Sunday, September 27, 2009

17th Sunday

Today's Saying

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.


Blogger DawnTreader said...

That was a really good sermon. (Or even two, about the same thing...) It is SO easy to think that "we" (limited group of your choice) are the only ones who got it right... 100%...

3:59 AM  
Blogger Nessa said...

I love your characterization of the kid taking his ball home if he doesn't get his way. I always thought of it that way. I love your sermons. You explain the lessons so well and make so much sense.

4:16 AM  
Blogger Finding Pam said...

Dr. John this was a very good sermon today.It is a shame that some folks feel that way. I thought all christians had the same God. So it would seem that we should welcome all believers not edge them out.

6:56 AM  
Blogger Sue said...

I like, "They see one another as fellow believers and that is a good thing." It is so true today, or it is true for me and most around me.

7:12 AM  
Blogger Bill ~ {The Old Fart} said...

Great post Dr John such a thought provoking one today.

Thank you for sharing.

11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. John you make me think so much with these sermons. I so enjoy them. Well done my friend :)

12:00 PM  
Blogger Melli said...

Ohhhhhh we are all TRYING, I think, Pastor! Truly, I do! And I think when it comes to Bible based Christianity, I DO have it together. I still run into some problems with non-Bible based Christianity.... I just wonder HOW they can be Christians, but not follow Christ's teachings? It doesn't "click" with me. It doesn't make sense! BUT... I WILL leave it up to God to work out in the end! It's just not my place...

I was on another blog the other day where the owner was very hurt by "those crazy Christians" who rally and hold signs saying "God HATES gays" or "Jesus HATES Jews". I told her that sOMe Christians give Christianity a bad name... but that the one thing I absolutely KNOW is that God/Jesus LOVES gays.. and blacks... and Buddhists... and that He even loves gay black Buddhists! I didn't mention that He may not like their behavior. I just assured her that He loves ALLLL His people! I do wish that sOMe Christians would quit putting HATE in God's mouth. *sigh*

1:53 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This is a wonderful eye opening post Dr. John. Words for all of us to reflect upon.

God bless!

7:07 PM  
Anonymous quilly said...

The young people ran church today, Dr. John. They did not do things "our way" and I loved it! There was no heavy organ music, it was light and bright and joyful. The light bears practically skipped down the aisle.

There was clapping during the songs and tears during the sermon and smiles on everyone's faces as the service came to an end -- yet later I heard two people complain that the young people didn't do church right.

I'm pretty sure God didn't feel that way.

7:25 PM  
Blogger Gattina said...

Between some churches and faith in god is a big difference and the catholic one seems to have never read the bible !

10:25 PM  
Blogger anthonynorth said...

So many non-believers see these people at the extremes and think all religion is like this. They are wrong, but it is hard to convince them.

12:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, am trying to listen. Sometimes it is hard, but I'm still trying. And I remember that Jesus wasn't who "they" expected him to be...

5:32 AM  

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