Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can it be seasoned? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another. Mark 9:50
your Son has taught us that those who give
a cup of water in his name will not lose
their reward: open our eyes to see those
who are in need, and teach us to set no store
by riches and earthly rewards, so that,
in surrendering ourselves to serve you
in your children, we may labour
for the treasure that endures;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
- Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22
- Psalm 124
- James 5:12-20
- Mark 9:38-50
- Job 1:1, 2:1-10
- Psalm 26
- Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12
- Mark 10:2-16
A Thought to Ponder
Pentecost 18 – Mark 9:38-50
“Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believes in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”
As we have seen throughout Mark’s Gospel, the people of Jesus’ time held great stock in the existence of demons: whatever mental illness or physical infirmity they could not understand was caused by some “demon.” It was also the belief that a demon could be exorcised if one could invoke the name of a still more powerful spirit to order the evil and unclean spirit out of a person.
John, a member of Jesus’ inner circle, tried to stop someone who seemed to be cashing in on Jesus’ growing reputation as a healer by invoking Jesus’ name to cast out a demon. John’s concern, at first reading, appears to have some merit – but recall the on-going battle among the disciples as to who is the greatest among them. Jesus responds, therefore, by condemning his followers’ jealousy and intolerance, warning against an elitist view of discipleship that diminishes the good done by those we consider “outsiders.”
Today’s Gospel selection includes Jesus’ exhortation that it is better to lose one’s limb if it leads one to sin. Two notes about these final verses:
The “millstone” Jesus speaks of is the large piece of stone that is turned by a pack animal to grind grain. Drowning a criminal by tying him to one of these large heavy stones was a method of execution in Rome and Palestine.
Gehenna was a vile place in Jewish history. The young King Ahaz (2 Chronicles 38: 3) practiced child immolation to the “fire god” at Gehenna. In Jesus’ time, Gehenna, a ravine outside Jerusalem, served as the city’s refuse site. Gehenna became synonymous with our concept of hell for the Jews.
Jesus promises us even the simplest act of love or kindness – the Gospel “cup of water – will one day be honoured by God. Anyone and everyone in need have a claim on our compassion and charity because they belong to Christ. In whatever opportunities we have, with whomever we meet and are able to help, may we not hesitate to act in Jesus’ name.
To share our faith with our children is both a great joy and great responsibility of that faith. Anyone and everyone in some kind of trouble or need have a claim on our compassion and charity because they are dear to Christ.
Discipleship begins with a spirit of humble gratitude to God for the gift of our lives that trumps our disappointments, regrets and anger over the things that have not turned out as we hope.
Despite his rather harsh images of “cutting off” and “plucking out,” Jesus calls us to realise that discipleship means letting nothing — nothing — detach or derail us in our search for the things of God, not allowing the pursuit of prestige, wealth, social status or immediate gratification to desensitise us to the presence of God in our lives or diminish the love of God we cherish in family and friends.
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You can read the Pew Sheet here36ed4-pentecost-18-b