Reflection on Gospel of Mark 9:38-50: 18th Sunday after Pentecost Sept 26, 2021

The Gospel of Mark 9:38-50

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.” 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. Whoever is not against us is for us. 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. “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. If 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. 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. And 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, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched. “For everyone will be salted with fire. 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.”

Let us Pray: We pray for all people who seek to follow your way in their lives. Let your church speak your word of truth with confidence and in unity so that those who are searching and listening will be able to see and hear clearly your message of love and peace. This we pray in your name. Amen.

I think we can be sure that the person who was casting out demons kept doing the work because the disciples did not have the power to stop him. He followed Jesus, not by hanging around and asking questions, but by living in the realm and reign of the Kingdom of God. Jesus has to expand the disciple’s understanding. They had tried to restrain and so Jesus takes time to teach them an important principle, “For he that is not against us is on our part. This is definitely dealing with an attitude of judgement toward others. These words of Jesus are a death blow to the intolerant spirit, to the attitude that says, “Our group is the only group that is right.” Jesus here establishes the basis for fellowship among believers. He is really saying, “I don’t care what denomination you are in. If you have received Jesus as your personal Savior, if you have been born again, you are my sister or brother in Christ.” Jesus is trying to impress upon his disciples and upon us that the way we live our lives does matter. We do not need to earn our salvation, that is a gift from God, but we need to live as the blessed of God, and we need to point people toward Jesus through our words and our deeds. We need to be as members of the church congenial welcomers. We need no special guest list, all people should be welcomed and enfolded into the body of the church. Jesus had harsh words for those who would seek to create limits or barriers, separating those he called these little ones who believe in me. Think about this the next time you hear someone condemn a particular group or category of people because of their lifestyle, their race, their religion, or anything that makes them different from us. So instead of condemning we could be like the children of God truly helping each other succeed. Remove those stumbling blocks we put there to impeded others.  We could become building blocks rather than stumbling blocks. And wouldn’t you rather build than tear down? But at the end of the day, we must understand that only in obedience to God’s will can we truly know that joy and peace, which passes all human understanding. So let us press on in faith and confidence, not knowing everything, but knowing Jesus, who has promised to lead us in the path we are going. The path we need to walk as the disciples walked on the road to Emmaus with Jesus.

Let us pray: Raise us up, O Lord, for it is you alone who restores life and health to the suffering and to those who wander from the truth. By your grace, may we offer powerful and effective prayers for one another and the world, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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