- Job 42:1-6, 10-17
- Psalm 34 (VU p. 761)
- Mark 9:38-50
- 276 This is God’s Wondrous World
- 268 Bring Many Names
- 579 The Church is Wherever God’s People
- 646 We Are Marching
Early Thoughts: Sometimes Jesus' words are difficult to comprehend. Not because the language is confusing but because we are left shaking our heads and saying "did he really meant THAT!". Verses 42-48 of this passage certainly fall into that definition. Cut off your hand or foot? Tear out an eye? Put a millstone around your neck and drown yourself? Come on now!
Well I don't know if Jesus meant people to take those words literally. But as metaphors they are certainly powerful. Especially the first one in the passage (last in the list above). Verse 42 reads:
42 ‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.
If anyone gets in the way of those (the phrase "these little ones" does not refer to children but to adults of lowly status) who are trying to follow the path of God, it is better that they did not exist. That is what the verse is saying. But of course, I hear you saying, we would never get in the way. Really? Are you sure?
The last Sunday in October is often called Reformation Sunday. For some this is a time to remember the work of the Reformers who have gone before. But it is also a time to consider the reforming that is ongoing. Semper Ecclesia Reformanda Est--The Church is Always Being Reformed. And in the light of that ongoing reformation we need to look at this verse more seriously.
Maybe, in our natural resistance to change, we do in fact put stumbling blocks and barricades in the path. Maybe we need to be reminded to get out of the way and start to follow instead of insisting "this is how it must be!". And so we have this week's sermon title. How do we help and/or hinder the work God is doing to create and re-create in our midst?
For me, part of the process of getting out of the way is being open to new ideas. But part of it is also remembering who is at the centre. Humans in general have a tendency to become self-centred (obviously there are varying degrees of this). And so we tend to think of how something hurts/benefits us or those around us. Also we tend to think that those who do things differently are somehow wrong. We easily fall into the logic of "whoever isn't with us is against us" -- just ask President Bush.
But Jesus has a different idea. In verse 40 of this passage Jesus says Whoever is not against us is for us. He turns conventional wisdom on its head. But this new wisdom is ever so helpful in the act of getting out of God's way. If we allow that others may not in fact be against us, that they may share a common goal, then it is easier to find God active in the world.
God says through the prophet "behold, I am doing a new thing". Jesus says do not hinder those who wish to follow me. Get out of the way and let God's path be what it is, not just what we want it to be. What new thing will we find as we push past the barricades and follow The Way?