for the weekend of September 30/October 1
Sunday in Pentecost
11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29; Psalm 19:7-14; James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50
the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight,
O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
was a king. He was a very charitable
king. There were also two beggars who
came to the palace daily to ask for food and each day the king gave them both a
loaf of bread. Each day the first beggar
thanked the king for his generosity, the second beggar thanked God for making
the king wealthy enough to be charitable.
enjoyed hearing the praise from the first beggar but he was disappointed by the
ungratefulness of the second. He decided
to teach the beggar a lesson. He ordered
the baker to bake several costly jewels into one loaf of bread and to give that
loaf to the first beggar. The baker was
extremely careful to give the right loaf to the right man because he knew the
king could be a hard master.
first beggar felt the loaf with the jewels, he thought that it was poorly
baked. “This bread is hard and heavy,
not soft and light like the other loaf.”
So, he asked the other beggar to switch loaves. The second beggar, who was always ready to do
a good deed for a friend, agreed. When
the second beggar ate his loaf he found the jewels and praised God for His
day the first beggar was once again at the gate of the king’s palace seeking
bread, but the second beggar was not.
The king questioned the baker who assured him that he gave the right
loaves to the beggars. Then the king
asked the beggar what happened to the loaf he had been given. The beggar told the king that it felt hard
and poorly baked, so he traded with his friend.
The king realized that the second beggar was right all along. All good things truly come through God. Only God can change the circumstances of men.
Israelites were tired. They had been
traveling for some time in the wilderness, wandering seemingly without purpose
or direction. They had little food and
water, no place to truly rest. They were
living in tents they had to carry on their backs as they moved from one place
to another. Though they’d been excited
about escaping slavery in
all, they were tired of manna. They
wanted meat. They remembered all the
good and flavorful food they had in
their complaining and he had enough. He
went to the Tent of Meeting and met with the LORD. “Why have you
brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that
you put the burden of all these people on me?”
He was so tired of leading those ungrateful people that he asked God to
kill him. He said, “If this is how you
are going to treat me, put me to death right now—if I have found favor in your
eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin."
He does not want to face failure.
knew what it was like to face failure.
Earlier in the ninth chapter of Mark, the disciples were asked to cast a
demon out of a young boy, but they could not do it. When Jesus came, He saw their distress and
healed the boy. The story is a sermon in
itself, a message about faith. The faith
of the disciples and the crowd was in doubt.
The father even said, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help
us.” Jesus’ answer was, “Everything is possible
for him who believes.” Immediately the
father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Later Jesus told the disciples that this kind
of demon could only be cast out by prayer.
the disciples had become complacent about the gifts and power they had been
given. They took it for granted and then
they failed. Not much later, the
disciples witnessed a person casting out demons in Jesus’ name. Though he was a believer, he was an
outsider. He was not part of their
crowd; he was not part of the circle.
How could he do what they could not do?
was part of the inner circle. He went up
on the mountain with Jesus and he was a witness to the Transfiguration. He was there when Jesus healed and when Jesus
cast out demons. He had even done so
himself. He was a very special friend of
Jesus, and he expected that Jesus would show His gratitude in some special way
when it was time for Jesus to rule. John
even went so far to ask Jesus if he could sit at Jesus’ right hand when He came
into His kingdom. Just last week we
heard the story about how the disciples were quarreling over who was the
greatest. John thought he was one of the
hard it must have been for him to see some stranger do the very thing that he
was unable to do. He was one of the
inner circle and he couldn’t even cast out one
demon. All the disciples were facing
jealousy, fear and doubt. They were
inadequate at doing the miraculous things Jesus was doing and that Jesus was
telling them to do. They saw success in
ministry, but they also saw failure. It
must have been especially hard for them to see someone else gifted with the
power and authority they could not harness.
It was a humbling moment.
they were not humbled. John went to
Jesus and told him about the stranger. “We
told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” Jesus responded, “Do not stop him. No one who does a miracle in my name can in
the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for
us.” Whoever is not against us is for
solved Moses’ problem by calling seventy elders together to anoint them as
leaders. The Spirit came upon the
seventy and they prophesied. The story
then tells us that they prophesied no more.
The gift was given for a moment, perhaps to give them strength and
courage to face the work of leading a million grumbling people through the
wilderness. Though they did not
prophesy, they still had work to do and they still had the Spirit that would
give them the power and authority to do so.
this was happening at the Tent of Meeting, two elders who had not come were
also anointed and they too prophesied. A
boy reported this to Joshua who then told Moses to forbid them. Moses simply answered, “Are you jealous for
my sake? I wish that all the LORD's people were
prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!" He knew from whence the gift had come. He knew that only God can change the
circumstances of men and that all power and authority is His to give or take
according to His will and purpose.
