September 30, 2018 “
Like many who travel to work in Manhattan, this past week has been absolute bedlam, with the opening of the United Nations general council. Over 100 heads of state present, including the president of the United States. I happened to be in the City last week near Trump Towers. Fifth avenue was lined with fences, heavy trucks and cadres of police on every block. A gleaming Motorcade with the flag of Turkey on the hood rerouted traffic. What a hectic schedule to keep the international body running. All these activities were then overshadowed by intense hearings conducted by the Senate.
Jesus was familiar with such grueling schedules and controversial encounters. In one week we find Jesus traveling throughout Galilee, Bethsaida, Capernaum, Tyre; interacting with foreigners, healing the deaf mute, a blind man, casting out an evil spirit from a boy, transfigured on a high mountain; taught and fed a large crowd of four thousand, interrogation and debate with the Pharisees, taught his disciples who are constantly slow on the uptake. Now do you know of crowd handlers? They see a child, they go running and get the child and bring the child to the politician for a photo op? Well, that’s what the disciples were supposed to do. Instead, the disciples acted as bouncers. They keep people away. They are quickly becoming the barrier builders, the secret service, the bouncers to decide who gets near to Jesus and who doesn’t.
In today’s lesson, they were even proud of their actions – they tell Jesus, “hey we saw a man driving out a demon in your name but he wasn’t one of us, so we told him to stop.” At that point Jesus loses it. He resorts to extreme hyperbole, among the strongest in his public ministry, to get his point across.
First Jesus sounds reasonable. Do not stop him. Whoever is not against us is for us. Very understandable.
Anyone who gives a cup of water in my name will not lose one’s heavenly reward.
Now here’s where it gets gruesome.
If anyone causes to sin one of these little ones, innocent ones, new believers, interested but not yet ready to believe, better for you to have a millstone around your neck and be thrown into the sea.
If your hand causes you to sin cut it off.
If your foot causes you to sin cut it off.
If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
Jesus is addressing the serious problem of his disciples driving people away or to turn away by their exclusive, we’re the best, do it our way or it’s the by-way attitude.
The disciples seem not only worried that the man who cast out demons wasn’t one of them. They acted to control the ministry of Jesus and access to healing. They sought to put a stumbling block to healing. Jesus says this is sinful. Do not put stumbling blocks in the way for the children, or the new believers, to potential believers, to the ordinary person. Do not block access to God because someone is different from you, worships differently, speaks differently, has a different faith experiences from you as they minister in my name. Nobody, nobody has the corner market on God.
Jesus takes the disciples’ actions to the natural conclusion. Think of all the crowds – all those who witnessed what the disciples did in turning that healer away. Their faith was shaken, perhaps eliminated. This created a stumbling block, or a scandal to be exact. This is why Jesus takes his disciples to task. For stopping the ministry and faith of another believer, because this person wasn’t like them, and didn’t travel with them. Think of the ramifications of this for the entire Christian church, because denominations and churches argue and condemn each other, mutually excommunicate each other, over who is supposedly right and who was wrong. What a scandal! So, Jesus says: Look!
The hand we have been given to create, heal and upbuild one another in love instead is used to harm and to mare the image of God. Cut it off! Jesus says. Better this then to have those whose spiritual and physical lives depend on us be damaged, traumatized, or to lose their faith because of the careless or harmful works of our hand.
Look! See the feet given to us to travel and visit the sick, the imprisoned, to fellowship and carry the word of God. Yet we use our feet to carry us to self-serving places, to trample the poor, to neglect those under your care. Our feet stomp on the truth and trust that cause people to misunderstand or lose faith in Jesus. Cut them off! Jesus says. Better to be a cripple then to harm those who are innocent in the community, to separate them from what they need to survive, or to cause them to walk away from the faith.
Look! Jesus says. Our eyes are a gift to see the world as the kingdom of God and declare to all the beauty therein. Our vision beholds all the majesty and glory which we are to proclaim. We are to see the beauty of God in others. Yet our vision is tainted. What is holy we find evil, what is evil we proclaim as good. Pluck your eye out! Jesus declares. Better to be blind, because you see someone you don’t know casting out a demon in my name, you see a woman in hijab and it makes you uncomfortable, or you see African American teen age boys walking down the street on a dark night and you cross over for no good reason. Pluck your eye out if we look on another’s body as an object to be used and abused. Better to be blind, then to cause the innocents to lose faith or to be infected with this same evil or filled with shame, or to turn away in despair or anger from our loving and merciful God.
Jesus is teaching us what scandal really is. It isn’t the stuff of the National Inquirer. Jesus teaches that scandal are the attitudes, beliefs, and actions that act as “traps, snares, or stones that causes us to stumble, that cause our neighbor, or fellow believers to stumble.” So, Jesus takes what his disciples are doing very seriously.
Then there are the ordinary scandals of church life we have all seen: the cliques that develop. The criticisms that are meant to be helpful but sting. The debates over doctrine or opinions while the people languish or are forgotten or ignored. The focus on our own spiritual comfort over reaching out into our community. So many ordinary scandals that we participate in without realizing it that weaken the church, take the wind out of the sails of our faith. Wherever it is coming from, Jesus says, cut it out! Because we have too precious, too loved, too important to God to become mired in scandal that chases people away.
Jesus would have us avoid scandals. Each of us knows what scandals that haunt our lives. Jesus wants us whole, salted, with whole hands, whole eyes, whole feet. We can avoid scandal when we realize that Jesus wants to awaken us, revitalize us, to salt us. That’s why he speaks so vividly. Maybe to learn from that healer outside our circle who speaks in the name of Jesus. Maybe that is the learning edge for Freeport/Merrick this upcoming year. Let’s walk away from the scandals and be at peace with each other. In that peace with each other, we share the living faith that draws others to the Lord. The Pope reminds us of our mission:
"God is in the city," he said. "Knowing that Jesus still walks our streets, that he is part of the lives of his people, that he is involved with us in one vast history of salvation, fills us with hope.”
Though strong and blunt, Jesus words fills us with hope. We can be salted. Scandal does not have to be a part of our lives. We can learn to heal and be whole. We can be at peace with each other. That peace, protective, captivating, grace-filled, and holy, will be our calling card in a scandal-filled world. A morally unpinned world that craves for such a peace. So, let us live in scandal free peace, in honor as we stumble toward grace. May Jesus use us for good deeds of the gospel: hand, eye, feet –heart soul and spirit, for the lost, the innocents, the searching, and may through the work of Christ in us find this very peace, and know what it is like to be safe, saved and grace-filled and whole. Amen
Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/mark-shea/scandal1/#ixzz3mt1xsI3P