Monday 5 September 2022

Mark 9: 41-42: A Large Millstone Around Your Neck



Leon Trotsky in his autobiography, My Life, reflecting on his own childhood said, ‘Life strikes the weak – and who is weaker than a child?’. By the same token in 2003, I once heard, on the radio, someone make a comparison between Tony Blair the then British Prime Minister and George Bush, the President of the United States at the time that both countries were on the verge of launching the Second Gulf War. The comparison was that Blair should shoulder most of the responsibility for the forthcoming attack on Iraq, because Blair was brighter than Bush. Figuratively speaking, Tony Blair was presented as the older child who should have known better than to encourage the more na├»ve, or perhaps less intelligent, younger child George Bush.

I’m reminded of hearing these words on the radio all those years ago, after reading William Barclay’s commentary on leadership that causes other people to sin. Barclay’s remarks refer to the words of Jesus from the Gospel of Mark 9: 41-42:

But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck.

You will remember Barclay’s words as read out this morning:

God is not hard on the sinner, but God will be stern to the person who makes it easier for another to sin, and those whose conduct, either thoughtless or deliberate, puts a stumbling-block in the path of the weaker brother.

There’s a saying that’s cropped up for me a few times just recently and that saying goes, ‘You don’t know what you don’t know’.  A friend of mine once said, ‘I’m never wrong because when I am wrong then I’ll admit I’m wrong and then I’m right again’. Jesus said that the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32) to know the truth, to embrace it in Christ, and to live it is the freedom that Jesus spoke about. He was talking of freedom from sin. Surely if we know the truth and choose to ignore it, then that has got to be worse than knowing the truth but ignoring it.

I’m sure we are all aware of Jesus’s explicit, heartfelt plea from the cross on behalf of those who sinned in ignorance. And so, we have these words from the Gospel of Luke:

Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. (23:32-34)

 Jesus’ words uttered from the cross, ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing’. It takes great compassion and understanding, as Christ had, in the throes of one’s death agony to both forgive and understand one’s tormentors and persecutors. Thus, we have the prayer attributed to St Francis of Assisi, these words:

‘O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love… 

I once met someone who alluded to her spiritual journey, I think she was much inspired by Buddhist teaching and she spoke of what she called the elimination of the ego and whether or not she could do it. But Christian teaching is more effective in that it promotes the virtue of humility. We should have a good opinion of ourselves, you and I all of us. We should have a good opinion of ourselves, but none of us are perfect and the truth of the matter, really is that we are all sinners, in spite of what the liberal Christians may say. None of us are worthy of God’s love, but He gives it to us anyway, this as an act of grace. Was it not an act of grace that Christ could cry out from the cross, ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing?’ After all these years, I really think it’s not possible to eliminate the ego. we should remember that we are fallible indeed. Rather, I think we should accept the view of the prophet Isaiah, that we are all fundamentally flawed and that the human heart is deceitful and that outside the grace of God’s love and forgiveness, His salvation, we are beyond redemption. If we bear this in mind, we might avoid spiritual pride. We might avoid spiritual pride because we ought to realise that our forgiveness, God’s love is dependant not on what we do, but what God will do for us. The prophet Isaiah wrote:

The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? (17.9)

I find these words of Isaiah can be useful to bear in mind when one is tempted to think too highly of oneself. In the same vein, I think that these words of Paul in his letter to the Church in Philippi are helpful.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

Don’t look out only for yourself, said Paul but look out for others too. Our looking out for others is because with knowledge and faith comes responsibility. We Christians know of God because we see him in His creation and we Christians know of God because we can read his word. We Christians therefore have no excuse. This religion of ours is not a passive affair it requires active faith. But those who profess faith whilst knowingly placing stumbling blocks in the way of others leading them to sin and failure will be condemned. I began by talking about the vulnerability of children, you will remember those words, Life strikes the weak – and who is weaker than a child? You will remember that story this morning from William Barclay’s commentary of the little girl who eventually died after ending up on the streets in prostitution because of neglect.

So, while we are thinking of the vulnerability of children, let me read this to you from the Manchester Evening News: 21 August 2022:

Drag Queen Story Hour, which has been running worldwide since 2015, is an initiative where drag queens will usually take over a library or a community centre for an hour and read stories to children. The initiative aims to break down stereotypes and bias from a young age.

Oldham Councillor Louie Hamblett has told the MEN it is 'sad' that further security is needed in 'today's age' and added the show is an 'activity open to all'. Protestors have previously claimed the show is brainwashing children, with protestors also ambushing an event in Bristol last month.

The Liberal Democrat Councillor from Crompton, Oldham, said: "I think it's sad that additional security is required in today's age. It's an activity that's open to all and welcomed by both parents and children who attend for a morning or afternoon of story time.

This isn’t about agenda’s or pushing ideas onto people. This about reading books, telling stories with excitement, colour and fun.

I could ask why on earth drag queens are required to read stories to children? I could ask, but you know what? That would be a disingenuous question. Because you know and I know why this is being done, it’s being done to advance an LGBT agenda, it’s been done in the words of Louie Hamblett the Liberal Democrat councillor from Crompton to break down stereotypes and bias from a young age. What she means is that it’s being done to break down traditional family values, it's being done to disempower parents, it's being done to corrupt children. It is a satanic agenda to undermine the Christian basis of society. As I’ve said, this is being done to corrupt our children and how do they do that? They aim break down to break down stereotypes.

They aim to breakdown the stereotypes that children need to see in their early years of development, the archetypes, the difference between mummy and daddy they need to know the difference between right and wrong, to know the difference between good and evil to know the difference between boys and girls, to know the difference between men and women, so that they gain a sound basis of understanding for life, so that they can identify with their God given sex and gender and can live out their lives on this earth righteously in accordance with God’s plan for creation.

Undermining the family, undermining parents, and corrupting children is a sin.

We know what Jesus would say:

But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck.

 

 Photograph: By Paasikivi - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=118002857