Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity 30.9.12 Mark 9.38-end

23 09 2012

Salted with Fire

This passage seems to be driven by the disciples’ concern to draw boundaries in the right place. Jesus is less worried about this, ‘whoever is not against us is with us’.  But he does have sparky things to say about the distinctive holiness of disciples. The challenge is not to work out how to exclude but to be sure that we ourselves are fully alive – salted by fire –  in our participation.

Mark 9.38-end

John said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ 39But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. 40Whoever is not against us is for us. 41For 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.

42 ‘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. 43If 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. 45And 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., 47And 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, 48where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

49 ‘For everyone will be salted with fire. 50Salt 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.’

Reflections and Questions

‘demons’ v 38

John knew what he meant. Jesus knew what he meant. But we don’t use this word like this anymore. We could say that a demon is  a form of ‘personal problem’. Yet that does not get to the heart of it. A demon is a negative  and destructive force from outside the self which has lodged inside the self

What examples can you suggest of ‘demons’?

‘stumble’  v43, 45

Jesus turns the argument round and the question becomes… might a disciple, a member, an insider actually be the problem, the cause of the stumbling of another.  Clearly they might. But the consequences are bad. This is the spiritual message for the insider: don’t get in the way of grace.

When did you last see someone stumble on the journey of faith? What was the cause?

‘salted’ and ‘salt’ v49.50

We can’t help remembering the effect of salt on our tongue when we read or hear this. Potato crisps and sea water spring to mind for me.

How do we manage both to be salty – and to be at peace with one another?

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Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity 16.9.12 Mark 8.27-end

6 09 2012

Identity and Crisis

This is a pivotal gospel passage. A turning pont. It is all about transition and change. It involves honesty and truth, mistake and rebuke, openness and orders.  These few words really live – if we let them.

Mark 8.27-end

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ 28And they answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ 29He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’ 30And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’

Reflections and Questions

‘Jesus went on’ v 27

Jesus really is pushing forward now. The disciples are following and sharing in the journey.

Can you imagine discipleship without journey? Why not preach what you feel about that in your bones?

‘Caesarea Philippi’  v27

This passage is obviously about names and naming. The place itself had a name change. Philip named it after himself, usurping the dignity of the ‘great god Pan’ – it used to be called ‘Paneas’.

How much background is enough to help people appreciate the significance of the place of this encounter?

‘Messiah’ v29

‘Anointed One’. ‘Christ’. ‘King’. ‘The One’.

What did Peter mean? How fully did he understand his own words?

‘must’ v31

Not ‘may’, not ‘is likely to’, not ‘will’.  Rather, ‘the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.’ This is the context for the message to would-be disciples: that they must take up their cross. We are all in this together. Suffering is not optional. It is necessary.

This does not mean all suffering is good. How do you distinguish between necessary and unnecessary suffering as you reflect on your own life? what does this teach you about the nature of sacrifice?