Pentecost 14 Sermon: The Evil Within
Proper 17B/Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
30 August AD 2015
Title: The Evil Within (MP3 Audio)
Summary: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?”
“The Shadow knows!”
This introduction to a famous program from radio’s golden days set the stage for a crime fighting hero with extra-human powers. Today, however, we realize that it doesn’t take a super hero to delve into the corrupt hearts of humanity. No, those paying attention to Scripture soon discover what evil lurks within themselves.
We may try to hide, ignore, or overcome natures corrupt from conception and birth but hearts stained by sin cannot bear anything but corrupt fruits. We can’t make ourselves “clean” in God’s sight when our hands, our hearts, and our lips are covered in iniquity.
We may fool ourselves — and even deceive others — but the Lord sees the truth: Not one person possesses the innate righteousness, the pure heart and the right spirit, that God demands of anyone who would come into His presence.
Yes, Jesus is that glorious, holy, life-giving exception. Out of His heart proceed love, blessing, forgiveness, and peace. Nothing of His substance is unclean, unrighteous, unholy. And out of compassion for fallen mankind, He who neither knew nor possessed any evil paid for our wickedness and dealt sin a death blow on the cross.
His righteousness now belongs to us as gift. It wraps us up and covers over our hearts of evil. By His sacrifice and by His Father’s declaration, we are righteous in God’s sight. But it doesn’t stop there. Instead, the Holy Spirit, working through Word and Sacrament, constantly works to grant us the pure hearts and right spirits for which we pray.
The Spirit leads us to faith in God — and to more fervent love for others. Daily, hourly, constantly, hearts inclined toward iniquity are turned toward holiness. The desire to be God’s children and to act as such is strengthened, opposing our regular attempts to take over the process and live by our own righteousness.
Not in this life will the struggle end. However, we are assured that we who trust in Christ and rely on His merits to regularly cleanse our hearts will awaken in the Resurrection completely sinless in heart and mind, in word and deed.
Text: And [Jesus] called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”
And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable.
And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)
And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Mark 7:14-23
Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of the Proper 17B sermon The Evil Within
NB: For some reason, a few people have had problems trying to play the inline audio if Windows Media is their default MP3 player. If this occurs, you can either change to QuickTime or another default browser player, copy and paste the link directly into a selected player, or download it to your computer, where it seems to work regardless of which player. Several folks have suggested VLC Player from VideoLAN.
Other Readings: Psalm 119:129-136; Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9; Ephesians 6:10-20
Illustrations: Three panel cartoon from Agnus Day: The Lectionary Comic Strip. Line drawing from Art of the Church Year by Ed Riojas, available through Higher Things Store.