Saturday, September 30, 2006

Hard Truths

Tomorrow's Gospel reading (Mark 9:38-48) is the old "if your hand (or foot) offends, cut it off, and if the eye offends, pluck it out" lesson... Eeeyewh!

Visualizing severed limbs and gaping eye sockets as a means to eternal life gives me the creeps. ..."better to enter the kingdom maimed or blind, than to spend eternity where the worm never dies and the fire is never quenched." Creepier still, like something out of a Stephen King novel. It's the kind of Scripture that makes me want to tell a joke... picture a cartoon of some poor schmuck sitting in heaven with nothing but a trunk... no arms, legs or eyes. Too many offensive body parts.

Okay, so I get it. Intellectually. But worms that never die do not meet me on an intellectual level. They hit me at my squeamish gut level, at the flying-cockroach-level, where I screech first and then go eeyewh! Ickh! Get it off me!

On the one hand Jesus says "If you're not against me then you're for me." I like that part. That encompasses a whole lot of people, not just the fervent believers. I especially like the inclusive words of Jesus. They give me hope for myself on my most sinful days, and hope for my friends who are still in the imaginary dead guy phase.

But he's not all sugar and spice, my lord and savior. He tells it like it is, and one of the hardest truths is that anything that separates us from God is bad for us. Bad for us now, and worse for eternity. So forgetting for the moment the body parts, what is it I do that separates me from God? What activity must be severed from my schedule? What behavior needs to be plucked out and thrown away? The instructions are pretty clear. No cutting down... quitting cold turkey is the only way to go.

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