Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 21, Year B
September 30, 2018
Lessons: Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29; Psalm 19:7-14; James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people work with others to help share the good news and collaborate on ministries and mission.
Key Scripture: 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. Mark 9:40-41
One of the blessings of the ministry context in which I serve is a vibrant and collegial ministerium. My United Methodist, Roman Catholic, Church of God, Alliance, Baptist and other colleagues in ministry work well together. We all recognize that ministry is not a competitive sport but rather a team effort to share the good news of Jesus. We are all stronger when we work together and support one another’s ministries and missions. Importantly, we set a positive example in the community of how Christians should behave toward one another and the world. I count myself extremely fortunate to have such a good group of fellow clergy and professional ministry workers, and I look forward to our monthly meetings.
In this week’s gospel lesson, the disciples are not happy that someone who is not part of their ministry “tribe” is going around casting out demons in Jesus’ name. They report trying to stop this religious “upstart.” Jesus challenges them, saying “Whoever is not against us is for us.” We would do well to really hear Jesus’ words today.
This is nothing new; in fact in the lesson from Numbers, Joshua and some of the others are giving Moses a hard time about Eldad and Medad prophesying in the camp. Yes, the green-eyed monster of jealousy and his evil twin fear have been blocking ministry for millennia. Quite often I hear church leaders whose congregations are struggling placing the blame on the flourishing congregation down the road—sometimes even congregations in their own denomination or fellowship. Among the regular is, “Their contemporary worship service is pulling away all our young people and families.” Or, “they have soooo many programs and a coffee bar. We can never compete with that!”
True, you can’t compete with that, nor should you compete with that. Other congregations and denominations are not our competition: They are our siblings in Christ. Sure, we have our differences—theological and otherwise—but we are all practicing our faith in Jesus’ name.
Why not get to know your fellow faith leaders and congregations? Find out what’s working well for them and what’s not working well. Pray for one another. Consider a joint activity or mission. Fear is a stumbling block to effective ministry, faithful discipleship, and evangelism. It also makes us look petty and small in the eyes of the unchurched and dechurched world.
Read on a couple of verses, and you’ll see what Jesus had to say about putting stumbling blocks in the way of children and those with seeker’s hearts. This is not what we’re to be about, folks. I know there are others who have staked their claim on theological differences and exclusion, but I can’t believe that’s what Jesus wants.
In my ministerium we all face some of the same challenges. We have our theological differences, to be sure, but we also recognize that a united front in the community is something that we’d better be modeling. We need to be ready to offer a cup of cool, clear water to one another when the going gets rough in the valleys of ministry. And, we all know that there’s enough need for Jesus in this world to keep all of us busy if we really want to form disciples and share the love of Christ with a hurting world. Yes, we are stronger together. As Jesus instructs us, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
This week sing “We all are One in Mission” or similar songs about unity. Offer specific prayer petitions for area clergy and congregations and their ministries. Prepare cards to let them know that you prayed for them in worship, and give congregants an opportunity to sign the cards. Invite worshipers to brainstorm ways that area congregations can work together for the good of the community.
Read the story from Numbers with the youth and talk with them about how jealousy gets in the way of relationship and progress. Invite their own observations and stories. In the last verse of the lesson, Moses says to Joshua “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!” Is there an opportunity for area youth groups to work together or for your youth to share an event or activity together? Consider what you might plan, and then work to make it happen.
This week’s focus verse is Mark 9:50: “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.”
Imagine a world without salt. Invite the children to tell you how they use salt. Share with them some samples of different kinds of salt: table salt, kosher salt, pink Himalayan salt, etc. In the focus verse, Jesus talks about salt losing its saltiness. How can that be? Here’s a science website that provides an answer, and here’s a good website about salt.
Basically, the biggest change is in how we perceive/taste the salt. The loss of saltiness, then, is not truly in the very stable salt molecules, but within us and our tastebuds. That means we have to focus on how we direct ourselves and stay aligned with Jesus. When we focus on Jesus, then our “saltiness” is assured, and we can be at peace with one another. Salt is essential to our lives, just like faith in Christ is essential to our eternal lives AND our lives here and now. Finish with a short prayer asking Jesus to help keep us salty and at peace with one another.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
How well do you know the leadership and members of neighboring congregations? If the answer is “not well” or “not at all,” it’s time to get out in the neighborhood and cultivate some friendships. It’s good stewardship to share resources and work together for the benefit of all!
Stewardship at Home
This week make it a point to talk with one of your neighbors or friends who is part of a different church body. Ask them questions about their church and why they like it and how it nourishes their faith. Consider visiting their church to learn more. Invite them to come to an activity at your church. Learning to talk about our faith with other Christians is good practice for talking with those who are not part of a church body or who are suspicious of faith and church.
Here’s a look back at our 2015 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2015/09/be-careful-what-you-ask-for/
And here’s the 2012 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2012/09/rx-for-broken-lives-and-faltering-faith/
Photos: © mangostock – Fotolia.com, Grace Lutheran Church, Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!
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