It is sometimes said that desperate times call for desperate measures. The idea has been variously attributed to Shakespeare, Nelson and, going way back in history, to the Greek Physician Hippocrates.
In our own times, as we approach the COP26 climate summit in November, many leading environmentalists and activists are warning us that the scale of the climate emergency requires emergency measures.
Jesus seems to be suggesting something similar in today’s Gospel reading. If your hand, foot or eye causes you to stumble, he says, then remove them. The consequences of doing nothing, he suggests, are too grave. The language is bold and urgent. It’s as if Jesus is saying ‘Wake up. Don’t sleep-walk towards disaster. Change course.’ In doing so, Jesus is challenging his followers to know where their priorities lie.
At the start of today’s Gospel reading, the disciples are complaining about an adherent of Jesus who is not part of their group, but who is casting out demons in Jesus name. It’s an argument about who’s in and who’s out, who is a legitimate follower of Jesus and who isn’t.
Jesus wants them to ‘get a grip’. Instead of obsessing over who is really part of Jesus’ gang, they need to look inwards and outwards. What needs to change in their own lives? How can they make a positive difference in the world? These are the things that matter.
As church communities we can spend a lot of time focusing on how we run our affairs and who does what. It can all seem very important, and sometimes it is. But today’s Gospel challenges us to put such activity in its proper perspective and to look inwards and outwards: inwards to see where God wants to be at work in us; outwards to see where God wants us to make a difference in the world.
Canon Dr Andrew Braddock