26th September – Andrea’s Letter: Trinity Seventeen

27th September 2021

Dear All

Once again, we had a cheerful gathering this morning.

Notices for this week

Tuesday 10am Prayer Group in the garden room.
Thursday Holy Communion 10am followed by coffee in Friendship House

Other notices…….

Saturday 2nd October Gardening Party 10-12pm – everyone welcome to take part in this gardening session to help Robin Milne, who has been maintaining our garden superbly,  give the garden an autumn tidy up.  Coffee and cake provided!

Sunday 10th October Harvest Festival – 10am Sung Eucharist for harvest will be followed by coffee and a cake stall.  Please bring any donations of produce, home bakes and preserves, plants or anything that will sell on a stall plus donations for the alter offering which will go to Elpis.

Sunday 24th October – 10am Sung Eucharist followed by AGM in church

 Friendship House are looking for much needed volunteers to help in the kitchen or to serve front of house, please let me know if you are interested.

Church Flowers – help with church flowers would be very much appreciated – again please let me know if you are interested.

17th Sunday after Trinity St Andrew’s Milngavie

Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16,24-29

James 5:13-20

Mark 9:38-50

I’m sure we can all too easily name and blame people, events and circumstances that have tripped us up, interfered with our lives and plans, and kept us from achieving getting what we want and hope for. In other words, life is full of stumbling blocks.

During the course this week climate protestors have been blockading the M25 causing a stumbling block to those wishing to get to work, hospital appointments or visits to family. The protestors on the other hand would argue that the use of cars is a stumbling block to controlling climate change.

In addition, lack of lorry drivers is a stumbling block to delivering essential fuels and goods. Of course, covid has been a stumbling block to almost everything!

One of the things I love about scripture is that the stories we read and hear are our stories.  They are truly about us and tell us so much about ourselves and our And today’s readings do not disappoint as they reflect this “stumbling block” theme.  However, they speak of it coming from within our own souls and minds rather than an outside force.

In our first reading from Numbers, the Israelites are complaining vociferously about their conditions.  Moses is truly overwhelmed and weary as he tries to lead them through the desert.  And, as he complains to God about his heavy workload, God is sympathetic to him.

God then responds with a proposal that will take some of the burden off Moses by asking others to share the load.  This is a great idea but when God takes some of Moses’ spirit and places it on seventy chosen elders, some of that spirit is given to two men, Eldad and Medad.

And, when they begin to prophesy there is outrage and jealousy as they prophesy in the camp and not, as expected, in the tent which obviously was not approved of therefore looked on as a stumbling block.  But rather than stop them Moses says with certainty that he wishes all God’s people would be filled with God’s spirit as they are.

Today’s gospel (Mark 9:38-50) tells a story about John and the other disciples running into a stumbling block, an outsider who, as John tells Jesus, “Was not following us.”

John does not say that this man interfered with the disciples’ work, or that he opposed them. He simply says, “He was not following us.” Never mind that the man was casting out demons in Jesus’ name. He was not one of them, and that seems to be their stumbling point.

Last week the disciples argued among themselves about who is the greatest (Mark 9:30-37). This week (Mark 9:38-50) they are complaining about this other man, perhaps they thought he was a stumbling block to their status, power, and recognition.

In response to this, Jesus is asking them and us to look at ourselves, to be self-reflective. The greatest stumbling blocks are not outside us but often within us: guilt, anger, revenge, doubt, insecurity, self-absorption, judgmental, pride, fear, disappointment, our desire for control. These, and a thousand other things like them, are what cause others and us to fall.

In this passage Jesus uses those images four times to talk about our betterment. “It is better for you…,” he says ………. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands……………. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell…… It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.”

Graphic, uncomfortable images….

So, we may want to ask ourselves in what ways have we caused ourselves or someone else to stumble? And what might we need to change or give up in order to step into our better selves? As individuals, a nation, a church?

We are called to be building blocks rather than stumbling blocks. And it’s indeed a tough call!

As James epistle reaches its conclusion, he encourages his readers to overcome their stumbling blocks by being faithful in prayer.  He also urges his people to support one another in their journeys of faith,

“Is anyone among you suffering? They should pray……… Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”  James 5:13ff