If your hand offends you cut it off
Family Service Talk by
The Reverend Charles Royden
Mark 9: 38-50
"Teacher," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us." "Do not stop him," Jesus said. "No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward. "And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where "`their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.' Everyone will be salted with fire. "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other."
I want to begin this morning by asking what you thought of the Bible Reading this morning. Do you believe the Bible, do you think that Jesus means what he says? Bring out an axe.
Ok So who has done something wrong this week? Sins of commission and omission. Who has failed to feed the poor, visit the sick etc… Now who is going to volunteer to do what Jesus suggested? Who will come forward and let me chop off their hands of feet .
The truth is that some of the early church Fathers actually did this, they chopped off parts of the their bodies—literally, to stop themselves from sinning.
I wasn't sure whether to bring an axe along today, I didn't want to offend anybody, you might think it is a little close to the bone (Joke), but I wanted to make a point and of course Jesus quite often said things which were very offensive. He was a lot less worried about these things than I am I am sure of that.
Did Jesus mean that we were literally to indulge in self-mutilation? I think not it would be absurd and if you disagree then you had better be careful if you value your bits and pieces.
In the Bible there are many places where exaggeration is used, where things are not literally true. Jesus said, 'I am the door', he did not mean that he was literally a door. He meant instead that through him people might find life.
I would also think that the story of creation in Genesis was just that, a story which tells us that God made the world, not that it happened in six days a few thousand years ago and started with a man called Adam and a woman called Eve. If we take that story literally we end up with children having incest, it is ridiculous.
I wonder whether anybody believes that Jonah was literally swallowed by a fish and then survived inside it? Is this not a parable which tells us that we can go nowhere and escape God.?
The Bible is full of truth, everything it says is >, and most of it actually happened. But not the bits that it doesn't present as historical fact, but a story to illustrate a meaning. When Jesus said that a man went from Jerusalem to Jericho did he mean that literally? Well I doubt it really happened, it was a story with an important meaning.
In the passage today Jesus is using exaggeration to tell us that Sin is very serious. We must not take it lightly, it is bad and that is why he had to die. In so doing in a miraculous way he destroyed the power of sin. If we want to be faithful to Jesus we will avoid sin like a plague as if we were prepared to chop off parts of our body contaminated by it. If we do this we will be able to be good witnesses to a world in some considerable mess because of sin. As Jesus says at the end of this passage, we will be like salt which keeps the world pure. Amen.