Bringing the Text to Life

What Makes You Cry? Mark 9:38-50

What is it that makes you cry? Even for men, it is now okay to cry. But are we getting worked up into tears over the right things? Jesus became sick to tears when people caused other people to stumble. Some of his harshest statements in the gospels are reserved for those people.

This week's discussion comes with a warning label -- it does not lead to a feel-good, tap your toes, joy-to-the-world-type sermon, nor to a typical "build-me-up" boomer sermon.

This is more of an operatic sermon. Now I know, for a lot of us, that description itself is enough to bring shudders and sighs and sprints to the door. But here is how Time magazine defines opera: "Opera is performed at peak volume because the feelings it surveys are big and deep. Matters of lust and death are too important to be spoken; they must be sung, shouted, thundered, wept -- and shown, in all their delicious force" (Time, 2 May 1988, 79; with thanks to James Harnish, Tampa, Florida).

This week's text confronts us with this kind of operatic force. Jesus uses exaggerated notions and actions to make his disciples face the gravity of what they have done. By rebuking the unknown man who offered healing and exorcism in Jesus' name, the disciples had stopped up a tributary of divine compassion from flowing ...



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