by Colleen Fitzpatrick
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If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea (Mark 9:42).
As we age, the risk of stumbling and falling becomes more significant. We work hard to improve our balance, and, indeed, the exercise regime that my husband and I enjoy includes significant balance work. As we walk around the neighbourhood, we don’t see many stumbling blocks, but we have lots of uneven paving that can prove treacherous.
I am familiar with millstones because, on our farm, there was a rather large, old millstone in the yard. Now, my father was a big man and very strong. But even he could not lift this stone. If you had one of those hanging around your neck and were tossed into the sea, there is no way you could escape drowning.
Jesus’ desire is for all people – even the little ones – to believe in him. And woe betides anyone who puts a stumbling block in their way! The outcome is not just a skinned knee, gravel rash on your palms or even a broken pelvis. We are to do whatever needs to be done to ensure we enter the kingdom of God.
So what stumbling blocks are in our way? Or more importantly, what stumbling blocks are we putting in the way of others? Is our collective behaviour as a church a deterrent for people joining us? Do we as individuals present a less than winsome example of Christian life to our family, friends or neighbours?
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse highlighted some terrible examples of power being misused against children. Our church was not guilt-free in this. As a church, we can guard against further abuses by people with power and authority. One of the strategies for this is learning about what misuse of power looks like to vulnerable people and how we can prevent it.
Hands, feet and eyes are mentioned in the reading today, but what about spoken and written words? In our times, social media allows our voices to be heard more widely than ever before. May we use these opportunities to draw people to Jesus rather than becoming a stumbling block that could result in consequences quite contrary to our expectations.
Dear Jesus, we know that all people are precious to you, particularly children. We are all your children. Help us to encourage one another in our faith and strive to encourage and support the faith of others, rather than being stumbling blocks to the growth of your kingdom. Forgive us where we have got it wrong, and help us to be a reflection of your love in our lives. Amen.