Sunday, September 02, 2012

Another Mark Against the Shellfish Argument Gets Left Out of the Sunday Lectionary Reading

Some readers may not have heard the shellfish argument as currently used to support same-sex blessings/marriage, but it basically goes like this, “If you oppose same sex marriage because the Bible says it’s a sin, how come I see you eating that shrimp po-boy?”  One of the primary sources for counter arguments against this reasoning was seen in this past week's daily readings from the Book of Acts. This week, Acts 10 rolled by, and we heard about Peter's vision of the unclean foods coming down on a sheet and God commanding Peter three times to "kill and eat" (Peter might have not gotten it the first two times).

Another primary source for counter arguments is found in Mark 7:19 which fell victim to the lectionary editor's scalpel (one of my pet peeves) in this Sunday's readings. Today's readings actually contained two deleted sections from Mark 7 and both will be highlighted in bold type below along with a link to the shortened version that was read to Sunday congregations across the country.

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’ 6 He said to them, ‘Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
“This people honours me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.”
8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.’

9 Then he said to them, ‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! 10 For Moses said, “Honour your father and your mother”; and, “Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.” 11 But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, “Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban” (that is, an offering to God)— 12 then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.’

14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.’

16 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear (curiously v. 16 is left out of the on-line NRSV). 17 When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 He said to them, ‘Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, 19 since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?’ (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 
20 And he said, ‘It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.’(link to shortened version, Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23)

Jesus in Mark 7 seems to be referring to pre-ingestion hygiene regulations here rather than shrimp po-boys or oyster loaves, but Mark did pen "Thus he declared all foods clean," and that is what is interpreted by many to be a foretaste of Peter's vision in Acts 10. Even so, Peter in Acts 10:28 may have been thinking of his recent vision of unclean foods when he says, "but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean" as he sortied out to convert the Gentiles.

Does this mean that the moral code that forbade same-sex intercourse has been superseded?

No, because Jesus makes the point in verses 21-23 that persons are still defiled by violations of those ancient commandments.

Let's face it, the life changing ministry of Jesus and his Gospel is meant for everyone. The sick cannot be healed unless you are willing to get your hands dirty.

It is interesting that Mark 7:19 will not be heard by the Sunday crowd. Nor will they be treated to Jesus' more graphic description of exactly what he means by "things that come out."

So those that buy into the shellfish argument can sleep snug in their pews today and walk away from church unchallenged by the difficult language the Word sometimes throws at us. 

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