What does it mean to be pure? Merriam-Webster offers several possible meanings for our consideration. The first is “unmixed with any other matter”. This is somewhat of a scientific definition, there is stuff and not stuff and when there is stuff and no not stuff in the container it is pure stuff.
The second is “being thus and no other” as in sheer or unmitigated. Pure evil or pure folly would be two examples of this usage.
Yet again, it could be “free from what vitiates, weakens or pollutes or containing nothing that does not belong”. The pure/clean food movement currently making the rounds (at least in restaurant commercials) would fall in this category.
But what does it mean in a Christian context? What does it mean to be Pure? I think that we have spent most of our time as church people talking and thinking about purity in terms of sex. We throw in a few other things, like language occasionally, but purity in church tends to be code for discussion of our sexual behaviors, outlooks, and thought life.
…is nobody talks about Fast Club.
Or at least so it seems. You don’t hear many people, especially in Baptist Churches talking about fasting. You hear about fasting rather more from our Catholic friends. That’s the whole purpose of Lent is it not? You give up something you like as a sacrifice or to concentrate more on your walk with God. Or you do it as a means to propitiate God, to placate Him, to get Him to notice you or to show Him how worthy you are. Or perhaps it is to punish ourselves, to somehow atone for our own sins. Or maybe it has magical properties as a ritual, like reciting the Payer of Jabez over and over (to cite a more or less recent example of mummery that keeps showing up among Christians).
How about you, have you thought about fasting? Have you fasted? I have to admit that I have never even considered the possibility. I suppose the closest I have ever come to fasting is my traditional abandonment of rutabagas for Lent. I have given them up for as long as I can remember, starting as a teenager, and I have never, ever, cheated. It is not often that I flirt with perfection so I must cherish what little I can find in my life.
You’ve heard it said before that meaning is all in how the text is read. The law is often like that One reading may convince someone the law means one thing and another something else entirely. It takes courts to sort the various possible readings out and even then the meaning is bound up in the way the Judge thought the law should be read.
I think everyone who goes to church routinely, as a matter of conviction about the existence of the God of the Bible believes that the Bible has something important to say. I wouldn’t think that any of them think it’s a bad idea to read the Bible. But how it’s read is the important thing.
I’d like to go back this week to 1 Corinthians 9. Bruce led an excellent and highly charged discussion of this chapter where we focused on Paul’s refusal to take money for preaching in Corinth. It’s natural that we would focus on that aspect of the chapter. What is appropriate for those who work in what we moderns call “full time vocational ministry” to be paid, and just how much of the wealth of this world should be held by the church (however that is defined) and its leaders has always been a hot topic.
It even manages to make it into modern fiction (albeit set in a 14th Century monastery). If you read Umberto Ecco’s excellent book The Name of the Rose , the main character, William of Baskerville (played by Sean Connery in the movie of the same name), travels to a remote Monastery in the Italian Alps to witness a theological trial on the topic, “did Jesus own His own clothes.” This was big stuff in the Medieval world because if He did not, then the Holy Church had no claim on its vast estates and the secular powers and prerogatives it took for itself. The arguments end badly in the book and people burn at the stake. There is a lot of that going on today in a metaphorical sense.
Most of you in this group grew up in church or have been in and around church for a long time. But at one point in your life you were not a Christian, had not been saved and then decided, made a choice, to follow Christ, to become a Christian. How long has it been since you thought about why you did that?
Recently a quote from Victoria Osteen, the wife of Joel Osteen, has caused a stir in Evangelical circles. Below is a video of her statement. Watch it and see what you think. (I apologize for the quality and any ads, it was all I could find)