Sermons

XIX Pentecost

September 30, 2018

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. AMEN.

"And 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 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, pluck 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.”

These are pretty harsh words from Jesus.  In fact, if you simply read this quote to someone who was unfamiliar with the Bible and asked them who said it, they would probably not guess that it was Jesus.

I am sure that most of you grew up with the same picture of Jesus that I did.  The portrait hanging in many Sunday School rooms.  The kind, gentle looking Jesus.  Perhaps He is knocking on a door, holding a lamp.  Perhaps it is only a portrait of his face.  But He is portrayed as gentle and kind.

Indeed, if we think of Jesus, we think of love.  We think of compassion.  We think of all of the miracles that He performed because, as it says in another part of Mark’s gospel, “…he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd…”

This is the picture that most of us have of Jesus.  But then, we must remember that Jesus also went into the temple and overturned the tables of the money changers.  He also says in the gospel of Luke, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division;  for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three…”

This is not the vision that most of us have of Jesus.  But we cannot put Jesus into a box.  We cannot bind Jesus by our understanding.  And this truth affects our relationship with Jesus.  How?

Let me begin with something that is important to say.  Jesus loves us and accepts us just as we are where we are in our lives at this moment.   As the old hymn says:  “Just as I am, without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me, And that Thou bidst me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”

But, Jesus does not expect us to remain the same.  He expects us to grow in relationship with Him.  And this is where it is not always easy and comfortable:


“…And 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 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, pluck 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.”

Do I think that we are called to do these things literally?  No.  But, if our relationship with Jesus is to grow, we sometimes have to cut ourselves off from things that turn us away from Him.  We sometimes have to give up things that are not good for our growth in the Lord.

And in doing this, it may indeed feel like we are cutting off an appendage, or plucking out an eye.  Jesus goes on to say: “ For every one will be salted with fire….” 

The idea of fire as a means of cleansing is one that is found throughout scripture.

The point is that Jesus loves us.  He loves us, and He accepts us just as we are where we are.  But, Jesus does not expect us to stay where He finds us.  He expects us to travel the road with Him and to become the people we are meant to be. 

And, in doing this, there will be many times of great joy.  And Jesus will seem very much like the pictures in the Sunday School room. 

But, there will also be hard times -- Times in which we may feel as if we have cut off a limb, or plucked out an eye.  And in those times, we must remember that Jesus loves us and He comes to us where we are in that moment.  And that He will be with us every step of the way – for He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  AMEN.