A Quick Cultural Riff on Mark 9:40

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This is picture of the bus (“busz”) stop near our apartment. As the translation helpfully notes, one can incur a fine of up to 50,000 forints (HUF = HUngarian Forints) for smoking on the bus, which is NOT a major hit by Brownsville Station, but is, at the current conversion rate of about 222 forints to the dollar, about US$225. Once on the bus, there are literally dozens of signs warning folks to have a valid ticket or pass, at the risk of a 16,000 forint fine, or about US$72.

In other words, smoking is three times more heinous a crime than stealing. Or, breaking one of our own laws is three times worse than breaking one of God’s laws. Today’s gospel reading at St. Margaret’s Anglican Church was from Mark 9, where Jesus’ disciples are complaining about outsiders who were ministering to others in Jesus’ name. Knowing just how huffy we all can be when it comes to our rules, regulations, and hierarchy, Jesus doesn’t take up their complaint, telling the disciples, “for whoever is not against us is for us.”

I am very glad the transit system is smoke-free — that’s a rule that costs me nothing. But I suspect that over the next few months we will encounter dozens of circumstances where strange customs and practices will break about every closely and dearly held belief we have about the right way to do things. It will be good to remember that ANYONE who gives us a cup of water in Jesus’ name, even if it doesn’t have ice cubes in it, will certainly not lose his reward.

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