Blue spring flowers on the Cathedral grounds

Mark 9:30-50

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him. Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward. “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched. “For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

When I was a child, this passage used to terrify me with all the talk of millstones around necks, cutting off hands and feet, and tearing out eyes. Afterall, when you are young you are a pretty concrete thinker, metaphor is not something easily grasped. The fact that Jesus would talk in such a way always made me want to sink down in the pew and hide among the needlepoint kneelers.

But the fact is, sometimes the most loving truth we can hear is the hard truth that we need to let go of something or someone in our lives in order to find health and wholeness. Maybe it’s that glass of wine that we like too much. Maybe it’s a mindset about ourselves that consistently erodes our self-esteem. Maybe it’s a toxic relationship or a pattern of behavior that is just killing our soul. Whatever the case, being told that we need to cut this thing or this person out of our lives is the last thing we want to hear and the one thing we need to listen to the most. Afterall, it is amazing what human beings will hold onto, cling to, even when it is killing them.

Friends, these days of Lent are the perfect time to be honest with ourselves about the things we need to cut out of our lives. Perhaps we don’t have the will to do anything about them right now, but at least we can be honest with ourselves about the truth of it all, at least we can consciously acknowledge what we already know deep down inside. And then pray for the wisdom to see your life clearly and for the grace to let go of whatever it is that causes you to stumble. Because God’s dream for us is that we become the people God intended us to be, that we become the very best version of ourselves. And sometimes that means letting go.


O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light riseth up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou wouldest have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see light, and in thy straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 832)