#CommunityPool is the podcast for September 30, 2018. If it takes five positive references to get into the “community pool”, then what is the goal of the community? The same deal is happening with the disciples this week. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Mark9 #Mark #Discipleship #Children #SexAbuse #CommunityPool #Sin #SinIsSerious #MindYourOwnBusiness
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 9/30/2018 The 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48.
I once lived in a community that had a “community pool” where you could be a member. You could be a member if you could get five positive references from people who were already members of the pool. Of course, the idea was not to include you in the community, but to exclude “certain kinds of people” from the pool. It was more of an “exclusive pool.”
The disciples come to Jesus this week in our readings and they complain that there is someone who is “not one of us” who is casting out demons in Jesus’ name. Well, there is certainly a few things we know about casting out demons in the Scriptures. First, you have to believe in God. Secondly, you have to believe that Jesus is the Christ. Thirdly, you have to believe that healing can be done in his name.
What exactly is wrong with someone else doing this?
Jesus tells us, nothing. I should let you know that there are going to be some Catholics, some Baptists, some Methodists, some Quakers, some Amish, some Orthodox, some Episcopalians, even, and others in heaven. What the disciples say is, “they were not following us.” The issue is not whether someone follows ‘us’ as much as do they follow Jesus Christ? Here again, the exclusivity gene of the disciples comes out.
Two weeks ago, the disciples wanted to reject God’s plan for the Savior in favor of their own plan of political glory. Last week, they were caught trying to figure out which one of them was the greatest. This week, they are outraged that someone is not part of them, but doing things that they do. Jesus again redirects them, what is the important thing? Is it important that people who heal in Jesus’ name have five positive letters of recommendation to get into the disciples community pool? It would be nice. It would good. Yet, for what is being done, it is not necessary.
For everything there is a season, the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us. Sometimes, we need to focus on others to fulfill the mission. Sometimes it is important to ensure that someone is doing the right things. The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 establishes that there is an importance on being right and doing the right thing. It was important for the apostles to know Paul, what he was doing, but if you look, they were more concerned because Paul was previously killing Christians. They wanted to be sure he was actually a believer. They were not necessarily concerned with shutting down his operation which was not under their control. By Acts 15, the disciples had learned this lesson, thank the Lord. So, I do not want us to lose sight that there is a wisdom of when to do things and when not to do things. Yet, if the reason you are rejecting someone is simply because they are not in our group, then you are in the wrong. Is what they are doing for the greater mission of God? That is the question.
Interestingly, after Jesus instructs them about the fact he is coming to save the world and not create an exclusive so called ‘community pool’, he then focuses on some incredible sounding stuff. He says that we should rather cut off our hand, cut off our foot, and gouge our eye out than commit a sin. Again, there is a time and a season to take what Jesus says literally rather than proverbially. Is the point that we should maim ourselves? Or, is the point that we should take sin very seriously?
How many of us have said, “I would rather have my teeth pulled than…” you fill in the blank? The use of exaggeration is meant to show how extreme the feeling we have toward something is.
I remember in seminary, I was reading the Old Testament and wondered, “Why does the Lord bring down the fires of heaven against people?” Then it hit me: because holiness is serious business. Sinning is serious business. With the advent of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of all sin for all time, and with Jesus descending into hell to offer forgiveness to those who went before him on earth, we no longer need this kind of action. Now, God’s wrath is to just let people live with the consequences of their sin in this life and then in the next.
Sin is serious business. Sins against the innocent and against the good gifts of God are the most serious of them all.
Look at what Jesus says about the sins against children. Millstones weigh 3,300 lbs. thereabouts, according to hudsonvalleygeologists.com. Imagine that hung around your neck and being rolled into the sea and its deepness. That is an absolutely horrifying thought. People who sin against children with intentional abuse, be it verbal, emotional, psychological, and, especially, sexual, are not in God’s favor. God takes that seriously.
In Luke 8:7, Jesus says, “Nothing is secret that shall not be made known.” So, I believe that it is God who is exposing the abuse in his Church. One of the many things that are distressing to me about the reports of abuse of children at the hands of priests is that bishops treated these sins as if they were only psychological in nature. They treated them as if they were just a simple thing, a sin like lying or shoplifting. Of all people, the people of God should have known about the seriousness of these kinds of things. We heard our Lord say that a sin against a child is as serious or more as having a 3,300 lb. rock placed around the neck of the perpetrator and having that person cast into the sea. I think that sounds pretty serious. It sounds serious enough to have someone removed from a parish or from ministry.
Additionally, sex was given to us as a good gift. I still think it is brilliant that God says, “Be fruitful and multiply,” then he gave us an amazing way to multiply. There are even hormones that are released in sex that are like opiates, even hormones that make us committed to our partner. There are psychological, emotional, and even more, spiritual connections that happen during sex: we are made one with the other. To use sexual activity for abuse is a perverted and grave misuse of the good gift of God. Couple that with using that good gift to abuse a child and you have a seriousness that is beyond serious. The Church knew and knows this fact. That is what makes it breathtakingly reprehensible.
Sin is serious business. Our own sin is our serious business. If you notice, when the disciples are concerned about who is joining their community pool or not, Jesus pivots to the seriousness of our own particular sins. Rather than focusing on who is the greatest, who gets to drive out demons or heal the sick, says the Lord, we ought to mind our own business. Rather than busying about tattling on those who are healing the sick in the name of Jesus, we ought to be thinking about our own sins.
Do we nightly examine ourselves through the Ten Commandments? Do we go to confession on a regular basis? Do we focus on living out the mission of God rather than focus on the pettiness for which humanity is infamous? Do we take sin seriously? Do we especially take sins against the innocent, the helpless, the homeless, the mentally ill, the refugee, and the outcast seriously? Do we take sins against the treasured goods of God seriously?
Or, is the church a place where we can be recommended by five like minded people into an exclusive pool of folks who are just like us? Rather than focusing on the sinfulness of others, in this season, let us choose the way of light, the way of true holiness, and the way of the Lord. Amen.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian