URC Daily Devotions Saturday, 24 February 2024

St Mark 9: 42 – 50

‘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.’


In the URC we don’t like to talk about Hell much, and I doubt that anyone likes to talk of cutting off hands or losing legs, especially not the people I know who have had a leg or foot amputated. These words are not to be taken literally.

I went to a funeral yesterday. The deceased, who was relatively young, had said that he wasn’t afraid of death, but he was a bit fed up with the timing; but then had said it was the quality of life that mattered, not the quantity. I think that is what the writer of Mark’s Gospel is getting at here – it is the quality of our Christian life that matters; in particular that we are not a stumbling block to others. We should not make it harder for others to follow their faith or come to faith.

It can be hard to explain how to do something that you find easy to someone who has never done it before but showing them is easier. I recently tried to make some origami cranes for a service about peace. From the written instructions, I couldn’t do it and had to give up. When I watched and followed along with an online video, it all became clear and then quite simple. After I’d made two, I could make them easily from memory and show others how to do it.

“If salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it?” Don’t worry about the metaphor of cutting off limbs, it is not literal but a reference to sexual impropriety (check out a good commentary or annotated Bible). The main point for us is, don’t be a stumbling block to others. Remember we are the salt – if we can’t season others’ Christian faith, if we can’t teach, and explain and show by example, what hope for us or the church?


Holy One, keep us mindful that your Son Jesus often spoke in metaphors. Guide us to interpret your Word for our world today. And give us the wisdom to be the salt you want us to be. Open our eyes to see the salt within us and to be at peace with one another. Amen

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