As I read this passage I couldn't help but think about the scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail in which King Arthur runs into the Black Knight who he invites to join his cause, but the knight wants to fight. He starts losing the fight and limbs - it's just a scratch, a flesh wound - he has no limbs.
The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark, Day 45‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell., And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
‘For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.’ Mark 9:42-50
Just a Flesh Wound
What stumbling blocks to faith do you face today? Do you let the hypocrisy of church members prevent you from experiencing God's word in community? Do you let the silence, absence of God when you cry out, challenge your faith? Do you let an illness or death separate you from God's presence? Do you let doubts and questions about faith keep you from learning and growing through those doubts and concerns? Do you let the televangelists or image of Christianity prevent you from believing in God who busts out of the narrow confines of the box God has been put in? What are your stumbling blocks?
Jesus closes this section of sayings, by inviting us to renter God's covenant by being the salt and flavoring life with the essence of God's flavor. We are reminded that salt has been used to symbolize the making of a covenant with God. Remember God's promises and be at peace.
Unsure, when what was bright turns dark And life, it seems, has lost its way,We question what we once believed And fear that doubt has come to stay. We sense the worm that gnaws within Has withered will power, weakened bones, And wonder whether all that's left Is stumbling blocks or stepping stones.
Where minds and bodies reel with pain Which nervous smiles can never mask, And hope is forced to face despair And all the things it dared not ask: Aware of weakness, guilt or shame, The will gives out, the spirit groans, And clutching at each straw we find More stumbling blocks than stepping stones.
Ah God, you with the Maker's eye, Can tell if all that's feared is real, And see if life is more than what We suffer, dread, despise and feel. If some by faith no longer stand Nor hear the truth your voice intones, Stretch out your hand to help your folk From stumbling block to stepping stones.Iona Community Song