Matthew 15: 10-20
I’m sure you are all aware of the recent announcement by our General Conference that beginning January 1, 2009, corn will be considered unclean. This is a rule declared almost unanimously by the board of Church and Society. It was declared in response to a number of issues:
Corn is assumed to be a food that increases the human body’s resistance to insulin. In short, eating corn makes one’s blood sugars go higher, promoting the onset of diabetes.
There is a great danger inherent in the cooking of corn for the purpose of it popping. Flying hot oil is an unnecessary danger, and the promoting of heart healthy popcorn is seen to be a lie, since the only way that popcorn can taste good is by using oils, salt, and butter.
Corn is a crop that takes an unnatural amount of fertilizer and water to grow.
Most of the corn grown in the world is grown for feeding livestock instead of people, so it is reasonable to assume that corn is not a food fit for humans.
This reasonable attitude is also supported by the fact that corn has recently spiked in price as it has become a raw material for making fuel for automobiles.
Corn syrup is seen as a contributor to the high rate of ADHD in children, especially young males.
United Methodists are encouraged to desist from the consumption of corn and corn products. Therefore this afternoon’s corn roast at Center Moreland will instead be a broccoli and tofu roast.
General Conference hereby creates a commission that will review of the consumption of beef, pork, wild caught fish, poultry, and all wild game, and a board has been constructed to study these issues in the next quadrennium. During these studies, all United Methodists are encouraged to eat oatmeal and spinach and the aforementioned broccoli.
Now, of course there is no anti-corn declaration. All of the things that I listed above are concerns among food scientists about corn, but no one has made the radical step of banning corn. So this afternoon, Center Moreland can eat its steamed corn in joy and comfort!
Jesus had a point in this morning’s scripture. While there can sometimes be reasons to avoid foods because of personal issues or allergies, or parasites, it is an individual decision, and there is no food that can actually rot the soul of a person. Not even alcohol is evil—it is our over consumption of it, and our refusal to avoid it among those for whom it is unhealthy, that is evil.
No, the evil in the world comes not from what we eat, but by what we think. All food passes through our mouths, and digestive systems, and as Jesus so delicately puts it, into the sewer. But what goes the other direction, the stuff that comes out of the mouth is what defiles. How we talk to each other, how we talk about each other. This is what defile means:
1. to make foul, dirty, or unclean; pollute; taint; debase.
2. to violate the chastity of.
3. to make impure for ceremonial use; desecrate.
4. to sully, as a person's reputation.
Can you think of anything more defiling both to the speakers and the subject than breathlessly reporting on a gossip website the latest misfortunes of pop singers and movie stars?
No, what defiles is how we speak to and about each other. Jesus says “from out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.” These are what defile us, not what we eat. Food can be defiled, but it cannot defile us.
When we speak ill of others, we defile them just a little. Now it is possible to honestly disagree with a person or a group, and generating a list of issues with that person or group is not defiling them; but to call into question their humanity, their right to exist, is defilement. One can disagree with people. One can reasonably have a worldview or opinions that differ wildly from each other. But to take your opponent and portray them as stupid, or evil, or any other way than as a fellow child of God, is not our way as followers of Jesus. Even when Jesus spoke in anger, he used words that described attitudes, like hypocrite, not descriptions of people, like idiot.
What comes out of our mouths is what defiles. The way of Christ is to live as much in harmony as possible with others, not based in an effort to be nice, but because in the end, those whom we disagree are children of God, created in the image of God, just as we are. And, as we do not wish to be degraded by others because of our politics, our ethnicity, our gender, or our employment, so to we should not do so to others.
The evidence of Christ in our lives is not in the rules that we have created, or in the people we associate with—the evidence of Christ in our lives is how we talk about, treat, and interact with those who are most definitely NOT us.
The evidence of Christ isn’t in how we avoid corn, or meat, or venison, or pork, or even tofu. It is how we share it. It is in who we eat it with. It is in what we talk about when we eat it.
So enjoy whatever it is you have for lunch today, and may your conversations over that food be, as John Wesley used to describe his conversations, holy.