Saturday, September 29, 2012

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Today’s text

Mark 9:38-50

John said to him, 'Master, we saw someone who is not one of us driving out devils in your name, and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him.' But Jesus said, 'You must not stop him; no one who works a miracle in my name could soon afterwards speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us. 'If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, then in truth I tell you, he will most certainly not lose his reward. 'But anyone who is the downfall of one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone hung round his neck. And if your hand should be your downfall, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that can never be put out. And if your foot should be your downfall, cut it off; it is better for you enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should be your downfall, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell. where their worm will never die nor their fire be put out. For everyone will be salted with fire.


Not a week goes by that I don’t hear a misuse … a misunderstanding … an abuse of my faith. Not a week passes that the name of God, the sweet name of Jesus isn’t used to judge or condemn, insult, curse or exclude.

It’s ugly. It’s blasphemy, and it’s a lie. Every time.

And every time I hear the voice of my professors, Duane Priebe. He often said, “Every time you draw a line between who is in and who is out, who is in Jesus’ circle and who is out, you’ll find Jesus on the other side staring back at you.”

A man visits his dieing mother and reads Scripture to her. “You’ve got to believe this,” he says. You’ve got to accept Jesus as your Lord and savior, or you’re going to go to Hell.”

I hear this and wince. The name of God’s most welcoming love is used as a club, a threat to bring fear, and Jesus’ name is no longer an invitation to come home to the love that cherishes us more than we can know.

I go to a website I visit several times a week and suddenly find a voter’s guide for the presidential election. “Who is the real Christian? Who is the real Catholic?” reads one heading. The article compares the two vice presidential candidates, both catholic Christians.

One stands against abortion and gay unions; the other does not. One is has a strong concern and position on health care, immigration reform and the poor. The first is praised as standing on Jesus side of the issues; the other is denounced. Is this right? Is this a faithful representation of who Jesus is and the way to which he calls us?

If you didn’t know who Jesus is, or are already turned a little off by Christianity and the church, aren’t such fights one more reason to turn away, a stumbling block to understanding and faith? So, too, are the ways Christians use the name of Jesus to exclude others or arrogantly act as if they possess the truth and nothing but the truth.

Long ago I lost interest in many things different kinds of churches and Christians fight about. I lost, too, most of my need to be right--or at least to convince others that I hold the correct information and views.

If faith is about fighting, if it is about being right and convincing others that you and your side are true and others are wrong, … I don’t want it, and neither do many others.

But it is not. Our faith is about the light of God shining in the face of Jesus and in the eyes of those who know and live his love. It is about the everlasting love of God that seeks the human heart through all time and in every circumstance of our days, inviting, cajoling and seducing us to come home and truly know who we are.

It is easy to forget who we are. Jesus first friends did, too. They lost their identity--their salt, their flavor, and they missed his mission.

“Stop him,” they implored Jesus, when they saw someone casting out demons in his name. The man was setting souls free, allowing them to live again, liberated from whatever it was that held them captive in less than human state. He did it in Jesus’ name, an extension of Jesus mission, and they wanted to stop him.

“Is this the way you treat my friends?” Jesus seemed to respond. “Don’t you know what I am about? Don’t you know what the kingdom of God is? Don’t you see how your attitude and your actions deny me and hinder the emergence of God’s loving kingdom on the face of the earth?”

God’s kingdom was right there in front of them but they missed it. They couldn’t see and feel it because they gave in to the temptation that is the curse of so much religion and virtually all our politics today.

They arrogated truth and goodness to themselves, discounting and denying the goodness and truth present in others--other churches, other faiths, other cultures, other political persuasions.

Just so, they … and we deny God’s cosmic project … and constant Presence.

There was too little humility in them--and often, in us--to look, listen and discover that truth is so much larger than we are, larger than we know.

The healing presence of Jesus is bigger than us, bigger than our church, bigger than our best theologies and deepest commitments. It is always more.

The kingdom of God’s healing is revealed far beyond us, even in small acts of mercy and hospitality, in deeds as small as sharing a cup of water.

We are a part of a great worldwide--no, cosmic--mission, to give, restore and celebrate life, a mission to wipe away tears, to pour out the mercy of the One who is all merciful, pushing back the forces that disfigure and destroy.

The mission is to gather all that is into intimate sharing with the Infinite Source of life who loves all creation.

The Holy One is at work everywhere, setting souls free, drawing hearts into the Divine Heart of Love, creating space for life to thrive with beauty.

Our privilege and blessing is to know ourselves as part of this great loving project, celebrating the power of God’s love and life wherever and in whomever it appears, knowing always that it will.

Jesus healing love surprises, showing up in people and places, in the hope and generous hearts of those you might imagine less, well, spiritual than you are, … less than you are.

Don’t be threatened by this. Don’t hinder or criticize it. Welcome it. Celebrate it.

Let the ever-present healing love of Jesus lift your soul to the heights, however and where ever it appears. For in that moment you are reminded again that his holy presence dwells also … in you.

Pr. David L. Miller

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