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Jarvis Street 3 September 2006

Mark 7:1-23
James 1:22-27
Psalm 15 (HP837)

Once upon a time I was a Policeman and there was no way that I could enforce every broken law I cam across or be expected to know every law that was supposed to be enforced. Like everyone else I had my favourites,  particular bees in my bonnet and from time to time found that the law was inadequate for the situation particularly when faced with domestic violence. I hope that the way I worked was within the Spirit of the law and played a part in maintaining safety, security, peace.

Interpreting biblical law can create similar problems. Do we Interpret the literal word or the Spirit of the word?  Open Leviticus and we will find a whole series of laws some will cause a lot of head scratching viewed from our context others will seem to make sense - but can we pick & choose? Jesus is not just debating cleanliness - but how do we interpret Scripture? and here is a situation which  may have begun as sensible issues about cleanliness but has become the power to include and exclude - Jesus seeks to break the bonds of that system and include everyone - beginning with those who have been excluded. When we engage with Scripture we need to do so with our brain switched on - what is the context, what is relevance then & now, and how is this reviewed in the light of Christ’s gospel

The constants are grace, mercy, forgiveness -  that God gives life to be enjoyed, to be fulfilling and life-giving - if all the law, all the piety produces hatred, conflict, dis-ease amongst God’s people - surely it is not of God, certainly not what Scripture intends for us - so wash your hands - good hygene sense but it will make no difference to your purity before God, watch what you eat - makes good dietary sense - but it will not defile you before God - however to take in hatred, suspicion, abuse will affect the way you think, the way you behave - so take in the love of God, the goodness of people around you and let God's goodness flow from you into a world that needs the love of God.

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