St Andrew, Glencairn

Glencairn Methodist Church

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September and October 2015

"Don't you know there is a war on?"


In his commentary on Mark, Tom Wright tells the story of a canon of Westminster Abbey. During the blitz, he watched as his house and everything in it was burnt down. The next morning he went to buy new clothes, as he only had the ones he stood up in, and he gave the sales assistant a long list of necessities. She was surprised by this seemingly profligate request, and asked him, "Don't you know there is a war on?". Of course he did and that is the point of the story.


Jesus certainly knew there was a war on between him and his proclamation that the kingdom of God was near, and the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders, We read in Mark chapter 7 that Jesus said some startling things . The Pharisees had criticised Jesus' disciples for not washing their hands before a meal. Now washing one's hands before eating is a good thing, but Jesus' response showed clearly that "there is a war on!" He said "You Hippocrites". He knew that the Pharisees were not so much concerned with the cleanliness of the disciples hands but with the fact that they were ignoring, the Jewish traditions which they had carefully crafted over the years as "must be obeyed guidelines" to keeping the whole letter of the Law. This was the essence of the war between Jesus and the Jewish authorities. The Kingdom of God was not so much about obeying the purity laws, but about being pure in your heart. "It is not what goes into your body that defiles you but what comes out, from your heart, the seat of your emotions and desires". (Food, Kosher or not, just goes through and out the other end, and does not harm you.)


In Mark Chapter 9 verses 35-50, we get further insight into this "don't you know there's a war on" theme. This time it is his disciples who have not yet got the message. This passage consists of several, seemingly disconnected sayings, but it is all to do with getting the disciples on-side. First of all John complains to Jesus about somebody else, not in their group, casting out demons in Jesus' name. He wants Jesus to stop him, He wants to keep Jesus all to himself and the band of disciples. He is being exclusive rather than inclusive, which is contrary to Jesus' teaching about the kingdom. And Jesus chides him saying that if this outsider is doing the work of the Kingdom, then he must be "on our side".  John sees Jesus' work as a private and privileged operation and not as an event that is moving swiftly towards a showdown with the authorities.


Isn't this is a disease that afflicts the church today? Isn't it all too easy for members of a church, especially the professional clergy and theologians, to assume that the church belongs to "us" and that "our" traditional way of worship in the "proper" way. We turn people away, those "little ones" that Jesus dearly wants to be in what is, after all, HIS church. Variety is good (except that it causes friction between Christians from time to time). Feet, hands and the other bodily bits mentioned in Ch 9 are good and it is generally accepted that we are not meant literally to cut them off. But we need to beware that we must not let anything at all deflect us from the "main thing" which is the advancement of the Kingdom. There is a war on after all, and the enemy is crafty and devious and will employ any method to thwart the work of Jesus and the church.



21 September 2015


 NOTE - Previous "Monthly Messages" are archived at



In case you do not have a Bible handy, here are the verses from Mark 7 and Mark 9 using the New Living Translation


1 One day some Pharisees and teachers of religious law arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. 2 They noticed that some of his disciples failed to follow the Jewish ritual of hand washing before eating. 3 (The Jews, especially the Pharisees, do not eat until they have poured water over their cupped hands, as required by their ancient traditions. 4 Similarly, they don’t eat anything from the market until they immerse their hands in water. This is but one of many traditions they have clung to—such as their ceremonial washing of cups, pitchers, and kettles.)
5 So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked him, “Why don’t your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.”
6 Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,
‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
7 Their worship is a farce,
    for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.'
8 For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.”

Mark 9
33 After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” 34 But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest.35 He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”
36 Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”
38 John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.”
39 “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. 40 Anyone who is not against us is for us.41 If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded.
42 “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands. 45 If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one foot than to be thrown into hell with two feet.47 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.’
49 “For everyone will be tested with fire. 50 Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other.”