Stumble - Reflections 9-23-2021

Texts for September 26, 2021
18th Sunday after Pentecost

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

The Gospel text is the fifth installment of a twelve-week walk through chapters in the Gospel of Mark. We are moving to Jerusalem where Jesus is going to be arrested, tortured and be put to death... and rises. He has been trying to get that message into the heads of his closest followers. One of the “charms” of Mark is that the disciples stumble and bumble as the so often miss the point of what Jesus is saying. I personally find Mark to be both affirming and critical. It is a relief to know that even the people who were there in the flesh with Jesus just didn’t get it. On the other hand, I am equally as unable to respond to Jesus’ call to discipleship.

And the disciples do not disappoint us this week. 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. Remarkably, Jesus does not pull his own hair and scream. Jesus addresses John’s concern.

Note that in the first lesson for this Sunday, God told Moses to pick 70 elders to help Moses manage the great mass of people in the desert. They gathered for a meeting where God took some of the spirit that had rested solely on Moses and distributed it among the elders. In this way, the elders would bear the burden of the people with him. The visible manifestation of receiving the spirit was that they prophesied. Interestingly the spirit “leaked” somehow and landed on two guys who did not attend the spirit meeting. An assistant of Moses rushed to tattle – "I saw them prophesying." Moses said, "Good. The more the merrier or at least, the more the better because the burden is shared."

Likewise, John, speaking for the disciples, tell Jesus that "we saw people casting out demons in your name so we told them to stop". (These are the same disciples who couldn’t manage to drive out a demon earlier in Mark - ouch) Jesus tells them that it’ll be ok. "We are on the same team. Whoever is not against us is for us. Don’t trip them up."

We are not any different. We forget who is on our team. We don’t want other groups treading upon our wonderful work. We don’t want someone else to do our job. We certainly don’t want someone to do the job better than we can. It is a good week to think about ego.

Returning to the topic at hand, Jesus got back to welcoming the child. Or rather the serious consequences of not welcoming the child and causing the little one to fall away. 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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Written by Pam Larabee-Zierath


Gathered by Grace, Scattered for Service
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