Cutting with Precision

Readings for the day (Lectionary 28, Sunday, October 14, 2018):

Amos 5:6-15

Psalm 90:12-17

Hebrews 4:12-16

Mark 10:17-31

 

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

 

Some of you know that I am left handed.  How many of you are left handed?  If you’re left handed then you understand the difficulties of living in a right handed world.  Handwriting from left to right results in leaving ink marks on your hand, and on the paper leaving smear marks that makes it look like a 4 year old was writing.  Or coffee mugs that have designs or sayings on them that when held by the handle with your left hand are backwards.  Or carefully and strategically finding the “safe” place to sit at a table when you eat with a group so that you don’t bump elbows with the right handed person sitting to your left.  If you’re left handed, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  And if you’re right handed, you just don’t get it.  You probably think that I’m weird and complaining about the littlest of things.

But it’s true.  There are many things in our world that have been created for the majority of people who are right handed.  And a perfect example of this is, the scissors.  Have you ever tried to use a scissors to cut something using your left hand?  I have.  And so has every other left handed person.  It is nearly impossible to cut something.  And in the few moments when you actually can be successful in cutting something, it is by no means straight or perfect or precise.

Some people are very steady with their hands and can make some of the most intricate and precise moves.  I can do some detailed work that requires some precision, like putting some details into a wood project.  But give me a right handed scissors and you better not have any grand expectations of seeing a masterpiece when I’m done.  Because it’ll never happen.

Our readings today, especially the reading from Mark’s Gospel and from Hebrews are about precision.  In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus talks about the precision of threading a camel through the eye of a needle.  And the writer of Hebrews talks about the precise cutting that God’s Word does as a two edged sword.  The writer of Hebrews is somewhat of a mystery.  The majority of the book is a sermon and some of the theories on the authorship of this sermon include: Paul, Luke, Barnabas, or Apollos.  But none of these theories are convincing enough for Biblical scholars.  So it is left as an unsolved mystery as to who wrote Hebrews.  In the sermon, the writer says that God’s Word is living and active; that God’s Word is a two edged sword.  Now the two edged sword is often used as a metaphor to mean that something can be both favorable and unfavorable.

Now in the case of God’s Word as a two edged sword, the Word can be unfavorable.  Unfavorable for us and unfavorable for our neighbors.  The Hebrews writer says that God’s Word divides, it judges, it reveals everything that is hidden – even those things that we wish would remain hidden and never seen.  For certain aspects of our life, we strive to keep things out of the public eye.  I recently got a notification that the Facebook data breach included my account.  The notification said that the following information might have taken: my phone number, my email address, my birthdate, and where I live.  Things that were supposed to remain private were made public without my consent.  Things that are private are to remain private; especially your personal information.  But with God, it’s different.  He has full access to all of your personal information.  You can’t hide anything from God.  You can try, but it won’t.  God knows every sin, every shortcoming, every failure.  He knows it all, and with God’s Word as a two edged sword, the unfavorable side is that He knows and remembers everything.  And as a result, we are called to confess our sins and repent of those actions that have hurt ourselves and others.  Confession isn’t fun because it is opening up a wound.  Confession opens our hearts to God, fully and completely exposing us to God for the true sinner that we are.  And when we don’t confess our sins, when we don’t admit to ourselves and to God our shortcomings, it is like putting a Band-Aid on an open wound.  The wound will eventually scab over, but it won’t fully heal unless it heals from the inside out.  Confession opens the wound up, making it possible to heal from the inside out.

Which leads us to the favorable side of God’s Word as a two edged sword.  The writer of Hebrews first talks about how God’s Word judges and divides with great precision, but the writer continues by showing how God’s Word which is made flesh in Jesus Christ, sympathizes with us in our weaknesses.  That God’s Word is filled with mercy and grace, boldly helping in times of need.  As a result, we receive healing and restoration from our Heavenly Father through the forgiveness of our sins.  In the church, we call this the absolution.  The wonderful words that declare us forgiven of our sins through the sacrifice of Jesus, our great high priest.  If confession is what opens up our hearts, opening up the wounds and exposing our true sinful selves, then the absolution is the healing that is brought to those wounds; allowing us to be healed from the inside out.  Absolution without confession is like expecting to be healed without medicine or any medical intervention.  It’s not helpful and it certainly will not get you very far.  Similarly, confession without the absolution is also not helpful.  In fact it is quite harmful to confess and admit you’ve screwed up, but never hear those promising words of forgiveness.

God’s Word is a two edged sword, precisely cutting us to the heart, exposing our sinful wounds and revealing our true identity.  God doesn’t do it this to show how awful we are, but rather to show how much we need Him.  And more precisely, how much we are in need of a savior.  Jesus on the cross was no accident.  It was a very precise move by God.  He was bridging the otherwise infinite gap between Himself and humanity.  Sceptics will say that’s impossible.  It’s impossible to save poor, helpless sinners who cannot help themselves.  Not for God though.  They also say that a camel cannot go through the eye of a needle.  It is impossible.  Not for God though.  “For mortal it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”[1]  Including the precise cutting away of all your sins to bring you healing, wholeness, and make you righteous before God.  Amen.

 

 

© 2018 Anthony Christoffels.  All Rights Reserved.

[1] Mark 10:27, NRSV

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