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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Today’s Reading | Mark 9:38–50

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

“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.” (NRSV)

Mark 9:38 starts with Jesus being addressed as “Teacher.” In response to the question Jesus is being asked by one of his disciples, Jesus teaches. And he continues to teach his disciples to the end of verse 50. Jesus is always teaching. One of the things about Jesus that pulls me deeply into the Christian faith is his focus on tolerance. “. . . for whoever is not against us is for us.” That teaching seems to capture it all.

In Jesus’ time on this earth, he sought out the weak; the afflicted; the desperate, searching souls. The least, the last—they will be first. The funny thing is, I always think of this when I am last in line, which seems to be quite often in this big city of Chicago. I thought about it just the other day when I angrily sped around a slow driver on the road, who, when I looked in my rearview mirror, was displaying a disabled placard in the front windshield. Jesus teaches and cautions us to be careful not to cause “the littlest ones who believe in me to sin.” His urging us to cut off a hand, pluck out an eye, lose a foot—all to remove sin from our lives. Ouch! That would hurt.

Jesus is teaching us to sacrifice the urges and vices that overcome all of us rather than accept eternal sin, to live further away from the faith than closer. It means that we should always strive to make the right choices, the ones that practice tolerance, patience, and set examples for the little ones. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his disciples to be faithful, to be the “salt of the earth.” In Mark 9:50, he again encourages his disciples “to have salt in your selves, and be at peace with each other.”

God, continue to teach us. Help us to accept your lessons as love and grace from you. Thank you for bringing Jesus Christ into our world as our redeemer and teacher. Guide us with tolerance and patience, so that we may be examples to others to join the faith and follow Jesus. May we, too, be salt of the earth and be at peace with our brothers and sisters until the day we enter your kingdom. We pray this in the name of Christ our Lord. Amen.

Written by Christopher Gentry, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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