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LK 17: 1-10
18th Sunday after Pentecost

How well do we cope with 'stumbling blocks'? Things? People? What about when we become a stumbling block? It's pretty graphic imagery, with a nasty outcome. One of the issues that won't go away is how poorly we as churches have sheltered those in our ranks who became stumbling blocks through paedophilia. How poorly we've responded to those who stumbled over them & became their victims. On the whole we've been painfully slow (another stumbling block), stubbornly (another) unwilling (another) to help, work with these 'little ones'. Churches as institutions have become stumbling blocks in the interests of protecting church property from claims. Fellow-members of the flock became stumbling blocks when we didn't believe little ones about what had happened to them. As I write, the Olympics have just begun. How would our churches fare in a Stumbling Race? How would we ourselves fare?

No-one ought to have to stumble over hurdle after hurdle to get justice on any issue. Jesus', God's, little ones deserve better. There may be different, less obvious stumbling blocks where we are part of the Body of Christ. And, as for  mill-stones, like so many other things of the Gospel, millstones aren't something God puts round our neck. We put them round our own necks. Even turn ourselves into mill-stones.

How much unsown 'mustard seed' is there lying around in our heart pockets? In the cupboards of our souls? Because the seed is God's, even that kind of storing away, shoving out of sight, out of mind, can't make it go mouldy or render it un-productive. It's still good. So, let's get it out! Sow it. Now.

Here in Oz there's wide-spread interest in creating mustards these days. A Christmas doesn't go by without friends giving us interesting (& tasty!) mustards they've made, always featuring seeds. Is it time our church became a bit more seedy? Grainy? Flavoursome? Jesus' mustard seed is akin to the light & salt he also speaks of. Mustard seed is another graphic metaphor of discipleship. Now the discipleship needs to become graphic, too.

Jesus' talk of being 'worthless slaves' probably doesn't sit too well with those of us who live in more-or-less egalitarian democracies. While his imagery was spot on for his day, most of us aren't used to being told we're 'worthless', let alone 'slaves'. We can settle for the less strong 'servants' if we choose, but those who hear Jesus are more likely to have been slaves or owned slaves, rather than servants. We have to work out for ourselves, under God, what our relationship with him actually is. Certainly there are those who seem to spend their life slaving for God, or at least for the church. To the right end? Then there are those (like me!) at risk of becoming a bit too laid back about the way we serve. Taking advantage of a God who can seem a bit of a soft touch. What worries me isn't that I won't get what I deserve from God, but that I will!