In today’s Gospel Story (Mark 9:38-48) Jesus says that anyone who puts a stumbling block in the way of folks who are trying to follow him should have a millstone put around their neck and thrown into the sea.
This raises some questions, at least in my mind. Jesus talked about his Father as caring, loving, compassionate, involved, wanting our happiness and fulfillment. Where did the idea of a remote, angry, vengeful, judgmental God come from? Jesus showed us his Father’s values by living them among us, encouraging and challenging folks to see their own goodness and value, and to help and care for each other. Where did the idea come from that folks are all terrible sinners who need to be afraid of an angry God’s fearful punishment? Not from Jesus, I think. This sounds to me like a ruse by some religious leaders to keep themselves in power by keeping the folks in line and under control.
Jesus spent time with whomever he met, and offered them his Father’s love. He did not do a background check, demand that they pass a test, or look into their lifestyles before he would spend time with them. Where did the idea come from that folks in certain lifestyles cannot approach him and share in his love? Who came up with the idea of keeping folks away from Eucharist if they did not live in a certain way, or were not married according to a particular standard? Who came up with the idea that folks who do not agree fully on propositions established by a religious group’s “leaders” they should not presume to share fully in Jesus’ Eucharistic love? Who gave “leaders” the power to tell people to stay away from Eucharist if they support same sex marriage? According to the Story of the Last Supper, Jesus did not restrict any of his disciples from sharing fully in his gift of himself at the meals, even though he knew not all of them were totally honorable. Why do some leaders claim the right to decide who can and cannot share fully in Jesus’ Eucharistic meal? Then there are the Sacraments which are defined by the Baltimore Catechism as “outward sign, instituted by Christ to give grace”. Some traditions which have the Sacraments seem to believe they can determine just who Jesus can give grace to. Did this come from Jesus?
Jesus offered a lifestyle that was seen as a threat by the civil authority of his day, the Roman Empire. Where did the idea come from that a religious group’s leaders can demand civil government of today not only protect their right to believe certain things and act in certain ways, but impose their values on all citizens through amending constitutions and passing civil laws? Constantine’s gift still survives.
Jesus reached out to all folks whether or not they were accepted and welcomed by society of his day. Who gave some religious “leaders” the idea to declare certain lifestyles and legal categories outside the welcoming embrace of a religious group that claims to be acting in the name of Jesus?
Jesus encouraged folks by living his Fathers love for and with them. Where did the idea come from that leaders of some religious groups should bring people to God by threats and punishments?
Jesus spent time discussing things with folks, as in the Story of the Samaritan woman at the well. Who gave some leaders of religious groups they idea that they could tell folks what they can and cannot discuss?
Jesus taught basically two commandments: love God and neighbor, and don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you. Where did all the other laws come from? What do they have to do with following Jesus? Too bad there isn’t some effective way to let religious leaders experience themselves the pain their prejudices and discriminatory edicts, have on good folks just trying to live a decent life.
Jesus reached out to include everyone. He said his Father makes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on everyone. Why do some church leaders build fences to keep the “wrong folks” out? Why do they practice discrimination in the guise of goodness and moral rectitude and get away with it?
Jesus told his disciples that if anything is keeping them from knowing God’s Kingdom in their life, they need to cut it out and throw it away. This might be one instance where folks and religious authorities agree, but they disagree on just what it is that needs to be cut off and thrown away. Many good folks are simply cutting off religious institutions and throwing them away. They do this by walking away themselves. Perhaps they are coming to know in their own life that the goodness of God, by whatever name it is called, is much greater than any given religious institution, no matter what powers and prerogatives such an institution claims for itself.
To me these are some stumbling blocks. Maybe they aren’t to other folks.
Just sayin . . .