Posts Tagged ‘Mark 9:38-50’

That Was Stupid 9-30-18

In this sermon, based on Mark 9:38-50, I explore the human tendency to do or say foolish hurtful things. And yet, we are still claimed and loved by God. This manifests in our Baptism.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Holy Trinity. Amen

How many of you have ever said something…and the instant it came out of your mouth you just knew…that was stupid. (pause) It happens doesn’t it? Even without meaning to. Maybe we crack a joke. Maybe we say something that seems perfectly on point in our minds…but the second it comes out of our mouths the reaction of the other person clues us into the reality of our folly.

Would it surprise you to hear that…even I…have been guilty of this? (pause) Shocking though that might be? I, too, have fallen victim to what can best be called “open mouth, insert foot” syndrome.  To be honest…it has probably happened way more often that I should admit. I’ve said stupid stuff to my wife.  I’ve said stupid stuff to my kids.  I’ve said stuff to my friends and colleagues…and I’ve said stuff to some of you out there.

It’s a bad feeling isn’t it? When you say something stupid…but when it happens, perhaps the only thing we can do, once we recognize our stupidity…is to own it and ask for forgiveness. (pause)

Now based on the number of you that were brave enough to raise your hands or nod when I asked that initial question…maybe we can take a bit of comfort in knowing that we aren’t alone in this regard…and if the scriptures are to be believed…we are in good company. (pause)
We actually hear two different examples of this very thing…as people who should really know better start squawking about stuff.  The first one happens in the first lesson from Numbers…Moses, having grown tired of the excessive complaints aimed in his direction from the people, is given a bit of a reprieve when God appoints 70 elders and sends down the Holy Spirit upon them to prophesy…but apparently 2 guys, Eldad and Medad…coolest names in the Old Testament if you ask me…don’t quite follow the correct procedure…leading Joshua to start tattling…My Lord Moses stop them….Joshua…as in Moses’ second in command…as in the guy who takes over as leader when Moses dies…as in the guy who actually leads the people into the Promised Land…he tattles about these two prophets who are doing it wrong…and Moses pretty much says “So what?  I wish the Lord would send the Spirit upon all the people.”  Cue the thought for Joshua “Well, that was stupid.”

(pause) Now the second time happens in the gospel lesson…and for once, its not Peter who spouts off…this time around, its John…the beloved disciple of Jesus…one of the big 3…one of his inner circle…Lord…we saw someone casting out demons in your name…but he wasn’t following us so we tried to stop him.”  I bet John was feeling all high and mighty…having established dominance over this would be do-gooder…What a let down it must have been to hear Jesus say “So what? He’s doing good…leave him alone.” Funny enough John, along with his brother James, the other member of the big 3, are gonna say something stupid again not long after this.  2 times we hear John speak…and both times Jesus calls him on the carpet…I can only imagine that both times he thought “Man…that was stupid.”

But what are we to make of these moments? That even these important individuals would say something stupid…something foolish…something they thought was on point, only to be reminded that when God acts…its rarely in ways that we expect or anticipate.  And yet…in these moments of God’s action…it pretty much always seems to center around flawed people who can, and often do…make mistakes…people who make foolish decisions…people who are broken.

This is a theme that is emerging within the confirmation class as we make our way through the Biblical narrative…a theme that we’ve talked about here in worship before…that we have a God who takes action within our reality…and uses broken people to do it.

Name anyone from the scriptures…minus Jesus…and we find flaws. Adam and Eve…no brainer.  Noah, a drunk. Abraham, a lying trickster. Moses, a murderer. David, an adulterer, Solomon, an idolater. Peter, James, and John…Paul…the list goes on and on…and yet…these are the people that God chooses to continue moving this crazy thing called reality forward.  Its both incredible humbling…as well as reassuring to see what God can accomplish through imperfect people.

Reassuring perhaps…because in these ongoing stories we are reminded that God has made the choice to continually seek out and bless flawed, imperfect, broken people…and that includes us.

You’ve probably heard me talk about this before…maybe I even sound like a broken record…but if there is one truth that we can take from the scriptures and the way that they interact with our experience in our own lives…its that we each hold the capacity for good and bad…we all have the capability to love and create…or to hate and destroy…something that was certainly on display throughout the course of our news cycle in this past week.

It never ceases to amaze me to witness the ugliness that comes around when our partisanship is on display…and I’m not just talking about Washington and Supreme Court Nomination Hearings…I’m also talking about the way that we respond to it…the way we tear into the other side…that we demonize those who disagree with us…the way that our minds are made up and our biases confirmed within our personal reaction to what happens…

And here’s the things…people are watching us…our kids are watching us…our neighbors are watching us…and I wonder what they see. (pause) Jesus makes an interesting statement in today’s gospel…and keep in mind that this is a direct continuation of what we heard last week…when Jesus places a little child in the midst of the disciples, and then gathers that child into a bear hug…our lesson today starts off with John’s bonehead statement…but Jesus is still holding onto that child. That hasn’t changed.

