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18th Sunday After Pentecost - September 27, 2021

Updated: Sep 28, 2021




The Gospel lesson from Mark is one that can be difficult to understand if we do not look at what is happening in the whole chapter…

The disciples are on a life journey that is totally baffling because it flies in the face of their cultural and religious experiences…

Jesus introduces them to ideas, beliefs, and a whole new way of looking at life that is foreign to them

They come to be His followers with all of their old understandings of God, tradition, and religious interpretation…they are raw, honest, and without any understanding or warning about what they are seeing and hearing….

I think to unpack this pericope and perhaps the entirety of Chapter nine, we first need to look at the clues given us in the collect for the day…

We often hear the collect prayed but it may not penetrate our minds deep enough to connect to the Gospel, but today the collect jumps out at me…

O God, you declare your power chiefly in showing mercy and pity… right away our attention is drawn to the three words…power, mercy and pity

You and I love and worship a God that shows might and power not with a strong arm and an angry heart, but with mercy and pity

Mercy and pity can be summed up in the word compassion… meaning in a Biblical sense that divine love, the love of God, that is manifested in the saving acts of grace which God holds for God’s covenant people…


So already we understand the power of God to be something very different than we imagined…power equals saving acts of grace

And grace is defined as God’s unmerited, free, spontaneous love for sinful humans revealed and made effective in Jesus Christ

We are the people of the covenant that are washed in love, forgiveness, and mercy manifested in grace upon grace

If you asked me at this point, “ What should our response be to such a gift; a gift like none other?”

I would say that we might prostrate ourselves at the the hearing of those very words and beg God to forgive us and to continue to love us. We might immediately change our ways of thinking and doing and being and devote every second of our lives to carrying out the covenant life …being agents of loving and healing…

But I am not so different from the disciples in Chapter 9 of Mark…I hear, I see, I acknowledge and then I go my merry way doing things my way and forgetting the enormous love affair that God has with God’s people…

Let’s look at chapter nine and see what Mark may be trying to tell us; to show us…

In the first part of this chapter in Mark that contains our reading… Jesus takes Peter, James, and John to a high place and Jesus is transfigured…Jesus stands there before the disciples conversing with Moses and Elijah…His whole being is transfigured and He speaks with the two great prophets of the Old Testament…

Poor Peter…He thinks like many of us might…”I do not understand what I have just witnessed or heard but I have to respond in someway…I must!’ so he does what any of us might do…he relies on old teachings and traditions and suggest building a booth for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah…


It is so difficult for him…as it would be for anyone…to acknowledge that what he is witnessing is something he simply cannot understand or grasp…

A new reality…

And as the disciples and Jesus come down from the high place of transfiguration, they hear arguing and loud voices…the nine disciples that have stayed at the bottom of the high place cannot heal a boy with the spirit of epilepsy…I love Jesus’ response to this scene, how much longer must I put up with you disciples? How long? O, Lord, how long?

Then next the disciples on the way to Capernaum with Jesus begin to argue among themselves about who is the greatest? Can you see how Mark is trying to build his case of just how separated humanity is from God and God’s love for humanity?

Maybe not these specific sins but specific choices that result in being separated from God…with vivid imaginations, humans can think up and live out sin upon sin…

However, Jesus respond so differently than one would expect… He picks up a child , tells the disciples that they must be childlike…full of wonder, forgiveness, delight, surprise to enter the kingdom…

At this point Mark tells us that instead of understanding and trying to be in accord with what Jesus is saying…

The disciples blurt out their worse fear…someone else may be greater than them! Someone else may be capable of casting out demons …

They couldn’t cast out the demon from the little boy, but horror of horrors there is a non disciple casting out demons…

Jesus assures them that disciple or not, the person casting out demons in the name of God is doing good work…


And then perhaps in response to the disciples lack of understanding; their obvious jealousy; their need to be the greatest …God in Jesus plainly tells them how very important it is to live a covenant life being the people of God…

Jesus tells them that whatever it is…hands, feet, eyes, attitude causes them to stumble and turn from God, then they are to rid themselves of the offender…We hear this and take it for hyperbole; for shock value, but I think Jesus was speaking in earnest…Nothing is important enough to separate one from the love of God; from living in covenant…

Jesus surely has their attention…Nothing could be worse for a worshipping Jew in the first century than to be maimed…

It meant exclusion…pure and simple

Exclusion from temple worship; exclusion from others; criticism because EVERYONE knew that it meant that God was punishing that individual or the individual’s family…

It means shame…exclusion…

But Jesus says clearly: it is better to be maimed, excluded, denied entrance into the synagogue or temple than to be a stumbling block to the little ones who believe in Jesus…

Nothing in all the world is more important to life than to live in the grace of God!

Nothing is more important than basking in and living out the divine love of God…

No one is or shall be excluded

No one is greater than another

No one has the privilege of condemning another because of how God created them…

Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another…Choose the covenant life that is signified by the salt used in the ceremony of covenant making in the Old Testament…

Be the salt of the earth…be the one that is thankful and excited … truly excited… about the love and mercy of God

I love these lessons…they start with the gift of mercy and grace and then show each of us how easy it is to fall into old patterns that are a dead end…

But then immediately Jesus acknowledges the broken nature of the disciples and shows them the way to life…forgiveness; amendment of life

He tells them that nothing is as important as covenant life…that covenant life is theirs and ours for the accepting…

In this chapter Jesus acts out over and over what He wants the disciples to understand and to live…that:

Forgiveness begets forgiveness

Acceptance begets acceptance

Love begets love

Mercy begets mercy

Grace begets grace…

Amen






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