Suffering for Community

Mark 9:38-50
Proper 21

How much do we value community?

I find in Mark 9 that Jesus struggles with his disciples understanding of community. He talks about the fracturing of community that is going on in the world when describes how the son of man will be handed over to men and killed. He then found them arguing on the way about which of them was the greatest. Jesus places a little child in their midst and tells them that whoever receives such a child, receives him, and not him but the one who sent him.

Then the disciples get frustrated that someone, besides them, is driving out demons in the name of Jesus. Jesus reminds the disciples that someone working in the name of Jesus is not outside their community.

Jesus talks again about the little child that he had earlier placed in their midsts. This child is a reminder of the powerless or the weak in faith. He warns the disciples that if anyone entices such a child to sin, it would be better him to have a millstone tied around his neck and be thrown into the sea.

Jesus then asks the disciples to consider the cost of community.

Jesus talks about a hand that causes you to sin, a foot that causes you to sin, and the eye that causes you to sin. With all these very important parts of the body, Jesus says with a quick imperative, “Cut it off!”

It is better to enter life, the kingdom of God, lame, crippled and with only one eye then it is to be thrown into hell, where the worm never dies and the fire is never quenched.

We must stop vying for power and privilege for ourselves. Freedom is ahead for us in the life of Christ and we get so pre-occupied about our own positions that we forget the community that Jesus is building for us. I would rather be crippled, lame, and blind in the kingdom of God then I would to be whole and thrown into the unquenchable fire of hell.

Jesus moves from the gruesome image of cutting of hands and feet and plucking out eyeballs but he does not move away from the uncompromising importance of living in community that is not compromised by sin.

Jesus also uses the image of salt. Salt works as a preserving agent. But when salt has lost its saltiness there is no way to season with it. Salt loses its saltiness when it gets so mixed with foreign substances that in the resulting mix there is too little salt for the seasoning work to occur.

Our saltiness, our preservation as a community, can become ruined when we allow our own desires for greatness to get in the way of having peace with one another. The imperative is to be salt, to keep peace.

What are the stumbling blocks to living in community with one another? It is not the powerless, weak in faith, lame, crippled, or blind.


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