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Year B, Ordinary 26 (Proper 21, Pentecost +19), 2018 – Body Parts!

September 28, 2018 / Molly Douthett / Ordinary Time

Greetings!! We’re home from travels and ready to get back into the swing of things around here. We opened the Gospel selection ready to jump back in and – HOLY COW! The center section is strewn with dismembered body parts that Jesus recommends we cut off rather than continue to live in sin! It reminds me of a song I learned at a youth gathering in Ohio called “Baby Shark”. It’s not the cute little ditty floating (heh) around You Tube but a much darker version where the shark actually attacks and results in human carnage, a Bay Watch run, and going to see Jesus. You learn strange and awful things while working with youth, sometimes…. anyway, these verses from Mark are disturbing and as Barbara Brown Taylor has said, it draws a stark line at a literal interpretation of the Bible. So, what do we do with disciples who complain about an outsider doing their work, Jesus telling them to cut this sinful part out of themselves, and salty fire? We have a couple ideas that might help. 

This week’s text is:

Mark 9:38-50 [01:58]

We begin with WORD smart, looking at the Greek word for stumble which we English speakers recognize as the word “scandal”. An archaic definition of the word – to speak falsely or maliciously – sheds some light on why Jesus’ response to the disciples may have been so direct. We can’t tell from words on a page how the report to Jesus about a stranger casting out demons in his name sounded coming from them, but we only have to look to our own lives when we are upset with someone we think is taking over to get a hint about the tone of voice. The children’s toy Mr. Potato Head is an excellent illustration and SFX for EYE smart that occurred to us as we began recording the show. We also have a lot of videos that could demonstrate how to “dismember” – all tricks, of course! MATH smart is about numbers and logic, so you could illustrate the difference between millstones and stumbling blocks. Jesus draws the comparison between these dense objects and the propensity for our own self regard getting in the way of doing God’s will.

So, he suggests getting rid of them – with some shocking advice that we turn to for BODY smart. If you saw the film 127 Hours, you have some good material to illustrate the difficult situation to which Jesus alludes. Are you stuck somewhere with circumstances for your survival becoming dire? Do you see an option to free yourself? Do you have what it takes to make the decision and carry through with it? We have a link to the trailer for the movie below. We have another link featuring Aron Ralston, the man on whom the movie is based. My take away from Ralston’s experience is that NATURE is awe inspiring and entirely impartial to one’s existence. We have a link to how some insects have adapted to this harsh reality, plus some information about millstones and salt.

In my opinion, this passage with its big rocks and body parts distracts from the PEOPLE and SELF smarts that are the heart of it. Jesus redirects the disciples’ proprietary claims on exorcism and pushes them to think about how their behavior sets up failure for everyone. By attempting to erect a fence around their special relationship with Jesus, they state that the Spirit of the Living God will work only with their branding. Jesus knows this is nonsense and resorts to vivid imagery to shock them into seeing how they have jeopardized his mission. We have some quotes and questions in both PEOPLE and SELF to help us identify these tendencies in our own hearts and ministry. Is it time for some corrective surgery?

  • Smarts – Word [08:29], Eye [10:45], Math [14:34], Body [15:17], Music [16:57], Nature [17:45], People [19:07], Self [22:18]
  • Mark 9 worksheet
  • Links in Mark


Image Credit: Photo by Andrei Lazarev on Unsplash. Used by permission.



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