Yr B ~ Creation 2 ~ Mark 9:38-50
I said last week that the scripture texts during this Season of Creation don’t really have much to do with creation. That said, I think last week we made some good tie-ins to creation spirituality. Today I’m not even going to try – other than when we get to the end you could certainly apply this teaching to creation care, or environmentalism, or our relationship with the natural world. The message will fit with the season ok, but it isn’t directly about it. What’s it about?
Well, it starts with a bunch of church insiders complaining because an outsider is doing some ministry that insiders aren’t doing, but they don’t like that an outsider is doing it in Jesus’ name, even though it isn’t really affecting the insiders at all. I guess they don’t like someone infringing on their brand? Anyway, so Jesus scolds them – the insiders, not the outsiders (who are actually acting like insiders, but I guess aren’t.) Jesus says, “Look, if they’re not hurting us, then they’re actually helping us. So chill out.” (Well, that’s how it reads in the original Greek – kinda!)
Then Jesus hurls a nasty warning at anyone who might trip up a new believer, saying that if you do that it you’d be better off sleeping with the fishes. Yikes! And then Jesus starts telling people to hack off body parts if those parts are leading you into trouble! Thank God we’re not literalists! (am-i-rite?!) Finally, he finishes off this section with an incredibly cryptic and mysteriously intriguing suggestion.
Allow me to summarize this whole pericope in two sentences:
Don’t be a jerk.
And go salt yourself!
And that’s the whole sermon! Same time next week?
It’s weird how groups and organizations get bent out of shape worrying about who’s team someone is on. Now, that’s not to say things like training, and credentials, and proper procedures aren’t important. They very much are. Here’s where it gets a bit murky. If someone is out doing something in the name of Jesus, that’s one thing. If they’re doing something in the name of the United Church of Canada, we might want to ensure that what they’re doing is in keeping with the values of the denomination. And if someone was out doing something in the name of Faith United – well, you can be darn sure that we would absolutely be concerned with how it reflected on our church.
So I get the source of the disciples’ angst. But at this point People of The Way are not a denomination. They’re just a rag-tag movement – a charismatic movement of the Holy Spirit with Jesus at the centre of it. Interestingly, Jesus isn’t worried about it. He approves of this ministry in his name. If the person is doing good let them do good. Disciples of Jesus do not have a lock on doing good deeds!
Said differently, you don’t have to be a Christian to be a good person.
Then Jesus says something I don’t think I agree with. He says, Mark 9:40, Whoever is not against us is for us. If a person isn’t actively working against the movement then they’re for the movement? Hmm, I don’t think it works that way. Regardless, Jesus says that to stop someone from showing loving-kindness, even in the name of Jesus, is a jerky thing to do. And it’s even worse if your insider fussing causes someone new to the movement to turn away. Who wants to be joining a sniping bunch of complainers? So don’t do that. Don’t be a jerk!
And then it gets really colourful! Mark 9:43-48
If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.
And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell.
And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell,
where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
Let’s tackle a couple of things in translation. The word ‘hell’ here doesn’t mean hell like we probably think. Our picture of hell comes from literature, not the bible. The actual Greek word used is Gehenna. read on