...Pledge letters for 2019 are being mailed out at this time. If you do not receive a pledge letter and wish to, please contact Mrs. Brenda Funderburg at firstname.lastname@example.org
… Mrs. Jane Barnett will lead us in Morning Prayer Sunday, October 7th.
...The Rev. Canon Gregg Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist Sundays, October 14, 21, and 28th.
...Diocesan Convention will be held in Pineville, Nov 3rd. Sam & Faye will be attending for CEC.
...Ordination of seminarian Garrett Boyte (and others) to the transitional diaconate will be held at Saint James, Alexandria, Nov. 24th at 10am.
19 PENTECOST, PROPER XXI - B - 18 MARK 9. 38-50
There are at least three
sermons in today’s passage. It all begins with a dialogue between Jesus and the
disciple John who raises the question of the legitimacy of an independent
proclaimer of the gospel, that is, one who is outside the fellowship of the 12.
The question is whether or
not they should be stopped. Jesus answers John’s objection with “Whoever is not
against us is for us.” There is a sermon in that.
But the heart of today’s
passage lies in the stern warning Jesus gives in regards to the difficulty and
demands of discipleship. True discipleship calls for sacrifice, that is,
anything that gets in our way of being a disciple must go. Jesus uses the foot,
hand and eye to make his point.
The warning, however, comes
in his reference to hell’s unquenchable fire.
Hell is the Greek word used by the New Testament writers for the final
place, after death, for those who reject God. Gehenna is the Greek word for the
valley of Hemmon that runs past the southwest corner of the old city of
In ancient times it was as a
place where children were sacrificed by fire to an idol. The idol and its
practice were later abolished by Josiah. These inhumane practices gave the
place a horrible character, and caused its name to be detested and used a
figure for a place of torment. Later it was used as Jerusalem’s rubbish heap,
smoldering perpetually; by Jesus’ day it had already become a metaphor for the
fate, after death, of those who rejected God.
Thus in his warning, Jesus
combines two meanings: he continually warns his contemporaries that unless they
follow his way of the kingdom, his way of peace, they, together with the nation
and its capitol city, were heading for literal physical destruction, in a great
cataclysm that would reduce Jerusalem to a large-scale and horrifying extension
of its own smoldering rubbish heap.
He draws on this larger theme to make the
personal warning: don’t think that you can keep doing whatever you feel like.
The kingdom is breaking in; sacrifices are required; to think otherwise is to
risk total ruin. Those who are headed down the wrong road are headed for the
rubbish heap, the opposite of life as God intends and away from the kingdom of
Jesus is in the process of
teaching his chosen 12 what it means to be a disciple. Yet they still have both
feet firmly planted in earthly thinking. Their idea of power and glory is based
on what they know and what they have seen demonstrated around them by both the
Romans and the Pharisees.
Recall last week’s passage
where the 12 were arguing over who was the greatest, as if they had ignored, or
did they, what Jesus had said for the second time about his being handed over
into the hands of sinful men, that he would be killed and raised on the third
Not much, if anything, has
changed over the centuries. Many would be followers of Jesus are still
interested in what is in it for them. They live their lives believing that they
can do or say whatever they wish and treat their neighbor in any manner in
which they wish and all will be well in the end, that is, the gates of heaven
will swing open to receive them and the angels will rejoice at their appearing.
However, Jesus’ warning in
today’s passage is clear. Do not think that you can continue to do whatever you
feel like. There is a cost to discipleship. Thomas Merton said it well in his “Seven
Story Mountain.” “In order to become what God has created me to be I have to
give up being what I want to be.” The kingdom is breaking in, as Jesus said,
and sacrifices are required.
And they are different for
each of us. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Today’s
contemporary translations uses the word “stumble” in relation to what prevents
us from being what God has created us to be. But the original translation is “sin.”
Too often we want to shy away from that word as if the very idea does not exist
Obviously, Jesus did not
literally mean one should cut off one’s hand, one’s foot, or to pluck out one’s
eye. What he meant was we are to give up, surrender, sacrifice whatever it is
that tempts us and prevents us from entering the kingdom. It could be pride, or
self-interests, or any number of other things that constitute sin, that is, our
living the opposite life that God intends and in a direction that will take us
away from the kingdom.
Many today write and speak as
if the only purpose in following Jesus were to find complete personal
fulfillment and satisfaction, to follow a way or a path of personal
spirituality which will meet our felt needs.
The cross, however, turns
that kind of thinking up-side down. There is no time or space for
self-indulgent spiritualities that shirk the slightest personal cost. God’s
love is free, but there is a cost of discipleship. It begins with the sacrifice
of self, with a capitol s, in order to receive the love of God. In doing so we
discover our true self and who and what it is God has created us to be and do.
Sermon three come at the end
of the chapter and brings us back to the squabbling disciples.
Salt purifies, so does fire.
The disciples are called, as we all are, to be the salt of the earth, but we
must be aware of losing our particular flavor and so become worthless. It is
easy to do. We do it by blending in with the crowd so that we are no longer
distinguishable from those who believe and those who do not. It is a temptation
that we are all faced with on a daily basis.
Finally, if we are to be true
followers of the prince of peace we must learn to live at peace within
ourselves. Looking at today’s passage in light of the previous week’s gospel
readings it would appear that at this point in their following Jesus, the
disciples had not yet learned the lesson. The question is, have we?