October 1, 2000

Mark 9:38-50

John said, "Teacher, we saw a man using your name to force demons out of people. But he wasn't one of us, and we told him to stop."

Jesus said to his disciples: "Don't stop him! No one who works miracles in my name will soon turn and say something bad about me. Anyone who isn't against us is for us. And anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name, just because you belong to me, will surely be rewarded.

"It will be terrible for people who cause even one of my little followers to sin. Those people would be better off thrown into the ocean with a heavy stone tied around their necks. So if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off! You would be better off to go into life crippled than to have two hands and be thrown into the fires of hell that never go out. If your foot causes you to sin, chop it off. You would be better off to go into life lame than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. If your eye causes you to sin, get rid of it. You would be better off to go into God's kingdom with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell. The worms there never die, and the fire never stops burning.

"Everyone must be salted with fire.

"Salt is good. But if it no longer tastes like salt, how can it be made salty again? have salt among you and live at peace with each other."


1. An on-going issue among the churches is that of identity. Each one seems to have some claim on some part of the Christian experience which they have elevated to a high position and no one else is supposed to do it their way without their permission. Sometimes we are able to do better at listening to Jesus about this sort of wall-building than at others.

Anyone who isn't against us is for us." This is a deep spiritual truth which we have a hard time acknowledging, much less reveling in. May the ecumenical movement continue to grow among us.

2. Even as we give thanks for the ways in which we do sometimes appreciate one another, there is a reality of pain. What do we do with those who are not at least neutral about the worth of different ways of following Jesus. Here, where spiritual milk-drinkers are led astray, is where the rubber meets the road. Where Jesus was quite open to a variety of expressions regarding himself, he was quite hard on folks who cause others to go astray. In a sense this is a warning to the disciples. If they are not able to stop themselves from stopping others, they will find themselves in hell. While this is often seen in terms of others, we need to see it in terms of ourselves.

3. As we look at ourselves we need to acknowledge that each one of us is missing a hand or foot or eye or some other part. Each of us has a handicap which is self-inflicted. We have all fallen short of the openness of Jesus and set one believer against another. If we can use this to help us remember not to do so again, we will be blessed. It is the folk who think they are whole handed that are more likely to give a back hand to folks who express their Jesus faith differently. To know that we are one-handed helps us better practice being "wounded healers." To know this refining fire is a blessing.

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