So in hoping that you can forgive us, we are substituting an old one done by our good teacher, Ed Schroeder. This one was originally done about 3 years ago. If you wish to check us out this was originally published as Theology #76.
Again please accept our appologies and we will get back to schedule next week with Proper 18.
Peace, Tom Law


Following the traditions of the elders (or of the youngers as today’s culture might dictate) in order to be clean (cool, with it, an insider). Practicing cultic OK-ness inevitably entails excluding those who are not-OK, not clean, not cool.

The generator of such behaviors is the inner malady of unclean hearts–patently needing cleansing–clinging to the cultic in order to be clean. At root it is a false faith.

Culture’s cleansing, even religious culture’s cleansing, leaves its devotees un-clean vis-a-vis God. It amounts to nullifying God’s own word for cleansing human hearts. Jesus’ diagnostic labels are harsh: hearts far from God; vain worship; setting aside God’s actual commands. Judged by Jesus–and God too–cultural cleansing makes its devotees hypocrites. Hypo-critical means sub-critical, not being as critical of one’s self as God’s own critique is, as God’s commands are. At root hypo-crites wind up disputing God’s critique, not just avoiding it. That’s just what our primal parents did when God caught up with them in the garden. Such hypo-crisy leaves one “ochlos” (a reject) with God.


“Listen to me” (v.14) signals the source of Good News for all the rejects, even and especially those whom God rejects. Jesus as the Messiah for the ochlos becomes an ochlos himself. Note Mark’s one and only one word from the cross in his passion narrative, Jesus’ cry of God’s rejection. Jesus undoes sinners’ nullification of the Word of God by letting that Word of God, that critical Word, nullify him. But it is that dying that generates the first confession about who he is (15:39), a confession coming from an ochlos, of course.

Unclean hearts become clean hearts by attending his words “listen to me.” That’s Mark’s simplest rendering for what faith is. When the unclean listen to him, his cleansing work (stage 4) renders them clean. Faith in Jesus is the mechanism of transfer whereby his cleansing become ours. See next week’s Gospel for one of Mark’s classics on faith.

Clean hearts can and do live clean lives, the opposite of the laundry list of vv. 21 & 22. Being a follower of Jesus, the ochlos-Messiah, is a cleansing operation. With hearts cleansed by his laundering, his disciples live counter-cultural lives, cleansing the unclean. Note the root term in the word culture. Cultures are fundamentally cultic. Whatever the cult of current culture calls clean or unclean, Christians speak and live to the contrary. They may even be so bold as to repeat Jesus’ almost scatological inference in v. 19 about culture’s rubrics for clean and unclean. Their way of life follows Mark’s editorial comment at the end of that verse: For disciples of Jesus “all foods are clean.”


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In the early 1970s two seminary professors listened to the plea of some lay Christians. “Can you help us live out our faith in the world of daily work?” they asked. “Can you help us connect Sunday worship with our lives the other six days of the week?”  That is how Crossings was born.


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