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September 30, 2018, 10:48 AM

Jesus’ Way of Suffering Love: God’s Work Be Done


by Sandy Bach

38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone[a] casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 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. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 41 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.

42 “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me,[b] it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. 43 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,[c] to the unquenchable fire.[d] 45 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.[e][f] 47 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,[g] 48 where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

49 “For everyone will be salted with fire.[h] 50 Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it?[i] Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”  (Mark 9:38-50 NRSV)

This scripture has my name all over it.

I have been hurt by Christians, pushed away, even told that I'm a sinner because women don't belong in the pulpit.  I listen to sentimental piety that makes Jesus into a real nice guy.  I have friends who would rather talk about hell than grace.

I prefer talking to sworn atheists and agnostics.  Though they try to talk me out of loving Christ, they sound more "real" than some Christians I know.

I'm John, interrupting Jesus's teachings on how to be the greatest in the kingdom by being the least and the servant.  I'm bugged by others who have used my Lord's name for their own purpose.  Jesus doesn't see it this way.  "If he's using my name to do great works, he won't be able to cut me down later on."

It' doesn't seem fair.  We're the ones with the truth about Jesus and others need to join our ministry and study under this great leader.

Jesus continues his teaching: "If someone so much as provides a cup of water in my name, understand that they are one of mine.  God will notice."

I suspect it doesn't sound right to John and it sounds wrong to me.  How can people speak their faith and say such awful things?  How can people be so wrapped up in anger and not notice love and grace?

Actually, it's easy.  I do it myself all the time.  "Jesus, that person doesn't believe as I do.  Cast them into the outer darkness."  "There's a person who is using the Bible to bully others.  Stop her now!"

I confess that I'm judgemental.  In my finest moment I listen carefully and find that I may disagree with them, but I understand why they're saying it.  Christianity has a lot of different sects in it and each one expresses their theology differently.  And each of us has our own view of who God is.  And most of them can be supported by scripture.  Sort of.

I don't want to be stumbling block.  Jesus uses strong words on this.  He won't abide people using the Bible to bully or scare or hurt his "children."  He expects us to speak.  He expects us to teach well and learn constantly.  He expects us to be on HIS side.

He respects anyone who gives so much as a cup of water to any of his children.  That cup of water represents many different things.  It can be Queen Esther who risked her life to save her people; the person who attempts to restore the weary to right relationship with God and humanity.  It's anyone who listens to the Holy Spirit and follows through.

God desires wholeness for all creation.  God's desire is that we nurture it. Jesus warns us to do what's necessary to stop any action that would prevent that from occurring.

We live in a world that rejects so easily.  If you don't look like me, don't believe the way I do, there's obviously something wrong with you.  Politics is hard; religion is even harder.

Christianity is going through some tough times.  I believe God is shaking things up and we're struggling with the change.  The discussions are so hard because they touch the very heart of what we believe.  God calls us to stand up for truth and when we do we're excluded.  God calls us to be flexible and when we do: excluded.

It's difficult to be a Christian today.  Our younger generations see us struggle and squabble and they walk away.  Are we any better than the secular world who also struggle and squabble over the issues?

What I read this morning is that Jesus calls us to see that God's work be done.  Provide that cup of water to the included and the excluded.  Understand what  you believe, listen to others.  Whether you agree or not, they're struggling just like you are.  And the angrier they are, the more scared and anxious they are.  They need our prayers, not our arguments.

Jesus reminds us that we're meant to take care of each other.  He speaks in exaggerated terms when he says to cut off hands or feet if they cause you to sin.  That's because he's deadly serious about this.  Treat others like you want to be treated.  All of us belong to the body of Christ.  We're all wrong at times and we're all right at times.  Deal with it by keeping God in the loop.

I understand that my way of interpreting scripture isn't popular.  Some would suggest that I play fast and loose with the truth.  What I read in scripture though is a God who's love is greater than I can fathom.  I believe in a God who judges while loving us passionately.  I follow a Savior who brought a common sense but often difficult approach to getting along with each other.

Most of all, I love God because God has loved me so very much, especially when I wasn't very lovable.  So when I meet the unlovable, I know that I can only do one thing.  Love them back, find ways to agree and let the rest of it go.  Christianity has been around for over 2,000 years.  It's not up to me to save it.  It's up to me to reach out to others and provide that cup of water.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.


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