#BeyondFrancis is the reflection for September 27, 2015. Pope Francis stymies political labels. As he speaks to the United States Congress, how does his position on issues compare to Jesus’ apostles and their understanding of being Christian. Found out here in this reflection by Mark Kurowski: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #PopeFrancis #RobertWebber #TonyPalmer #RealPresence #HolyLiving
For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 9/27/2015 The 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 9:38-50.
Pope Francis. Pope Francis. Pope Francis. He comes to the United States of America and tells us to embrace climate change, immigration reform that treats people humanely (without a fence), and that we should do something about the staggering inequality of the economy. What a liberal!
Pope Francis. Pope Francis. Pope Francis. He comes to the United States of America and tells us that marriage is between a man and a woman, all life is sacred, and there are rules to be followed; like the golden rule. What a conservative!
Pope Francis is neither. He is a Christian. How do we know he is a Christian? We know because he does stuff that is Christian. He goes places where Jesus would go, that is, if you are reading your Bible. He says things that Jesus would say, that is, if you are reading your Bible. The moral authority through which he is able to speak is because he lives a life congruent with the life of Jesus Christ.
I hear people who are the farthest from the Church say the same thing about Francis: he is a holy man. This holiness gives him a platform from which he can speak. Even if others do not agree and will not act on what he says, they will listen to him.
I hear religious people of all faiths say the same thing about Francis: he is one of us. Whether or not they understand that Francis is a follower of Jesus Christ, who allows Jesus to enter his body through the reception of the Eucharistic Real Presence, and who spends time daily listening to the Holy Spirit speak so that he can proclaim the words of the Father, it is because Pope Francis lives what he believes, and lives a life that believes in such kind things, that we have such utmost respect for him. We listen because he is genuine. Furthermore, we listen because we understand that Francis cares about the human community and the salvation of the world through more than just words, but through actions.
Before I touch on the parts of our passage from the Gospel of Mark for today where Jesus tells the apostles to back off of people who are healing in his name and that they should take holy living very seriously in their lives, I want to quote the prominent Evangelical theologian, Robert Webber, may God rest his soul,
Worship anticipates the divine restoration of the created order through the observation of Sabbath, ordering the Temple, and holy living.
Webber, in his book called Ancient Future Worship, calls the entire Church, protestant and Catholic, back to a fundamental reality lived out in two spheres. Webber was part of the Convergence Movement of Evangelicals who embraced the apostolic tradition of worship in the 1990s. Webber’s impetus was something that is missing in both protestant and Catholic circles: a focus on the relationship of God to the world. Webber said that being a Christian is not about personal salvation alone. Being a Christian is about becoming part of the story of God’s redemption of the world with the Church being the place where the proper ordering of life is on display for the whole earth to see.
This should not mean that we are a church of phony people who pretend to be perfect. We did that for nearly 1700 years and it plays right into the hands of the Devil. We ARE to be a church that admits our sinfulness, our struggles, but strives to live the Sabbath, worship in a way that communicates the unity of the heavens and earth in Jesus Christ, and strives to live lives that are holy. We ARE to be a church that is converted on the inside to value what is holy and good for the good of the world and to tell the story of how God saved us, all of us; how God gives good to all, the evil and the good; how God loves all of us, the righteous and the unrighteous; how we ought to order our societies along the lines of this ordering of God, because it is beneficial to all.
So, let’s get down to the Scripture for today. In it, we have the apostles who 20 verses prior were unable to heal a woman’s child, are complaining that others who do not follow in their circle are healing in Jesus’ name. We do realize that it takes belief in Jesus Christ as the Messiah to heal in his name, right? It is not a magic formula like ‘Hocus Pocus.’ So, the apostles are complaining that people who believe in Jesus that are not in their particular circle are healing others in a way they couldn’t do. This comes right after the apostles were fighting over who was the greatest. Can we say “prestige?” Can we say “power”? Can we say “apostles who have lost sight of what it means to be the people of God?”
In 2014, Bishop Tony Palmer was sent by Pope Francis, to represent him at a conference of Charismatic Evangelical Leaders. The problem for the apostles here is that Bishop Tony Palmer was the bishop in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. Here, the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church is sending someone from another church to represent him. Why? Because Francis knew Palmer was a faithful man who believed in Jesus Christ. The one who is not against us is for us. Simply, in this world, the terms “Protestant,” “Catholic,” “Eastern Rite,” “Methodist,” “Lutheran,” etc. just don’t hold any weight anymore. People are all over the map with their behavior, but there are those who act just the same in all of these denominations.
One of the best homilies or sermons on the meaning of the Eucharist I have ever heard came from a Pentecostal Holiness preacher at Duke University’s Divinity School. It was better than any commentary on Jesus Christ and the Real Presence I heard at Mundelein Seminary (a Catholic Seminary), although those were good, too.
It is not about power, prestige, who is “in” and allowed to heal others in Jesus’ name. Being a Christian is about living a life. It is a life that is not individualized and focused on the self. It is a life that is not worried about our standing in the Church. It is a life that exemplifies the story of God saving the world, reordering it to be like heaven. It is a life that restores people we consider to be “other” through attitudes, policies, and ministries that protect all life (born, unborn, on death row, old, dying, etc.). It is a life that restores others who are lost, homeless, alone, and wounded. It is a life that respects others even if we disagree with them vehemently. Being a Christian is not about how we feel. Being a Christian is not about whether or not we are lifted up. Being a Christian is not about us. Being a Christian is about how we, who know and have experienced the presence of the Living God, can live a life that is a blessing to others. Being a Christian is not about getting everything right. Being a Christian is looking within and attempting to live a life that smooths out the road for others, proclaims the name of Jesus as the power for living, and gives restoration of life to everyone possible, everywhere possible, any time possible.
This life requires that we, each of us, examine our consciences, be convinced of our sinfulness, and then confess our sins so that we can be forgiven. This process allows us to know that everyone else is like us, sinners who struggle with sin. This process of confession and forgiveness makes us thankful people who can appreciate the work of others, in and out of our particular denomination, church, or goup. This process of confession and forgiveness makes us free of sin and know the power of the Holy Spirit to not be stumbling blocks for others. In short, taking care of our own sin reprioritizes our life to live the story of Jesus Christ and his redemption of not only us, but redemption of the world.
So, as we look back on the visit of Pope Francis to the United States and all the remarkable things he is able to say and do, we need to remember that Francis’ actions are not beyond us either. We, too, can do what Francis does because we, too, can live holy lives. We can live lives that are driven by our faith more than our desire for prestige, power, or place in the Church. We, too, can celebrate those who are doing healing in Jesus’ name. It only takes us getting our priorities straight. Gettem’ straight and let’s move on. Amen.
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