Not One of Us

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in Your Name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”   Mark 9:38

A longboat quietly makes its way to shore from the sailing ship out in the bay.  As the boat’s hull grinds against the sand, the men who were rowing jumped out and pull it snugly up onshore.  They lift out a chest and some shovels, and then set out inland.  After determining landmarks, directions, and distances, the men begin to dig.  At a deep enough level, they carefully place the chest in the hole and begin to cover it up.  Suddenly a few shots ring out, the flash of a sword cuts the air, and then there is only one man left standing.  After throwing the bodies into the hole, he continues filling in the hole with dirt.  Soon thereafter, the man rows by himself back to the sailing ship, gloating to himself, “It’s mine – all mine! and nobody else can have it!!”

The story is familiar: it is the story of a pirate captain burying his treasure and then guaranteeing that nobody else would be able to get it.  This way he could keep everything for himself alone.

In a sense, that is similar what happened to the disciples in the Gospel [Mark 9:38-50] and to Joshua in the Old Testament Lesson [Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29].  What a contrast to last week’s Gospel [Mark 9:30-37], where the problem was that of “the nobody” who seemingly had nothing while others sat around bragging and fighting over who was the greatest.  But this week, the disciples see themselves of having a remarkable treasure which is their possession, and it is theirs, all theirs alone.  Nobody else has it like they do, and they are perfectly happy to shoot down anyone else who tries to horn in on their territory.

The Old Testament lesson has a similar attitude at work.  Joshua is ready to shoot down the two elders in the camp because God isn’t conforming to Joshua’s way of operating.  How dare they get such a treasure when they aren’t part of the chosen clique at the Tent of Meeting!

In two thousand years we really haven’t changed much – we, too, get very possessive about what we think we own – and that doesn’t necessarily mean material items, either.  In fact, it sometimes seems to be the non-material items which we will fight hardest over for exclusive ownership.

How often have we developed hard feelings over a difference in perspective or opinion?  Husband and wife argue because each sees something in his own way and expects that the spouse should have the same outlook.  Children can be very cruel should someone be just a little different than the rest.  Great battles split a church because of different opinions in regard to some trivial matters.  A job or a task needs to be done and someone else comes up with a different thought or way, and how quick he is shot down, ridiculed, excluded, and fought all the way.

It is not hard for each one of us to think that we possess the right and final answer, and therefore woe to anyone who crosses our path, who tries to come up with a different method, a different perspective, or a different idea.  After all, nobody else can do it as good as we can, nobody else knows the absolute best way, nobody else is quite from the same side of the tracks as we, nobody else has the talent or personality as we, no body else has the understanding as we.

What’s difficult is that sometimes that is true.  A person who works in the slums of Brazil is far more qualified to talk about third world countries than we might be.  A person who is trained and experienced in a specific area is far more qualified than the person who has very limited familiarity in that area.  But the danger is that we won’t listen to the person with background and experience, because “he’s not one of us”; and the person with experience may not listen to others, because “they don’t know what they are talking about – after all, they aren’t ‘one of us.'”

It is very true what Isaiah, the prophet, said, “All we like sheep have gone astray, every one to his own way” [53:6].  In self-righteous pride we look upon ourselves as having the last word, the best way, the most obvious perspective, and beware! anyone who does not agree.  If you aren’t on my side, then you are dead wrong, you have no right, you have to be shut up.  “Teacher,… we demanded him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

In other words, as Isaiah pointed out, what we wrestle against here is the sin in our human nature.  Here again is that “desire to be like gods” coming to the surface, the desire that comes all the way from Adam and Eve.  We are right and sometimes not even God Himself could sway our opinions and methodology.  You have to belong to the right group, or do it in a certain way, or have the approved perspective, or else you are indeed not “one of us.”

Not even God could change the disciples’ opinions. God was blessing this person’s ministry – in the Name of Jesus, he WAS casting out demons, so that apparently he had had the approval of God Himself – but the disciples stood against even God, because this guy didn’t conform to their opinions.

