EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

Mark 9:38-50

38  John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in
your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following
us.” 39  But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty
work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40  For
the one who is not against us is for us. 41  For truly, I say to you,
whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to
Christ will by no means lose his reward.
Temptations to Sin
42  “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it
would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his
neck, and he were thrown into the sea. 43  And if your hand causes you
to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two
hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45  And if your foot causes
you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two
feet to be thrown into hell. 47  And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it
out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than
with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48  ‘where their worm does not die,
and the fire is not quenched.’ 49  For everyone will be salted with fire.
50  Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it
salty again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one
another.”
INTRODUCTION
A few years ago, the Douglas Aircraft company was competing with
Boeing to sell Eastern Airlines its first big jets. War hero Eddie
Rickenbacker, the head of Eastern Airlines, reportedly told Donald
Douglas that the specifications and claims made by Douglas’s
company for the DC-8 were close to Boeing’s on everything except
noise suppression. Rickenbacker then gave Douglas one last chance
to out-promise Boeing on this feature. After consulting with his
engineers, Douglas reported that he didn’t feel he could make that
promise. Rickenbacker replied, "I know you can’t, I just wanted to see
if you were still honest."

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Eddie Rickenbacker claimed holiness in his hour of temptation. You
know the feeling too. It may be the temptation to cheat on your tax
return by not identifying all your income so that you get a bigger
refund check; it may be to make promises about your product (that
are false) to induced someone to buy it; it may be to watch a program
or commercial on T.V. that is morally indecent; or it may be to stare at
a woman that is provocatively dressed. By the way, the intent of
women’s clothes designers is to entice you through their product to
look--lust!
The truth is that temptation is a part of our everyday Christian life.
Christ was not exempt; neither are you. You will be tempted and
always will be tempted. Holiness of character depends upon your
resisting these temptations.
PART ONE
In our reading for today we hear the words of Jesus concerning
temptation. Temptation is something we have dealt with every day
since our birth, and it is something we will continue to deal with every
day until the day of our death.
Christ goes to great lengths to give us a picture of how temptation
and the sin from that temptation can take us into eternal damnation.
He uses a comparison of our bodies being less than whole, compared
to what hell will do to our soul.
PART TWO
We spend millions and millions of dollars every year on things that
give the impression that we are whole. Plastic surgery, tummy tucks,
hair coloring, creams and lotions, cosmetic surgery, stomach
stapling, etc. Businesses have been created to help people look and
feel whole again. We somehow think that we are a better person if we
are a whole person. We have convinced ourselves that other people
and maybe even God himself cares and loves more those who are
whole.
We see being physically whole as an achievement or something we
should be proud of. And when we fail, we do what every human has
done since the Fall. We try to cover up our infirmity or replace it with

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something man has made. But God says that we should avoid the
temptation to sin by fleeing and acknowledge our imperfections and
the need for a Savior, rather than that temptation and sin be the cause
of our condemnation.
We are a being that is imperfect. We need salvation and redemption.
And the first step to doing that is to flee temptation and turn around
and come back to our God.
PART THREE
Sandra Bullock won the 2010 Best Actress Academy Award for her
portrayal of Leigh Ann Tuohy in The Blind Side. The sensational film
chronicles a Christian family who took in a homeless young man and
gave him the chance to reach his God-given potential. Michael Oher
not only dodged the hopelessness of his dysfunctional inner city
upbringing but became the first-round NFL draft pick for the
Baltimore Ravens in 2009. At a recent fund-raiser, Sean Tuohy noted
that the transformation of his family and Michael all started with two
words. When they spotted Michael walking along the road on a cold
November morning (the movie depicts it as nighttime) in shorts and a
T-shirt, Leigh Ann Tuohy uttered two words that changed their world.
She told Sean, “Turn around.” They turned the car around, put
Michael in their warm vehicle, and ultimately adopted him into their
family. Those same two words can change anyone’s life. When we
turn around, we change directions and begin an exciting new journey.
Some may need to make an about-face concerning their disbelief in
Christ, or it could be a Christian need to turn around and reconsider
the value of fervent prayer. Whatever your situation, a great story of
wonderful change could be just two words away.
Turn around. That is the picture of resisting temptation. The life of
the Church is one of repentant faith in Christ. We come before our
Savior, not whole, but less than whole. We are missing loving others,
loving ourselves, watching over the poor and the widows. We all
need turning around.
PART FOUR
Everything about our faith centers on Christ. It centers on His
sacrifice of wholeness, not in sin, but in sacrifice to make us whole

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again. We are to cling to Christ, like a child clings to their mom. We
are to flee from any sin that could separate us from Christ’s love for
us. When we center our lives on Christ, 24 hours a day, seven days a
week, 365 days a year, we respond to Christ’s love for us on the cross
by turning around and serving others.
We will fail. But in that confession, and in our absolution, in keeping
our focus on Him, we see the redemption of ourselves in the body and
blood of Christ. We see in His body and blood the wholeness of our
souls. We see the love we have for others. We see the salvation of
our imperfect souls.
CONCLUSION
Not too many years ago newspapers carried the story of Al Johnson,
a Kansas man who came to faith in Jesus Christ. What made his story
remarkable was not his conversion, but the fact that as a result of his
newfound faith in Christ, he confessed to a bank robbery he had
participated in when he was nineteen years old.
Because the statute of limitations on the case had run out, Johnson
could not be prosecuted for the offense. Still, he believed his
relationship with Christ demanded a confession. And he even
voluntarily repaid his share of the stolen money!
We are not created whole. We are less than whole by the temptation
and act of sin. In that sinfulness we create ways to feel whole. But
we are not! God comes to us by way of His Son, Jesus Christ, to
redeem and restore us back to wholeness. And in that wholeness, we
serve each other in the love of Christ. Cling to Christ. Stay faithful.
Flee from sin that would separate us from God. Be whole. Be

 

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