Trinity 17

Mark 9:38-50

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons inyour name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certianly not lose their reward. “If anyone causes one of the little ones-those who believe in me- to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter maimed than with two hands to go to hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one one than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where “the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.” Everyone will be salted with fire. “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

Possible Themes for this Gospel

This is the gospel reading for this Sunday and especially for those who use the same lectionary with us. Normally when I am preparing my sermon, the first thing I do is to summarize the key issues raised in this text before exploring the possible theme. This ia like a short synopsis of the text. Here are my key observation of the text:

  1. The apostles seem to protect the ministry of Jesus and they think anyone who wants to practise it should get approval from them. Hence the reason for stopping them because they dont belong to their chosen group
  2. Jesus has a different view. He criticizes the apostles for stopping those who were ministering, hence Jesus believes in shared ministry.
  3. According to Jesus no one can do a miracle in His name is against Him. Is this set a criterion of authenticity for true ministers? This statement needs unpacking and see what underlies it before taking a simplistic view of it especially in the era of rise of prophetic ministry.
  4. Then the issue of judgment on those causing the little ones to stumble is also raised. Is Jesus promoting retribution theology? Is Jesus contradicting his essence of being the forgivign God? This verse also needs more attention.
  5. Then another interesting issue of cutting or plucking off the body parts which causes you to sin is raised as well. Should this statement be taken literally or one should investigate the use of hyperbolism by Jesus? Understanding this text needs one to understand the use of the technique of hyperbolism by Jesus.
  6. The mention of the presence of worms in hell is interesting especially in the light of fire that can not be quenched. A combination of worms and fire is interesting, what type of worms are these that do not die and survive in fire? This brings to us another interesting image of what hell looks like.
  7. Lastly, the text concludes with the subject of salt. How is this conclusion linked to the whole discourse? Can we treat is as an interpolation that is out of place? This is another area worth attending to.

Having done this synopsis, the next thing is to explore the possible theme and then one can do sermon preparation with the theme of the choice in mind and decide on which section of the text to concentrate on. The challenge is in preaching multiple themes on one sermon and confuse the congregation. Make your mind and focus on section linked to your theme.

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