Biblical Text: Mark 9:38-50
I would be hard pressed to think of a message more contra the advice of every “grow your church” consultant than this one. Dependence upon a translation of a Greek word? Check. Pointing out sin and struggles with it? Check. Attempting to say that what feels like failure might be the greatest spiritual good? Check. Resting that spiritual good squarely on faith as proof without an immediate here and now reward? Check.
So why the heck would I do that? What I’d like to be able to say is Truth. Our current culture or environment would scorn this statement, but that is what the pulpit is about, proclaiming truth. And it is truth that suffering and failure are part of this life. Our Lord was crucified and betrayed. It is harder to find a more pure case of losing. Either we deal with that, we include space for less than the power and the glory, or we’ve created a false religion that will ultimately lead to despair.
The thing is: 1) truth isn’t popular. We’d rather have the pretty lie as long as we can believe it. 2) We aren’t actually that good at discerning truth. Archbishop Cranmer’s formulation holds, “what the heart wants, the will chooses and the mind justifies”. We want a lot of things to be true. I’m sure that many an atheist could say, yeah, like your sky god stuff. But here is the thing, through 3000 years recorded in the Bible, the prophets that are recognized are usually like Jeremiah or Elijah or Jesus – “Father, take this cup from me.” They didn’t want the world as it was, yet that was the truth. And they served truth. They served the Word. Mankind has never wanted to believe that they aren’t God or the measure of everything. Goes all the way back to Eve.
So, Jesus says in today’s text that we will all be salted with fire. Do we watch and prepare, or do hold onto the lie a little longer? Does the watchman proclaim it, or keep silent?