Don't stumble! - Reflections 9-26-18

Texts for September 30, 2018

19th Sunday after Pentecost

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

I have taught junior high youth in the church for many years. I know what it is to just get going on a subject – point one sets the scene; point two starts into deeper interpretation – then someone raises their hand with something like “Our dog ran away yesterday and I had to spend a half an hour chasing her through our neighborhood.” I’m usually a little stunned at that point….my mind runs through what I just said and tries to see a connection…then I realize I am staring blankly at that student so I try to say something which at least acknowledges the person (something profound like “huh”). At which point I gather my wits and make a more helpful comment – “I bet that was frustrating. How did you finally catch her?”

It feels like Jesus got caught in a similar situation at the beginning of this week’s Gospel. When we last saw Jesus a week ago, he was holding a little child as a visual aid in his teaching about welcome. The very next verse in Mark is the first verse for this week.  Before Jesus (still holding the child) could get to point two, John raises his hand and asks a question about who gets to use Jesus’ name for healing. I get the feeling that John is still thinking about the argument about who is the greatest, now worried about people outside of their circle moving up in line somehow. I’m not sure Jesus’ “visual aid” or comments about welcome have even registered with him. Personally, I think (because Jesus’ was human) the writer of Mark skipped the description of Jesus’ blank stare and “huh”. 

Jesus recovers and addresses John’s concern and then moves back to the topic, getting a lot more serious about welcoming the child. Or actually, serious about the consequences of not welcoming the child and causing the little one to fall away. And then, in rather startling terms, Jesus gets vivid about getting rid of/cutting off/plucking out anything that pulls our focus from God, or that impedes us from following Jesus.  You know, things like drawing boundaries, keeping out others, or trying to rank ourselves in terms of prestige and power.

How about you? Who do you welcome? Who do you exclude? 

What impedes you or causes you to stumble away from God?

What needs to be cut away or cut off to free you to follow?

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245