September 26, 2021
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
| Centering Prayer |
I had to look it up.
A non sequitur is a statement that does not logically follow
From the previous argument or statement.
From the Latin, non sequitur means “it does not follow.”
In this, his first recorded statement in the Gospel of Mark,
The disciple John demonstrates that he’s a candidate for
King of the non sequitur!
John clearly had not been listening.
The lessons of the teacher,
As he addressed Jesus,
Weren’t being heard or comprehended.
This Gospel passage is a continuation from last Sunday’s Gospel.
Jesus was teaching his disciples that
He would suffer, be killed, and three days later, rise again.
They couldn’t believe him.
Jesus taught his disciples who were debating who the greatest was;
“Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” (9:35)
They didn’t hear him.
Jesus took a child in his arms as a teaching example
(visual aids can be really helpful)
And teaches that
“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (9:37)
A child was a metaphor for welcoming new followers of Jesus.
No one was listening.
The disciples couldn’t believe Jesus.
They didn’t hear him.
No one was listening.
It’s not like that’s never happened to you and me.
(Snoring differentiates those who are closing their eyes to focus on my sermon from those who close their eyes to nap!)
John drops the mother of all non sequitur’s
When he broaches the topic of
Others casting out demons in the name of Jesus.
‘Well, if they’re not against us,” Jesus replies,
‘they’re for us.’ (9:40)
Let’s get this train back on the track.
What was Jesus talking about?
He’s holding a child.
He was talking about welcoming children,
New followers, in his name.
Hold new followers of Jesus tenderly.
Welcome every new follower with respect, acceptance, and love.
Jesus puts the train back on the track
And tells John, and the rest of the disciples,
Exactly what NOT to do.
Do NOT be a stumbling block for a new follower.
Do NOT set a bad example that would cause another to stumble.
It would be better to go to hell
Than to cause a new follower to stumble.
That place we don’t like to talk about.
Yeah, where there is an unquenchable fire,
Where worms never die. (9:43, 48)
Is the word Jesus uses to give hell a name;
Not the more neutral words Sheol or Hades.
Gehenna, by definition,
Is the destination of the wicked.
Gehenna is quite fitting.
Holding a child,
Jesus says that causing a child-like follower to stumble
It would be better for one to go to Gehenna,
The valley outside Jerusalem
That, in prior years,
Was known to be a location
For pagan child sacrifice.
By the time of Jesus,
Gehenna was a garbage dump;
A garbage dump with a nasty, haunted history.
Jesus is literally trying to scare the hell out of his disciples.
Now that’s some salty teaching!
Do NOT be a stumbling block to any other follower
On their journey with Jesus,
Especially, don’t be a stumbling block for new followers,
Children in faith.
Jesus should be scaring the hell out of us, too.
Think with me, for a moment,
The many ways we become a stumbling block for other Christians.
Behavior that is inconsistent with the teaching of Jesus.
It’s easy to criticize and dismiss other followers of Jesus
Because their beliefs are different than ours,
Their denomination is different than ours,
Their worship is different than ours.
They like different music.
They pray differently.
They might even say “Amen” if the preacher gets on a roll!
High church, low church.
Too catholic, not orthodox enough.
“Whoever is not against us is for us,” Jesus taught. (9:40)
In other words: STUFF IT!
Stop the criticism.
Criticizing other Christians
May be the greatest of all non sequiturs:
Diverting our thoughts
Derailing our efforts,
Threatening us with a wicked eternity.
Christians criticizing Christians
Is the stumbling block Jesus wants us to avoid
To keep our focus on what is truly important.
Ending the criticism begins with me.
I can’t control the behavior of others,
But I can discipline myself.
I can remove stumbling blocks for others
By setting a good example of following Jesus.
Keep a laser focus on what is truly important,
What Jesus is teaching:
Welcome visitors and others.
Invite them to follow Jesus.
Set a good example for how Christ followers should behave.
Lead by serving
Those who Jesus served.
Keeping that laser focus on Jesus
Is what I’d call