Thought for the week - 26 September

Gospel, Mark 9.38-50


Well, here we go again – a familiar theme with Mark. The disciples getting it wrong again! This time they are criticising someone doing good (i.e. healing) just because that someone is not part of the inner circle. As usual, nothing changes – we see much the same in the time of Moses, in our first reading.

“But Jesus said, ‘Don’t forbid him, for there is no one who will do a mighty work in my name, and be able quickly to speak evil of me. For whoever is not against us is on our side'” (vv. 39-40). The disciples drew a circle to keep the exorcist out, but Jesus re-draws the circle to include him in. The one who touched lepers (1:41), ate with tax collectors and sinners (2:15-16), and took little children into his arms (9:36) draws a wide circle. The disciples will soon be reminded of this when they try to prevent children from coming to Jesus (10:13-16).


Jesus calls the disciples to a more inclusive vision. “Whoever is not against us is on our side” (v. 40). We need to hear that in a church itself fragmented along many lines—denominational, doctrinal, liberal/conservative, evangelical, charismatic/non-charismatic. And fragmented too about how we view or even judge other people - racial, socio-economic, national, , and young/elderly, gay/straight.


We are always tempted to regard Christians from the other side of the line as inferior—if we think of them as Christians at all. We ordained clergy can be jealous of our prerogatives and dismissive of laypersons who move into areas of ministry usually reserved for clergy. Mind you, laypersons serving in official positions can often be equally jealous of their authority too!


Christ calls us to put aside petty jealousies and to respect the gifts of those who work in his name.


Archbishop Rowan Williams once said something like “If you must draw a line in the sand, very often, pretty soon, you will see Jesus on the other side of the line waving at you.”


Our task is to try our best to be on the same side as Jesus. And if we want to worry about faults – well, worry about our own first.


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