September 28, 2003

Mark 9:38-50

[38] John spoke up, "Teacher, we saw a man using your name to expel demons and we stopped him because he wasn't in our group."

[39] Jesus wasn't pleased. "Don't stop him. No one can use my name to do something good and powerful, and in the next breath cut me down. If he's not an enemy, he's an ally. Why, anyone by just giving you a cup of water in my name is on our side. Count on it that God will notice.

[42] "On the other hand, if you give one of these simple, childlike believers a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you'll soon wish you hadn't. You'd be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck.

[43] "If your hand or your foot gets in God's way, chop it off and throw it away. You're better off maimed or lame and alive than the proud owner of two hands and two feet, godless in a furnace of eternal fire. And if your eye distracts you from God, pull it out and throw it away. You're better off one-eyed and alive than exercising your twenty-twenty vision from inside the fire of hell.

[49] "Everyone's going through a refining fire sooner or later, but you'll be well-preserved, protected from the eternal flames. Be preservatives yourselves. Preserve the peace."

[The Message]


1. We have trouble with preserving ourselves and peace. We are pretty good at preserving our own advantage and to that extent allowing peace to decay. To put it in political terms we have an equal amount of difficulty with conserving ourselves and peace or liberating ourselves and peace.

If there were one thing from this passage I hope would stimulate much meditation it is the issue of being a preservative of progress.

2. Can you imagine folks who set so constrained an understanding of the faith that there becomes no option for others than to do the work of GOD outside the current limits of a religious tradition, listening to Jesus and changing their ways? The constraint part we are familiar with (note the various expressions of faith that have institutionalized themselves). The listening and acting on such is not familiar (note our own defensiveness within the bounds of our own tradition).

3. Once the process of chopping off parts of ourselves that betray our self or others is begun, it becomes never-ending. There is no part of us or no one of us that is impervious to betrayal. In fact, if there is anything left it will go through a refining fire. This doesn't leave much.

But (what a wonderful word) you will be preserved. Do you believe this? Is the evidence of your belief that you are out to preserve yourself by participating in spiritual disciplines and preserving peace in the midst of the community?

So here is a choice: restriction and constraint or preservation and setting free. To choose the first is to fall into the disciples' trap of exclusiveness; to choose the latter is to rise to Jesus' challenge of inclusiveness.