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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Today’s Scripture Reading | Mark 9:42–50

“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)

Way back in what I laughingly call my misspent youth, I worked in a cutlery store on Michigan Avenue. High-end stuff, kitchen supplies, grooming supplies, minimum wage plus commission. And one day a woman walked in off the street and asked if we carried meat cleavers. Meat cleavers are not something most people keep in their kitchens. Most people buy their meat pre-cut. So meat cleavers were a big-commission item. If you sold one, your commission on one sale would be about half a day’s pay.

So I was on this. I had the cleavers out on the counter, explaining the difference between drop-forged and stamped, between high-carbon and stainless steel, the whole nine yards.

“Will it go through bone?”

Now, you’d think that would raise an alarm, but I was zeroed in on a big-commission sale.

“No, if you try to use it on bone you’ll just get splinters, and no one wants that.”

“Because my hand has sinned against God and I have to cut it off.”

“. . . Excuse me?”

“The Bible says so. Better to cut off your hand than go to hell.”

I looked at my coworker, whose jaw was on the floor. I quickly removed the cleavers from the counter and informed her that they were just display models and that gosh, we were fresh out of meat cleavers for sale. She walked out of the store and down the street. I turned to my coworker and said, “Did that just happen?”

I mean, come on. It’s a metaphor. Jesus was not issuing a call for self-mutilation. He was talking about sacrificing those things we hold dear, that keep us apart from God. It’s like the phrase “dying to self” is not a call for suicide. It’s a call to remember that the essential pronoun of Christianity is not “Me.” It’s “You.” It’s an admonition against clinging and a reminder to give things up.

Humility and generosity are the essential essence of Christianity, and if you lose that essential essence, you’re just not going to be salty anymore.

Lord, remind us that we are commanded to forgo “Me” for “You.” Let us see ourselves in others and live in humility and generosity. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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