Connecting the Dots, October 5, 2018
Updated: Oct 30, 2018
"Connecting the Dots" is a series of articles, reflections, and teachings composed and shared in an effort to help us follow the themes and treads between the sermons and scriptures. I pray that this series is useful to the Lord Jesus, our Good Shepherd, as he speaks his word to us and connects our hearts to himself and his Father in the life and love of the Holy Spirit.
Blessings, Fr. Greg+
Last week's sermon covered a difficult passage in Mark's gospel. It's a passage the we must reckon with. It is a passage that reckons with us.
Jesus says, "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
This teaching doesn't appear once in an obscure place and then evaporate. Ideas in this passage, and phrases from it, are repeated across the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
Following a week's worth of exegetical wrestling and then the sermonic exposition during worship, I offered this summary: "Preventing others, or ourselves, from remaining faithful to Jesus and continuing as his disciples is a tragic, soul-destroying event. And arguing about who’s the greatest and being selfish about a kingdom that we don’t even own is one of surest ways to ruin. So don’t go that way."
The passage is about barriers to discipleship: barriers within ourselves and ways we can cause others to fall away.
The consistent teaching of the Jesus and the New Testament writers is that barriers to discipleship can and should be removed with God's help. The heart—much more than the hands, feet, or eyes—is the primary battleground. See Mark 7:14-23.
Pursuing God's help for removing barriers to discipleship is the focus of our next two sermons in this series: Treasure the Word (10/07) and Draw Near to Grace (10/21).
Pursuing God's help for removing barriers to discipleship is also at the center of our readings in the catechism. During catechesis we will survey questions 242-255. A particular question and answer highlights the value of this section.
229. How should you “inwardly digest” Scripture?
I should ground my prayers in the Scriptures. One time-tested way of doing this is to pray the Psalms, which formed Jesus’ own prayer book. As I absorb Scripture, it becomes the lens through which I perceive and understand the events in my life and the world around me, and guides my attitudes and actions.
I encourage you to read questions 242-255. It only takes 15 to 20 minutes.
The section cover elements of Anglican practice and our approach to living Scripture through common prayer and intentional practice. It builds from the logic of this collect.
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and the comfort of your holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
It's my particular prayer that our work with and through Church of the Incarnation will remove barriers to discipleship and allow our church to be useful to Jesus in his ongoing mission. This is also our common prayer as Anglican Christians.
See you Sunday and may grace and peace be multiplied to you!