The Third Sunday after Pentecost

We are still ‘pandemic sensitive’ I think. We are more used to masks than ever before and will wear them more often now. (I still carry some with me on my travels.) Perhaps we still wash our hands that bit extra or more often. (Yes, I still carry hand sanitizer with me most times.) The patterns of our behaviour going to church or worshipping online and Bible Study and even church meetings have changed so that overall, we are less physically together now than before. Depending on one’s employment, work is much more hybrid with working-from-home now far more common than it was pre-pandemic. We are possibly more aware of the medically vulnerable than before and act accordingly in how we relate with them. Despite the conspiracy vaccine deniers, the evidence and practice of the vast majority of people mean that we are more resistant to the virus and most of life has returned to a normality but, as I mentioned, we are now ‘pandemic sensitive’.


No one wants to get sick. We are more aware of what goes into our bodies – food, vitamins, medicines – just as we don’t want disease entering. Here in the UK – and in many but not all parts of the world – we are part of the recent generations of people who have not overly feared the devastating effects of germs, insect bites, and disease. When we talk about defilement of any sort we default to thinking not to let the infection – whatever is bad – get to us – get into us. We want to protect ourselves from others – they are the ‘enemy’.


The ancient world knew about illness, defilement, desecration too. I think it interesting that Jesus recognised the evil in the world but turned defilement inside out by saying that people should be vigilant not to allow ‘evil’ to enter … not us … but the world through us! Jesus was talking about “evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21,22). His perspective is that, by nature, people are sick – that is why they need a physician. Human rebellion towards God and human desire to be god – to have others ‘orbit’ us so that we can impact and influence them – gives us the perspective of me-first and if-I’m-not-careful-others-will-get-me and so we produce a world defiled from God’s plan and full of fear, injustice, and winners and losers. Just as no one wants to get sick, no one wants to lose – not really, not in something that counts for them.


When we wore masks, yes, we protected ourselves but because the virus was unknown, in so many ways, it was always more that we were protecting others should we be infected. However society changes post pandemic, I hope that we keep that perspective – that our behaviour is always about doing what is best for others. If we have a cold or flu we don’t want to share it and when we find in ourselves the things Jesus talked about it, then we don’t want them to become words and behaviours we do towards others. We can talk to God and go to the doctor about a cold or flu. We can go to Jesus and seek Christian counselling and support about the sin lurking within. And Jesus will remind his people that what lurks within no longer defines them because in Baptism they have a new identity – they are in Christ – children of God – and Jesus then forgives them and gives them daily strength not to follow such inner impulses but rather to follow Jesus and what he says about how to live. And the goal remains always living so that those around us are blessed and not hurt.