Proper 21B’21
26 September 2021
Jas. 5.13-20; Mk.9.38-50
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. Amen. – From Romans 12.1-2 NRSV

What is your favorite scripture passage from the bible? The green pastures of 23 Psalm, the Beatitudes of Matthew’s gospel, or perhaps it’s St. Paul’s great love chapter we often hear at weddings? Chances are it won’t be the Gospel reading from Mark, chapter 9 we heard today! Talking about words that are difficult to stomach: “If your hand or foot causes you to stumble, cut it off…If your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out,” lest we experience a living hell with all of our body parts intact. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would argue for a literal interpretation of this passage. But then, what are we supposed to make of it?

 If we’re not really supposed to go get a machete and cut off an offending hand, then what? Many scholars believe that Jesus was doing two things with these hard sayings: 1) He was trying to jolt the crowd into paying attention and 2) He is pointing us toward cutting off behaviors and practices that were corrosive to our own souls and harmful to others.

We can reach out with our hands and steal or hit and hurt someone, we can point the finger of accusation at folks we believe have done wrong. We can use our legs to take us to places we have no business going, that may put ourselves or others at risk. What are we looking at with our eyes, and listening to with our ears that may be harming our soul? Is what we are allowing into our hearts and minds through our eyes and ears making us more compassionate for others, and ourselves, or is it feeding a seething anger, and causing us to be unkind?

Our bishop in his latest communique’ described a pandemic within the larger pandemic, one of anger, where people on both ends of the spectrum are demonizing the other and despising them for their beliefs. Over the last couple of weeks, I have witnessed some flashes of anger flaring up. One was at a local restaurant that closed at 2pm and a patron came in at 1:45 demanding to be served and the manager angrily asked the patron, “Can’t you read what the sign says on the front door, we close at 2pm!”

While at a wedding this weekend I met some people that tried to draw me “a man of God,” as thy referred to me, into taking a side on whether we should vax and mask or not. Was it a conspiracy to bring about the end times of biblical prophecy? My answer, “I told them that in my church we have folks all over the political spectrum, with some vaxed and some not.” I said that God was probably not going to judge any of us on whether we were able to outsmart the government or not but we would be judged on how well we loved others. In other words, It’s not about how many people we can convince to take our side of things, no, “It Really is All About Love!”

I also had a conversation with a parishioner who felt hurt and singled out by being asked multiple times if they had been vaccinated or not. I need to reiterate this morning that all are welcome at St. Luke’s regardless of their vaccination status. We also shouldn’t be asking people whether they have the shot. Especially here at St. Luke’s we need to major on welcoming all who come through our red doors and treating them as we would treat Christ.

Rather than literally cutting off our body parts, what we need to do is cut off our resentments, our toxic anger, and we need to cut off the TV or the computer that fuels our anxieties, and fears, that are effectively keeping us from being Children of the Light in our dark world. Rather than using our hands to type hateful and fear-based posts or emails, we could use then to write a card to someone who is lonely and afraid. We could use it to pat someone on the back and reassure them that they matter. Hands, feet, eyes, ears, legs, these are all gifts from God and enable us to do many helpful things, healing things, rather than harmful things.

The reading from James reminds us that we live in a world filled with suffering and that we could be agents of healing and reconciliation. James advises those who are suffering to call for the elders of the church to lay hands upon them and anointing them with oil in the Name of the Lord that they might be healed. He also emphasized the healing that can take place when we humble ourselves and become willing to confess our faults to each other.

blankRather than cutting off our body parts what if we made them a focus of our intention to give our bodies to God that he might use them to do his work in the world all around us. On the cover of the bulleting is a photo of a Mexican Milagro. Milagros are small bits of metal that have been fashioned into different parts of the body. Milagro in Spanish means miracle or surprise, and they are used to focus folk’s prayer intention. I brought a couple of objects of mine that have Milagros attached and they are on the table in the narthex where you can see some actual ones.

Rather than cutting off these parts of us, why don’t we present them to God that we might be his agents of healing in the world. There is an ancient Celtic rune that has been set to music that our choir will be performing a little bit later the words are as follows and with them may we focus upon cooperating with God in putting out healing and hopeful vibes:



God be in my head,

And in my understanding;

God be in mine eyes,

And in my looking;

God be in my mouth,

And in my speaking;

God be in my heart,

And in my thinking;

God be at mine end,

And at my departing.


Celtic Rune, Sarum Primer, c.1514