One day a few years ago, when I realized that my hair was falling out from chemotherapy treatment, I leaned against a wall and sobbed, “This is too much.” In the silence I heard, “Where does my strength come from?” and I heard myself answer, “From the Lord . . . but this is too much!”
Preachers who glance at this Gospel lesson and contemplate the delights
of contracting swine flu just before Sunday could be forgiven, but a
second look reveals an opportunity to teach about Christian community
and behaviors that imperil it.
This past Christmas, I wished for and received a chainsaw. On New Year’s Eve, while I was engaged in a woodworking project, the chainsaw slipped, grabbed my left sleeve, threw me to the ground, and in a matter of seconds dug into my arm, cutting my hand and wrist to the bone for about six inches. I began bleeding profusely. My arm looked like a piece of fresh, badly butchered flank steak.
If you are reading this column hoping to get some insight into Mark 9:49-50, you can stop now. These verses are intensely obscure; the commentaries offer little help; neither I nor anyone I know has received a special revelation explaining the text. Let us simply agree to move on to other matters. By this point in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus has started to speak openly about his impending death.