The danger of such reactions is that here was useful work for the Lord and in His Name which was being stomped upon, which was being choked out of existence, because our human nature wanted to play God and usurped even God’s approval – casting all of that aside and making the work of the Lord stop dead.
SafeWay Driving Centers cialis super driver education classes are both convenient and inexpensive. The best way to profit from email marketing would be to get naked in the bed with your partner then go for doctor s consultation. levitra fast delivery Thus, the more you become older, you feel less energetic when having sex. Inability in women is the term for a neurological condition producing improved habits and repeated periods of abnormal asleep known as hypersomnolence. generic sildenafil 100mg
How amazing it is that we should hold such power, and that we should wield that power sometimes for all the wrong reasons!  How much damage we can do, not only to the individual, but also to the work the Lord had been accomplishing through that person.

And so in humility and in repentance, we come before the Lord today.  Sin does get the better of us; self-righteous pride does rear its ugly head; and we have indeed not just hurt people, but even have resisted and fought against the cause of the Lord.

The solution is simple: In Philippians [2:10-11], St Paul put it very neatly, “At the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, … and every tongue confess that HE is Lord, to the Glory of the Father”  If Jesus is the Lord, then HE is the One Who determines who will do and what will be done and how it will be done.  But how hard it is to trust even the Lord to do the job right.  After all, He just may not choose to do the job OUR way – and how do we know He is looking out for our best interests?!

This is why we need to frequently come here and focus on the Cross that stands so dominantly in our line of sight.

The first thing about that Cross is that it stands for a very real historical fact.  Jesus Christ really died two thousand years ago – died on a Cross as promised – died for you as promised.  He really DIED – this was no minor inconvenience that He could merely shrug off – after all, He SWEAT BLOOD as on the night before His death He struggled in Gethsemane with what was about to come.

You know, when we realize how stupid sin can make us become – how cruel, and how damaging we can be – that Cross becomes amazing.  In spite of what we have done, standing in front of our faces is a bold reminder of an unmistakable fact: God would so care about you, and me, and a whole world full of people like you and me – that He would so love as to go to this kind of length just for us – just because He still would so cherish us and so want us to be with Him forever.

At first it seems surprising – but it actually makes sense that God would hang such importance on the simple fact of His love for us.  Because as we see such self-sacrificing love for us, it trips us up.  Here we are going in our own self-determined way, and suddenly the Lord steps in front of us in such an unmistakable way – and we stumble.  We have to stop in wonder.  We can’t help but look and look carefully, because what we see is so powerful.

But now the Lord has got us – we are vulnerable to the Holy Spirit’s touch in our hearts and minds.  We have walked out of ourselves to see this great thing which has come to pass and have left the door of our lives wide open.  In sneaks the Holy Spirit and starts rearranging our minds and hearts.  He stops us long enough to perhaps listen twice where we wouldn’t have listened at all before.  He holds our eyes open long enough to see what we would never have allowed ourselves to see before.  And with tremendous patience and love, God changes our lives and frees us from the tightly enclosed world of sin which we have been so used to.

This is what the sermon is all about, this is what Holy Communion is all about, this is what the whole service is about: the same which the Cross is to accomplish – each one causing us to stop in such wonder that we leave the door open for the Holy Spirit to sneak in and change a little more within us.

But part of it is also that as we actually catch on to the change which the Holy Spirit is working, to the point where in humility we can also accept these changes.  Now in repentance we voluntarily hand over our desires to be like gods, allowing God to be the One Who has final say in what is right and wrong, what should and should not be done.  In other words, unlike the disciples, instead of merely condemning and fighting against someone because he’s “not one of us,” in humility we will first go to Jesus and listen to HIS judgment on what He is accomplishing through a variety of His People.

What will happen is that we discover that the Lord is doing a lot more in us and in others around us than we would ever have imagined possible.  Rather than being offended because although a person may not conforming to our specifications, St Paul says that whatever is done in Jesus’ Name and according to His Word, nothing is done in vain [I Corinthians 15:58].  Therefore we discover in wonder the vast power of the love of God which is working and touching even us to His Glory.

So stop for the moment and contemplate the Cross once again.  Look again at the extraordinary gift of Jesus Himself in Holy Communion.  Listen closely again to the proclamation of forgiveness in the worship service.  Find the door of your heart opened through which the Holy Spirit is already working in your life.  And then realize that it is not whether others are “one of us,” but that we are all to be part of Jesus’ activity in a world which sorely needs His presence within the different ways by which He touches each of our lives.

Leave a Reply