40Whoever is not against us is for us. 41For 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. Mark 9:40-41
In many liturgical churches today is celebrated as the seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost and the Gospel is Mark 9:38-50.
It begins with the disciples acting like little children. They have seen somebody, not of the group, healing in the name of Jesus and they resent it . They tell Jesus they will put a stop to it. They sound like children that need to be first and don’t want anybody else in the game. They have the franchise on following Jesus.
Jesus, in effect, says nonsense. If someone is not against Him then he is for Him. They can not cast out demons in his name without coming to believe in Him.
The poor disciples have trouble accepting this so Jesus hits them verbally as hard as he can. He warns them not to become stumbling blocks to those who believe. He does this with very strong images of cutting off a foot, a hand, or plucking out an eye, none of which were meant to be taken literally. In the context of the text and with the ending of the warning they are a call to have peace among those claiming the name of Christ.
The Church did not listen well either. Over the centuries it put to death people who named the name of Jesus but didn’t fit into the organization. It called them heretics. The blemish on Church history would be so much less if the leaders had cut off their own arm or leg or plucked out their own eye instead of burning fellow believers at the stake. They should have listened to Jesus.
The Reformation went from one exclusive church to many exclusive churches but though each claimed to hear the real words of Jesus they , like the disciples long ago felt they were the only ones that had the truth.
But the churches have grown up some at least officially. They see one another as fellow believers and that is a good thing.
But individually many still act like the disciples.
If you dare to worship Jesus in a manner different from theirs they see you as unsaved or as demonic.
All of us to one degree or another do some of that.
I see rich TV evangelists and I get upset.
I see Church leaders who pay no attention to Scripture and I get upset.
But I keep hearing the voice of Jesus saying “ If they are not against me they are for me”.
I really am trying to listen.
I really am.
It is Sunday and even though the special blankets are ready in the basement life at Last Lutheran goes on. Pastor Joan is getting ready to preach. Here is part of that sermon:
When I was a kid my brother used to play ball with the boys on the corner lot. It was just a nice friendly neighborhood game except for one little thing. There was only one bat and one ball and it belonged to some kid named Joseph who lived down the block. One day my brother’s group was short one player and since I was something of a tomboy he asked me to fill in. This greatly upset Joseph who “ Didn’t want no dang girls in his game”. My brother pushed to let me play and then Joseph literally took his ball and bat and went home. He wanted us to know he was in charge and he made the rules.
Along time ago the disciples wanted to treat the faith that way. If you didn’t play by their rules and on their team you couldn’t play. Jesus tried really hard to correct that attitude.
But us humans being what we are it was carried on by the Church. It was follow Jesus by our rules or God would send you to hell and the Church might even help you on the way by burning you at the stake.
Then along came us Lutherans and one might have expected a different attitude, bad expectation. We announced either believe like a Lutheran or go to hell. Play by our rules or you can’t play.
Today the Churches are trying to listen to Jesus. They are trying to see the Christ in each denomination. They are trying to let everybody that wants to play be in the game.
But it isn’t easy.
Some have trouble accepting the fact that gays can follow Jesus.
Some have trouble believing that couples “ living in sin” can believe in Jesus.
Some have trouble believing that people who don’t go to church can love Jesus.
And I could go on.
We have lots of reasons to keep people out of the game.
We know what we think the Church should be like and they can shape up or ship out.
But then like the disciples we run into the one in charge.
The Church after all is His.
He wants us to love one another.
He wants us to know that if someone is not against Him they are for Him.
He wants us to listen.