And he says “if any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones, you might as well tie a giant millstone around your neck and throw yourself in the ocean.” (pause) Now that stumbling block…that comes from the Greek word Scandalezio…which sounds an awful lot like scandal…and Jesus goes on from there with some rather startling words about our hands or feet or eyes causing scandals and if they do we should cut them off.

Think about that…if you cause a scandal to one of these little ones who’s watching you…learning from you…learning from your example…and they leave or fall away from the faith because of what you say or do…throw yourself in the ocean…or worse yet you might find yourself cast into a burning trash-heap that never stops smoldering. (pause)

These are sobering words…difficult words…teachings that should really give us pause as we hear them from the one we call the Christ…because I can’t help but think how universal they are. We’ve all done or said or thought something that we instantly knew was stupid or hurtful or false…something that in one way or another destroys a relationship…either between us and another person, or us and ourselves…or even between us and our maker. Its universal…and if you don’t think so, you’re lying to yourself.

This is why our liturgy includes the same opening portion every single time…and why we introduce it in the very same way…as we gather for worship on this day we know that there are things in our lives that stand in the way of our relationship with our maker…and then we confess it.

But the glorious part of the liturgy is what comes next…because we invoke the name of Jesus…the very same thing that mysterious exorcist John was talking about was doing…and in Jesus’ authority, we declare to one another the entire forgiveness of all of our sins…and in this we are assured that the one who has made us has come near to us once again.

And there’s another thing that we do that embodies this same promise…that the one who made us has claimed us and that the brokenness that is a part of each and every one of us will NOT stand in the way…and that is the waters of baptism…when we are named and claimed as God’s beloved children…something that we remember and cling to each and every day of our existence…daily dying to sin and rising a new creation though the confession and repentance of sin…an embodiment of the promise and the action made on our behalf by God…which in just a few moments Callan Teten will also experience. And that is worth celebrating…and its worth remembering…because in the waters of his baptism, Callan, like every other individual who has come before him, will join as a part of this assembly…one part of the greater body of Christ…made of up of broken and flawed…and yet loved and accepted people…and like each of them, he’ll be watching you…learning from you…witnessing how we, as followers of Christ can be different in this broken world.  May we each take that seriously…clinging to the promises made on our behalf by the one who was willing to take on flesh to show us all…that despite our ability to be stupid…we are loved anyway. Amen.

Be Salty 9-27-15

In this sermon, based on Mark 9:38-50 I explore Jesus instruction that we be salty, and its importance as we celebrate the baptism of one of the “little ones.”

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

My wife is a cook…period. She just is. I like food…a lot…period…We are a good match. And because of this mutual interest in both the preparation as well as the consumption of food, we tend to have Food Network on tv quite a bit.

Now over the course of the past several years, I’ve noticed a change in the typical programming on Food Network…especially during primetime in the evenings…There used to be a lot of shows dedicated to some well-known chef preparing food on camera, simply for the enjoyment of the viewer. Perhaps the most famous one being the Italian Chef Emeril Lagasse…and his signature catch phrase of “BAM!” as he added some seasoning to whatever dish he was currently making.

But now…the trend has moved more towards various cooking competition shows where various chefs and cooks compete round by round, enduring strange challenges and celebrity judge critiques to emerge as the champion.

Perhaps the most well known of these newer shows is one called Chopped where the contestants have to utilize mystery ingredients found in their baskets to prepare a signature dish for each round. And then after each and every round, one of them hears the dreaded words “I’m sorry, you’ve been chopped.”

Its all very dramatic…and of course the editing of the show prior to its viewing certainly helps…but as the clock counts down, you better get your food on the plate…and it better include every one of those mystery ingredients…because if you miss one, you are almost certain to be the next victim on the chopping block.

But all that being said…I often find that it’s the critiques of the judges that lend to the most drama…and by far, there are two main criticisms that pop up the most often. The first is that the food is overcooked…and the second, is the dreaded critique that your food, is under seasoned…bland…blaw. (pause)

Now certainly there are many different kinds of seasonings…one trip down the spice aisle in the grocery store will show you that…but the most common spice…and what I’ve heard chef after chef say…is the most important spice is salt…because salt brings out the natural flavors found within the food itself. (pause) So all you aspiring chefs out there…remember…salt is your friend.

And salt…is of course, where I’m going to jump into today’s lesson…because at the end of quite a bit of random teaching from Jesus…we hear him say these words…For everyone will be salted with fire….and have salt in yourselves…in short…be salty. (pause)
Now to be sure…today’s lesson offers a pretty mixed bag of topics…which, if you’ve caught the past couple of weeks here in Mark chapter 9, has sorta been the theme…as Jesus and the disciples make their way around the area…and Jesus continues to teach them…we seem to hear a lot of random tidbits that really don’t seem to be connected all that well.

It all starts off with John tattling on some random exorcist…some random unnamed guy that has caught wind of Jesus’ ability to cast out demons and so he has started to captilize…casting out demons in the name of Jesus…and John tells on him.
JESUS!!!! WE SAW SOMEONE…AND HE SHOULDN’T BE DOING THIS…HE’S NOT ONE OF US…TELL HIM TO STOP. (pause) Gosh John…I’ve heard the same sort of thing out of my kids when they’re bickering…and Jesus reaction is probably about the same as mine. HEY…YOU WORRY ABOUT YOU…HE’S NOT HURTING ANYTHING.