Knowing this helped Moses live in peace with the people of
scriptures this week cause us to consider how we determine who has the power
and authority to do the work of the kingdom in this world. All too often we are quick to point fingers,
like Joshua and John, at those who do not stand in a right relationship with
God. For Joshua, that meant standing at
the Tent of Meeting. For John it meant
being part of their circle. What does it
mean for us? Do we determine who is in a
right relationship? Do we establish the
criteria for ministry?
established the criteria we can use to test whether they are against us. Do they do the work in Jesus’ name? Then they are for us. If they are casting out demons in Jesus’
name, then the power and authority comes from God. If they give us a cup of water in Jesus’
name, then they will receive the reward.
If they can do these things, then they will not work against us. Why would we want to work against them?
you ever noticed that some of the most passionate people are those who are new
and fresh to the situation? A brand new
Christian, one who has recently turned their life over to Christ, is often the
best evangelist. They are excited and
thankful. They want to share the great
gift they’d been given. For too many of
us, that excitement fades. We become
complacent, taking for granted the gift God has given. Perhaps we, like the disciples, forget the
foundation of all our power and authority – our relationship with Christ. We let other things rule – our ego, our
security, our knowledge, our position, our clique, our tradition, our doctrine,
our hopes and our dreams. Yet, we miss
the very purpose we have received faith – to glorify God and to praise Him.
said that we should cut out those things in our life that cause us to sin. He exaggerated a bit to make the point – if
your eyes, hands or feet cause you to sin, cut them off. While He is not advocating amputation, He is
calling us to look at ourselves. Why are
we questioning the ministry of others?
Are we jealous? Are we
afraid? Do we doubt that we are able to
accomplish the work of the kingdom? Do
we work with wrong motives, seeking honor and glory for ourselves rather than
began this message with the final verse of today’s Psalm. David writes, “May the words of my mouth and
the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my
Redeemer.” Was Moses pleased with
Joshua’s request to stop the elders? Was
Jesus pleased with John’s point of view about the outsider? Was God pleased by the jealousy, fear and
doubt displayed by His people in these stories?
Is He pleased with the way we treat one another, our brothers and
sisters in Christ?
gives us the purpose of the Church – we are to be a visible manifestation of
God’s power in the midst of suffering.
With prayer and praise, God’s grace shines. We are also to share the power and authority
of God, bringing healing and forgiveness to those who suffer dis-ease.
James tells us that we must deal with error. James writes, “My brothers, if one of you
should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this:
Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and
cover over a multitude of sins.” Jesus
warns us, however, to be careful how we address our brothers and sisters in
Christ, especially those who are like little children in the faith. If we cause a little one to stumble, it would
be better for us to be cast into the sea with a millstone around our neck. If we allow our jealousy, our fear or our
doubt to halt the ministry of someone, we might just chase them away from
Christian fellowship. We might stop them
from doing the work God has called them to do.
We might quench the Spirit that God has showered upon their life.
Jesus says, “Be salt.” Though salt is inexpensive
for us, it was quite valuable in the days of Jesus. As a matter of fact, it was nearly as
expensive as gold. Soldiers were paid
with salt and slaves were traded for salt.
Since salt is vital for human survival, salt became an important part of
religious and social life. Salt is used
in religious rituals and is used to establish covenants. If salt was served at a meal, a promise was
made. Both parties agreed to a
relationship of loyalty, protection and hospitality.
said, “For everyone shall be salted with fire.”
When God salts with fire, He does so with the Holy Spirit, anointing His
people to be salt. He makes a covenant
with others through our lives and establishes that relationship of loyalty,
protection and hospitality. As we pray
and praise, offer healing and forgiveness, provide correction and reconciliation
to those who err, we share the grace of God.
That is being salt.
said, “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty
again?” When we allow our concerns – our
jealousies, our fears and our doubts – to get in the way, we lose our
saltiness. We lose touch with the One
who has anointed us for ministry. We
become complacent and unable to accomplish the work we have been called to
good things truly come through God. Only
God can change the circumstances of men; all power and authority is His to give
or take according to His will and purpose.
As we remember this and keep God as the center of our work, seeking His
blessing through prayer and praise, we will be salt. As salt, we will live in peace with one
suppose that David’s words in today’s psalm sound a bit cliché; it is an
overused sentiment that is often rote and insincere. Yet, these are words that we should take to
heart and remember every time we have the opportunity to speak. As we seek God’s blessing upon our words –
whether they are prayer or praise, words of healing and forgiveness or words of
correction and reconciliation – He will help us to cut out that which might cause
us to stumble, or that which will cause another to stumble. He will help us to be salt and to be at peace
with one another. Thanks be to God.