Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sermon for September 30, 2012 + 18th Sunday After Pentecost + Jesus Loves the 47%

"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 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. "For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."

This is just the conclusion to this sermon,as the rest was unwritten, but thought it might be useful to some anyhow. Hope you like it and/or steal it for a sermon of your own :)

Intro... Intro... Into... [Sermon begins by recapping Mark's Gospel from CH1-Present]


And just when we get all worked up and happy about Jesus

Just when we get so excited that Jesus is this awesome, radical,

pro-love, pro-including-everybody,

pro-the-least-of these, kind of guy,

just when we're so happy
that Jesus is pro-forgiveness and grace and so on,

just when we start to get all worked up about Jesus,


suddenly he starts telling us
to chop off our arms
and pluck out our eyes
so we don't go to hell,

and that:

it's better if a big stone was hung around your neck

and you were thrown into lake Michigan

than to cause someone to stumble....

And so, 

if you're like me, 

you ask yourself:

Is this really the same Jesus from the previous chapters in the Gospel?
Is this the same Jesus we've been reading about?

The guy who was telling us to love one another, 
is now almost offering us death-threats....

I've preached on this passage many times, 
and of course have interpreted it in various ways,
but this week, 
during morning mediation, 
I heard it in a new way.

I remembered that
according to the popular religion of Jesus' time,
the religion of which Jesus and his followers were a part,
to lose a limb 
would be to be made unholy, impure,
To have lost one's limb, to have become asymmetrical 
would have made one not welcome in God's temple

not able to make a sacrifice to God,
to be pleasing to God,
to have access to the Divine..

Jesus (If I am correct in my interpretation) is saying to us this morning that
it is better to be unholy
It is better to be seen as unclean before God—
or at least God's people
(very different things, of course)

It's better to be seen as unclean or unholy,
to be excluded from the temple,
from the hierarchy and institutional power of organized religion,
(and it was powerful back then)

it's better to be excommunicated
even “thrown into hell” metaphorically speaking
if you get there by welcoming a little one
a little child,
an insignificant person,
one of “the least of these”
(even one of the 47%) …

if religion is keeping you from loving other people
I think, says Jesus,
if religion is keeping you from loving other people
and embracing other people
and acknowledging other people
either change what holiness means to you,
or be completely satisfied being unholy,
knowing that (in the words of James)
love covers a multitude of sins,”


And in the words of Jesus
(from a few weeks ago)
it's not what goes into the body that defiles it,”
but rather what matters is what comes from the heart,

And in the words of Jesus this week,
it's better to be at the bottom of the sea” than to exclude a sister or brother in need of God

And it's as bad as Hell,

It is Hell-ish
if we, as people of faith, become the stumbling blocks that keep anyone,
especially the world's most vulnerable
from entering God's Kingdom,

where the last shall be first,
the first shall be last,
the lowly lifted,
and the powerful brought down from their thrones.

May we as God's people continue to pray for that Kingdom to come,
and may we work to build and to-be-in-community that
Kingdom on earth
as it is in heaven.


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