I would imagine that you could ask about a 100 people
to identify their favorite Bible passage,
and it's very likely not one of them
would have ever chosen these verses
from the 9th chapter of Mark's Gospel:
“If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off;
it’s better for you to enter life maimed
than to have two hands and go to hell,
to the unquenchable fire.
“If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off...
and if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out...”
So, what in the world….are we to do with these shocking words from Jesus;
so, early in the morning?
Many preachers across the country right now
are probably back peddling on this question
and moving on to something else.
Well, I am going to step up to the plate…
and make this bold assumption –
Jesus is really not talking about literal amputations.
He has something else on his mind…
and it’s troubling him.
We recognize that the language and culture of the Bible
is sometimes so vivid and so concrete
that it can truly perplex us.
Leave us wondering…what the heck?
At times, we may even think…
we’ve figured out what Jesus is NOT saying,
but then this knowledge by itself,
really leaves us…no where.
So, in the context of these strange verses from Mark,
what is it that Jesus calls on us to do in our lives,
right now…this week ahead?
You and me.
It might be helpful to begin by
searching around in the storerooms of your mind,
and see if you can locate a - Resentment.
A Resentment that is old and really ugly…
deep and probably still very much alive.
And if it is a person –
they may have done something, which really hurt you.
There is plenty of resentment / anger to go around.
I certainly have a couple which come to mind,
but for me it almost doesn't matter
if I am aware of these or not.
Because, they are still growing inside me,
like a huge monster pumpkin.
And at any moment are ready to pop out once again.
So, when resentments are alive like this,
they can drain our energy,
and take away life.
Some ways, Resentment becomes almost like a tumor.
It puts pressure on our healthy tissue.
Perhaps this is more likely what Jesus is talking about
when he gets all “steamed up” about amputations.
Maybe, what he means is
when our resentments need to be removed -
the removing can feel pretty painful -
but this pain…this transformation,
can also be life giving, i.e.
there can be growth after the amputation.
And growth is good.
Now, unfortunately, there is some rather dark Christian theology around this like:
“No pain, No gain;” “Suffering is good for you…”
but I am not going there this morning…
plenty of others have already done that.
Rather, what I hear Jesus warning his disciples – you and me….
is this -- Resentments are dark and can become too much apart of who we are
if we’re not careful.
In fact, our whole identity can get lost in them.
You probably can think of someone like this?
I grew up with a family full of them.
Nevertheless, Jesus has a new way forward for in this odd passage…
But, there is no way we can bring our resentments along with us
into God's kingdom.
There is simply no place for them.
In fact, those who dwell with God are all amputees…
our resentments have already been removed.
The Cross makes this possible.
Now, you may have already caught this…
but when I recently read about Tammy Duckworth’s story,
I suddenly understood this whole Gospel lesson differently.
Tammy Duckworth is a former Black Hawk helicopter pilot who lost both of her legs to a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq five years ago.
But, today she has made a remarkable recovery
and is currently the assistant U.S. veterans affairs secretary,
and has apparently just learned how to fly again,
with her two artificial legs.
But listen to what she told the Chicago Tribune --
"When, I leave my wheelchair behind, and get back in the air,
all my resentment flies away...it’s gone. And I am Free again."
Freedom – but it’s not easy, is it?
When we've been significantly injured by another person,
we can not simply yank the injury from our self
and expect all that bitterness, malice, and emotion
to be gone.
Resentment can hide under the surface.
And so, the only way to become truly free again…like Tammy has,
is to remember that Jesus said,
“Salt is always good.” It’s God’s sacred spice.
Salt – meaning God’s goodness and Grace,
is what we can use once again to begin to find Peace,
with our selves, and one another.
God promises us that when we ask for help,
and cut loose of our resentments
we will be surprised to find
that where our resentment was amputated
there will not be a gaping wound,
but a place of renewed health
and unexpected vitality.
May God grant each of us…
the courage and faith
to let go and be Free.
And fly again.