It would seem in this first exchange, Jesus is reminding the disciples…and probably us as well…that no one has the sole authority in the kingdom. Probably a good reminder for us in those times when we like to point our fingers at different denominations. (pause)
But then Jesus switches gears…and he starts talking about the little ones again…and considering that they’re still sitting in the same house as they were a week ago when Jesus bear hugs a random child to prove a point…it would seem that now he’s jumping back into that discussion after John’s little nitpicky moment.

And Jesus tells us…that anyone who makes one of these little ones stumble might as well tie a giant stone around their neck and jump in the ocean…and he goes on from there…if your hand makes you stumble…cut it off…your foot? Same deal…your eye…yank that puppy out and get rid of it.

And why? Well, because it is apparently better that you are dead than to make someone else stumble…and better that you remove the temptation rather than making yourself stumble…and in the midst we hear about hell and some worm won’t die and unquenchable fire. (pause) Holy smokes Jesus…you are all over the map today.

But…what if he’s not…and what if this is all connected? (Pause) Let’s back up for a second here…because this all starts with a warning against causing a little one to stumble…now that word stumble is an interesting one…and we hear it quite a few times today…and it actually means a few different things…one is literally a stumbling block…another is to scandalize…or other times we hear it translated as cause to sin. (pause)

And that right there starts to shed some light…any of you who causes another to sin…especially one of these young impressionable children who are looking to you to set an example in life…in faith…in how to live….well if you cause them to sin…you might as well be dead…and why? Well, anyone remember what is the wage of sin? (pause) Paul tells us its death.

And that’s what Jesus is talking about…your hand make you sin? Cut it off…do you wanna be dead or do you want life…and not just life but eternal? (pause)
But here’s the thing…we hear this and maybe we start thinking Okay…so Jesus is telling us that we need to act a certain way…or talk a certain way or think a certain way…or maybe Jesus is telling us to grab a knife and start cutting…but we all know that there is nothing that we can actually do in order to make ourselves good enough…its not about presenting a pretty picture of who we are…and we know that we can’t do anything to change ourselves…we just can’t do it on our own.

But we don’t lose hope either…because there is more to the story…because there is something out there…a power…a force…whatever you want to call it…that can make a difference…that can make a change in our lives…but before I start talking about that…I want to back up to salt again.

Because Jesus tells us to be salty…to have salt amongst us…and think for a bit about just what salt does when you put it on food…because salt doesn’t actually change the food…you put some salt on a burger before you cook it…its still a burger…but when you take a bite of it…it tastes different…you perceive it differently…you encounter it differently…your experience of that burger is different with salt that it would be if there was no salt. (pause) So maybe it the salt doesn’t change the form of the food…but it changes the taste doesn’t it? (pause)

So maybe when Jesus is telling us to be salty he’s really saying that there needs to be something else there with you that changes how you are perceived…how you are experienced…how the world sees you…how the world experiences you.

And that, my friends…is the Holy Spirit…the presence of God in spiritual form…the presence of God within you that makes the gift of faith possible…that makes forgiveness of sins possible…that makes eternal life possible despite anything that we can say or think or do.

The Holy Spirit seasons us…changes us…and yes over time this will result in a change in how we act and how we talk and even how we think but its not anything we do…it’s the power of God within us…seasoning us…changing us. (pause)

Now all that is wonderful…but of course it raises the question of just where does the Spirit come from? How can I get me some of that Spirit stuff? (pause) And while I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit can and does come upon whoever God choses…I also believe the promise that is made that in the waters of our baptism, we receive the gift of the spirit…

That water, splashed on our heads…together with the promises of God spoken over us…received in faith…seasons us in way that simple salt never will…and this is not a one time thing…for each and every day, we remember our baptism…we cling to those promises made to us as individuals that God loves you and God claims you through the power of the Holy Spirit, overcoming the sinful nature that leads to death and grants us eternal life along with him in the age to come.

In just a few moments, Leah Grace Neumann will come to this font, brought by her parents who desire that she receive this promise as her own…that receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…and as the water splashes over her head, then we believe and we confess that this is true. (pause)

But now here’s the thing…I want to come back around to one more point that Jesus made…because I think its important that we remember it. “If any of you puts a stumbling block before one of these little ones, it would be better for you to tie a millstone around your neck and be thrown into the sea.” (pause)

If you’ve sat in these pews during a baptism before…you know that once its over, I take that child in my arms, just as Christ gathers us in his arms…and I walk down the aisle…and more often that not, that sweet little child is staring out at all of you…and you hear me say the words that they will be watching you…and that each and every one of you shares in the promises made for that child…and each and every one of you shares the responsibility of raising that child in faith…and that comes down to your example.

Be different because you have the presence of the Spirit within you…Be different because of what God has done in your life…be seasoned by God’s presence…be salty…not because I told you to or because you’ll earn cosmic brownie points…but because she needs you to be…Amen.