38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 41 For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
42 “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. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
49 “For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
Good morning! I don’t know how many of you pay attention to my sermon titles, but if you do, I’m sure at least one or two of you are thinking, “come on, pastor, I bet you’ve prayed for a sandwich or two.” Now maybe I have and maybe I haven’t. That’s a different conversation.
My title this morning is actually a quote from His Beatitude, Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. “What’s a Latin Patriarch?” you might ask. It’s the fancy name for the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Jerusalem. You see, in the Holy Land, the Roman Catholic Church is referred to as the Latin Church. I learned this when I visited Israel and Palestine in 2012. I was part of a delegation of students and faculty who traveled there on a mission trip. It was amazing.
The trip was billed as a pilgrimage to the Living Stones—the purpose of the trip was to meet Palestinian Arab Christians, to learn about them and their lives, and to see how we, as American Christians could help to work for peace in the Holy Land. Are you with me? I ask you this because sometimes, when I talk about this trip, people stop me in the middle of that first sentence.
The conversation goes like this:
Wait! What? Palestinian? Arab. Christians? Huh?
Yes. Palestinian Arab Christians.
I thought they were all Muslims.
No. There are still many Christians living in Palestine.
Are you sure?
Yes. I’ve met them. Many of them.
The short explanation is that there were Arabs in Palestine since before the time of Christ. No doubt, many of the first Gentile converts to Christianity were, in fact, Arabs. There have been Arab Christians for as long as there have been, well, Christians! That’s why the trip was billed as a pilgrimage to the Living Stones. These Arab Christians in Palestine are part of the oldest tradition in Christianity! They are the Living Stones, the foundation of the Christian faith.
So, I jumped at the chance to see the Holy Land and meet these brothers and sisters in Christ. We met some of the most important leaders of the Christian community in Palestine. I’ve already mentioned Archbishop Fouad Twal. We also met the Rev. Mitri Raheb, a Lutheran pastor, and Father Elias Chacour, a Melkite Archbishop. Both of these men have written extensively about the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, and the role of Christians in the midst of this conflict. But even more importantly, on this trip we met everyday people—Palestinian Christians who were busy living their lives in the midst of challenging situations.
In our audience with Archbishop Twal, someone in