Apple, Amazon, Coke and most other large organizations spend a lot of money to register and protect their brand name.   

Not Jesus! 

The gospel for Sunday September 26th begins, 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.”  

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. Whoever is not against us is for us. 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. 

Jesus’ words, translated here as for truly, indicate that this is a solemn pronouncement. If one acts in Jesus’ name then Jesus counts that person as his follower.  

Another way of saying in your name, would be ‘on your behalf’’. Acting on behalf of Jesus, doing what he would do in the same circumstance, is a good thing.


This gospel is a continuation of Jesus’ instruction of his disciples. He had largely ended his public ministry of teaching and curing and now focused on ensuring that his disciples understood his instructions. 

In last week’s gospel Jesus had set a little child among his disciples and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”  

Since this morning’s gospel picks up immediately following those words, one can imagine that the child is still near when Jesus used hyperbole to drive home his messages, “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. 

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.  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. 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

If these requirements were literally true, there would be a lot of mutilated Christians! Jesus’ point was that he took sin seriously. His intention was not self-damage but self-mastery. 

In this set of teachings Jesus combined gentle, sweet, images of a child with violent frightening references to drive home the seriousness of his message.


and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched. 

Jesus borrowed these words from Isaiah 66:24… And they shall go out and look at the dead bodies of the people who have rebelled against me; for their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh… to emphasize his continuity with the prophets as well as the seriousness of the sin. 

This particular translation of the gospel uses the word hell, but other versions use the word Gehenna, which is the valley of Hinnon on the south  side of Jerusalem, outside the walls, where offal and rubbish were thrown and burned. The fires of Gehenna smoldered constantly and the bodies of people murdered for different crimes were disposed of there. While Jesus didn’t mention it, the place probably stank. It was an awful and accursed place. 

 “For everyone will be salted with fire. 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.” 

Jesus used a lot of metaphors and similes in his speech… sheep, bread, mustard seed, hidden treasure. Here he used fire and salt in the unusual combination of salted with fire. 

Fire purifies but can also destroy. A property of salt is that it brings out the flavour of food. Perhaps Jesus intended his disciples to understand that ‘having salt in themselves’ meant that they could bring out the best in themselves and others if they followed his words. To be salted with fire suggests the properties of both salt and fire combine in such a way that they both purify and bring out the best of the disciples. 

Another property of salt that would have been familiar to people of Jesus’ day is that salt was used to preserve things. He could have intended his disciples to extend their understanding to realize that, once purified, their ‘saltiness’ would preserve them for eternal life. 


As St. Aidan’s continues to celebrate the Season of Creation, one wonders if and how this particular gospel has any bearing on the theme. Is it to care for and preserve the things that we have been given? Is it to ‘purify’ our natural surroundings? 

On Saturday, September 25th, a number of people from the congregation walked on the Leslie Street Spit, called an “accidental wilderness” because it began as a place to dump landfill from structures that were being knocked down to build other things. Over time it grew to be 250 hectares populated with more than 300 species of birds, animals and reptiles, many different kinds of plants, and embracing a number of ponds used by waterfowl. It is an example of co-creating our environment through the combination of public policy--which set aside the land-- and nature, which regenerated the material for all these species. In a very real sense it ‘purified’ the material and brought out its potential. 


  • What is Jesus’ “brand”? What is his character? What does he stand for? What is your brand? What is your essence?
  • Kindness in Jesus’ name is always good. It matters less what denomination we belong to than that we act in a way that is consistent with Jesus’ teaching. Do you sometimes find yourselves working together with people of other faiths – United, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Mennonite – doing things in Jesus’ name?  Whether it is the East End Refugee Committee, or the Beach Interfaith Committee to host the candidates’ meeting or Restorative Justice Housing, we work cooperatively with people of many faiths. Do you find that there is more that unites you, as Christians, than divides you?
  • How is your life salted with fire? What challenges has Jesus thrown your way that make you examine yourself and perhaps grit your teeth because you realize that you are called to do a hard thing… dealing with disagreeable people, or having personal time interrupted at the request of someone else, or giving money? Can you look back and recognize that in some way you have been ‘purified’ in the process?
  • Does Jesus’ extreme language-- If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; … if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; …And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out—or sometimes bother you? He used it, too, when he said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”… or… Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life. Can you get beyond the literal statement to glimpse his intention? How would you restate the intention if a friend asked you to explain these statements?