September 26, 2021
Aron Ralston was doing a solo descent of Bluejohn Canyon in southeastern Utah. He was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. He was working his way down when he dislodged a 1,000 pound boulder that pinned his right wrist to the side of the canyon wall. He could not move the boulder. He couldn’t free his arm. He was trapped. He waited and hoped to be rescued. No rescue came. After five days, with his water supply gone, he psyched himself up to do what he needed to do in order to survive. He broke his forearm as the first step. Then with his dull jackknife he cut himself free from his trapped arm. Next he made a rough tourniquet to control his bleeding and then began his journey out. He made his way through the rest of the canyon. He rappelled down a 65-foot drop, and hiked 7 miles to safety. Dehydrated, bloody and in pretty rough condition he was found walking in Canyonlands National Park. He was lifeflighted from there to a hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado. You might remember that story. It in April of 2003.
In our Gospel reading today Jesus uses some pretty rough language. He tells us to cut off a hand or foot, or rip out an eye if they offend us. He says this in the context of the danger of offending a little one, and the high price to be paid for doing so. “it would be better to have a great millstone hung around your neck and be cast into the sea.”
Imagine arriving in heaven and seeing someone who is maimed with two hands missing, a missing foot and both eyes gauged out. And he saying, yes, but at least I made it to heaven! Is it that hard to get to heaven? If that were true, what type of God would demand what we cannot do and then condemn us for our failure?
Jesus is speaking in hyperbole—a form of literary exaggeration—in order to make a point. His point? Your soul and inner being are much more valuable than your physical being.
What do we do about someone doing good who is not part of us? Let them continue to do good. Don’t stop acts of goodness and kindness. They are allies in life—on the same team—team Jesus! No matter who does the acts of kindness and mercy all such deeds will be rewarded.
Offenses will happen. Don’t let yourself be the cause of them happening. Care for the weak and vulnerable. The context of this reading tells us to include ourselves in the category of the weak and vulnerable. How do we care for ourselves spiritually and emotionally? Be disciplined and brutal in defending and taking care of your soul. Your character and heart are worth protecting. The type of offense Jesus seems to be referring to jealousy, bitterness or grudges that cause us to act and behave in offensive ways, besides poisoning our souls, pitting us against each other.
Jesus knows we are incredibly human and imperfect. He is not demanding we perfectly earn our way to heaven. Jesus is our ticket to heaven. Grace is our only way of being forgiven and having eternal life. But we should not just make excuses and get comfortable in failing. Don’t let jealousy or bitterness destroy you.
So what does it mean to be salty, to have salt in ourselves? Salt not only flavors food, it kills germs. Salt serves as a preservative because it kills germs. It keeps things from spoiling. The type of spiritual salt Jesus wants us to have? Know we are forgiven. Through Jesus life and the ability to start new every day. We are empowered to live under the law of life and love. We are not governed by the brokenness of our world. Jesus is telling us to not let jealousy, grudges or bitterness cause us to loose our way to hurt ourselves or others in our lives. Learn to be kind, tender-hearted and forgiving. Be salty! Live at peace!
You have the ability to do better and change how you live and treat yourself and others because of Jesus. Claim it! Live it! Be salty! Live at peace!
James 5:13-20 Body-life and prayer in the Church
13-15 Pray when you suffer. Praise when you are happy and things are good. When you are sick let the body of Christ pray for and care for you.
16-18 Don’t underestimate the power of prayer. Elijah’s experience is a great example. He prayed for draught and then rain. Both happened as a result of his prayer.
19-20 Don’t abuse prayer or try to use it as a magic wand to get your own way. You are connected to the body of Christ. Let the truth of Jesus’ life in you anchor you with other believers. Hold each other close. Care for each other and so save yourselves from spiritual death and being overtaken and overwhelmed by sin.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.