Mark 9: 38-50
38 ‘Teacher,’ said John, ‘we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.’
39 ‘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, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.
42 ‘If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung round their neck and they were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. 45 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. 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where
‘“the worms that eat them do not die,
and the fire is not quenched.”
49 Everyone will be salted with fire.
50 ‘Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.’
The evangelist Duncan Campbell, an observer of the famous Lewis revival of 1949, felt early in his career that he must give up his beloved bagpipes, as a hindrance to following Christ wholeheartedly – not a decision that I ever felt the least call to make, but in line I think with those early African converts who associated their drums with the demonic. At a safe cultural distance, we would perhaps want to water down that challenge to something like ‘the good is the enemy of the best’, but the saying of Jesus, ‘Pluck it out!’ remains to jolt us out of complacent Christianity.
The deil’s awa’, the deil’s awa’,
The deil’s awa’ wi’ the exciseman.
Uneasy context, given Burns’ day job,
but at least it’s focused on fiddlers,
pipers holding on to uisge-beatha.
Pluck it out! Cut it off!
Better lame in life than whole in hell!
Uneasier context, given what we know
of predators who charm and groom their victims,
piping little children to their doom.
PRAY Lord, we lament the wickedness of our world. We confess the wantonness of our culture. We seek the wisdom of your word, and pray for purity – of eyesight, hand and footwork, and of heart. And we are still asking, raise up good and godly leaders in church and nation, in your mercy.
Our Father in heaven:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory
are yours now and for ever. Amen.