The Mark reading is particularly knotty this week - so here's a short reflection for the 8am service!
Taking responsibility.. for one another Mark 9: 42-50
“If your hand causes your downfall.. cut it off”.
Can these really be the words of Jesus? In our world we are a familiar with Islamic Shariah law as a proposed punishment for theft – cutting off the hand of a thief - and the thought of it is awful and barbaric. But Jesus is not suggesting a form of punishment – he is not talking about what we should do to others – he is using dramatic language to encourage people to take responsibility for their own actions. “If your foot causes your downfall – cut it off”.
In other words, have nothing to do with the sort of excuse for behaviour which says ‘it wasn’t my fault, it was my roving eye, my lousy childhood, my physical urges – that made me do it. Jesus wants us to take responsibility for our own bodies and what we do with them.
But Jesus is also clear that our responsibility does not end with responsibility to ourselves – we are also responsible for what we do to others “if anyone cause the downfall of one of these little ones who believe, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone round his neck”. We are responsible for what we do with our lives – and responsible for the damage we might do to others.
And finally, Jesus says “you must have salt within yourselves and be at peace with one another” – our responsibility to others shouldn’t stop at not doing others harm – we must actively seek their good.
And if all this talk of taking responsibility for ourselves and for others and for peace itself feels like too much – it is good that we meet around the Lord’s table. Here as we face the challenge of his Word to us we also receive the promise of his gift to us – God’s gift of his very self, to feed and strengthen us, and to be present with us always.