Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost September 27, 2015
“Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he was not following us.” (Mark 9:38)
Following “us”? As I look around today, I see so many times when the “us” in the world can get in the way of seeing and understanding not only the hearts and needs of others, but also God’s plan. “My way or no way” may be our thinking, but it is not compatible with God’s thinking.
The congregation where I worship shares space with two other denominations. The three churches are different in language, traditions, and music, and range from conservative to moderate in belief. Do we say to Jesus, “They are not following us,” or “Lord, their actions and worship are wrong because they are not following us and serving the way we do?”
These partnerships have taught us respect for other churches and given us the experience of real cooperation, yet it isn’t always easy. The three of “us”—as in the three congregations—have learned our focus is not on each individual church but on our joint worship of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We are brought together, and our hearts are joined in worship and service to Jesus.
Are there other areas in our lives where we cry that someone isn’t “following us”? Do we draw boundaries between one another that keep us from seeing and ministering to the one who needs healing, a comforting word, or a pastoral hug? Does tradition, music, race, or sexual orientation come between “us” and the other “us” that is following Jesus as all of “us” discern and understand?
The “us” we place before Christ and his children can be our stumbling block. Our Lamb has conquered; let “us” follow him.
Joyce Vance, director of Christian education, Peace Moravian Church, Charlotte, North Carolina,
Provincial Elders’ Conference, Southern Province