Numbers11:25-29; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-48

Turning Over Stones

Here are some stones I have overturned to see what ideas are underneath. I hope you can grab hold of something, pull -- and discover that it has some homiletic roots.

At that time John said to Jesus, Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us. Jesus replied, Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us. 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 believe (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. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.

The Gospel this week is divided up into three different and very preachable sections.

The first section -- whoever is for us is not against us -- has to do with the jealousy with which we may guard our rights to ministry. Clearly there are many Christian denominations in the world and although various denominations may stake a claim to possessing the fullest deposit of faith; one cannot deny the fact that an enormous amount of good is done in the name of Jesus despite doctrinal and moral differences. It is not a time to abandon our particular beliefs for the sake of achieving a harmonious synthesis of denominations; but rather a time to nod deeply to the universal efforts of loving ministry in the name of Jesus. Although we may belong to different families, we are, all of us, brothers and sisters in Christ.

Highlighting the power in the invocation of the name of Jesus could also be preached here. The gospel reminded me of how much I miss hearing my Baptist friends from down South where I once studied praying in -- the Sweet Name of Jesus. The name has power -- as we see in the Gospel. If it is not our practice now, could we learn to pray with this added bit of power? It is a good opportunity to remind ourselves that the Father, indeed, listens to his Son that he loves, and that is why we pray to the Father in the name of Jesus, or through Jesus. Visualizing this prayerful relationship between ourselves and Jesus, and between Jesus and the Father could certainly preach this week.

The second section I would like to comment on last.

I have always interpreted the third section -- the cutting and maiming section -- as a type of cheerleading to face our demons. It is a positive spin, I suppose. Our choices matter and sometimes one gets stuck in a rut of consistently making the wrong choice. Sinful actions become habitual -- sometimes dulling the very sense of sin itself. This week Jesus tells us to face our demons, our temptations, our sin, our realities head on -- to face them fully and say ENOUGH. I am cutting you out. I am cutting you off. Yes, it will be difficult. Yes, recovery from any habitual sin is oftentimes a spiral which has dips and rises -- good days and bad days; yet, with prayer and courage, victory is around the corner. This week is a good week to encourage one another to Face our demons head on and to not be afraid.

Lastly, the section regarding millstones and causing the little ones to sin has occupied my thoughts most this week. There is a song from a musical titled -- Careful The Things You Say, Children Will Listen. This song illustrates the fact that children do, indeed, listen to what grown-ups say. Our attitudes shape their attitudes. Our prejudices shape their prejudices. Our language shapes their language. Our love shapes their love. We should never lose sight of that fact. We have a great responsibility to set good examples and to help our children avoid sin.

Watching a young child play with a doll and interact with it can be very telling of how she is effected by her parents. The way she punishes, rewards, coddles, and encourages her doll usually mirrors exactly what she observes and receives from her parents. It can be very telling. Careful the things you say and do, children are listening. This middle section could certainly preach in terms of realizing the real effect our words and actions have on our environment and especially the people who are close to us. Jesus reminds us of our responsibility to set good examples. Oftentimes the image of a drug-pushing salesman hanging out in the corner of the elementary school playground is highlighted in this saying of Jesus. What will the fate of that guy be! Geez, I would not want to be standing next to him at the pearly gates! Yes, even the small, seemingly insignificant things we do or say can have chilling, life-long effects on the little ones. Let us never forget that.

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