Devotional Message: The 19th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 21B (9/30/2018)

Lessons

Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29
Psalm 19:7-14
James 5:13-20
St. Mark 9:38-50

Semicontinuous Series

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22
Psalm 124

Prayer of the Day

Generous God, your Son gave his life that we might come to peace with you. Give us a share of your Spirit, and in all we do empower us to bear the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Text for This Sunday

9:38 John said to [Jesus], “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. 43If 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. 47And 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.”

St. Mark 9:38-50, New Revised Standard Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: Who’s in? Who’s out?

Two Sundays ago during our “Faith Forum” at Saint Peter we watched a video featuring Brian McLaren, who is described as an “American pastor, author, activist and speaker and leading figure in the emerging church movement.” As our class began, I introduced him by reading the subtitle of his 2004 book “Generous Orthodoxy” where he describes himself as: “a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed-yet-hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian.” To conclude from this array of adjectives that Pastor McLaren stands for nothing would be to misunderstand him. He is a man of passionate and carefully considered faith. But he knows a truth that many in our day seem incapable of comprehending: not a one of us is able to see, by ourselves, the entire picture. As we consider an incomprehensible God, moving in mystery and history, both hidden from us and revealed to us, Fundamentalists need Calvinists, and liberals need conservatives, and charismatics need contemplatives…

Nobody needs to remind us that we live in a time of unprecedented divisiveness — this, sadly, is one of the truths that seem self-evident these days. Political authorities seek to convince us that anyone who disagrees with them, no matter how dedicated to serving this country, is unpatriotic and wants only the destruction of the United States. Religious authorities seek to convince us that anyone who disagrees with them, no matter how fervently attempting to draw near to God, will spend the rest of eternity separated from God in hell. Our country and our faith communities are much diminished because of these attitudes.

Evidently, this is not a new development. While Jesus is huddled with his disciples in Capernaum, having just returned from Galilee, John reports to him: “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” Miracles are being accomplished in the name of Jesus, but because the miracle worker doesn’t belong to the group of twelve disciples, John can’t fathom how this might be acceptable. He seems to be expecting Jesus to agree with him, and must be amazed when Jesus responds, “Whoever is not against us is for us.” Jesus sharply challenges the divisive attitude John embraces, and we are led to believe that to the extent we practice the same divisiveness he challenges us as well.

The opening lines of my church’s Mission Statement declare, “We are all welcomed into the love of God, just as we are.” Which begs the question: do we really believe this? Are those who disagree with me about a theological, political or social issue every bit as welcome here as I am? How about those who are of a different race, or economic status, or country of origin? “Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.” Whoever… Then or now… So how determined are we — you or me — to follow the lead of Jesus?

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. Why is it hard for John to accept everyone who is doing ministry in Jesus’ name?

  2. When has the church acted in ways that are contrary to Jesus’ inclusive instincts?

  3. When has the church worked across divisions to do the work of God’s kingdom?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. When have I put distance between myself and someone who disagrees with me?

  2. How have I learned from someone else something I never could have discovered on my own?

  3. In what ways have I seen my church seek to include all who love and attempt to follow Jesus?