Hunkered Down Devotion

Mark 9:38-41(Voice)
John (to Jesus): 38 Master, we saw another man casting out unclean spirits in Your name, but he was not one of our group. So we told him to stop what he was doing.
Jesus: 39 You shouldn’t have said that. Anyone using My name to do a miracle cannot turn quickly to speak evil of Me. 40 Anyone who isn’t against us is for us. 41 The truth of the matter is this: anyone who gives you a cup of cool water to drink because you carry the name of your Anointed One will be rewarded.

In this passage from Mark’s gospel, Jesus’ disciples fall into a trap that will be familiar to many of us.  While Jesus spent much of his time on earth making the circle of God’s family wider and wider, like the disciples, too often our efforts are focused in the opposite direction.

To be clear, it seems that the disciples aren’t at all upset with what this unnamed exorcist was doing, but rather that the disciples weren’t getting any share of the credit or weren’t part of the plan.  Here this guy was, casting out unclean spirits, which was a term used for a variety of different ailments, and giving Jesus the glory while he did it, and the disciples are angry about it.  All they can think to tell him is: please stop.  

This is one of those times when I really wish I could have seen Jesus’ face when he responded to the disciples, and maybe heard the tone of his voice as he said ‘you shouldn’t have said that’. Like, he definitely said with some sass, I think.  Maybe even a teenage eye roll?  All kidding aside, it must have been frustrating for Jesus to have to explain to the disciples what seems like it should be an obvious truth: anyone who does good – a cup of cool water, or whatever – in the name of Jesus, is doing right and will be rewarded.

But as I said earlier, we get this messed up today too.  How often do we act like we are somehow competing against the Baptists, the Methodists, and the Episcopalians, etc. instead of recognizing (and celebrating) that we are all working together as part of God’s family.  

As a pastor, I probably get exposed to this type of conversation more than most, but often people talk about other churches as if they are competing business and other denominations as if they are completely different religions.  My favorite is that, sometimes, when people introduce themselves, they will apologize if they go to a different church.  This only ever happens if the church is a different denomination.  

In those instances, I have a standard (if a bit corny) response: That’s ok, we’re all on the same team anyway.   As I said, a corny answer, but it is the truth.  And it is what Jesus is saying to his disciples as well: stop worrying about who gets the credit, remember we are all part of one big family of God and rejoice when good things are happening in his name.

Sharing God’s Love

Prayer:   Lord, help us to celebrate the good things that happen in your name, no matter who does them.  Amen.

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