RCL Year B Proper 21
Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, and 24-29, Psalm 19:7-14, James 5:13-20,
Saint Mark 9:38-50

How do you like those disciples? “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”[1] Do you get the picture? Jesus’ disciples thought they were given the franchise, and they found someone else targeting their clients. It’s as though McDonald’s woke up to discover Burger King.

And in the face of the disciples’ jealousy and competition, Christ teaches a lesson, a lesson in tolerance: “Whoever is not against us is for us.”[2] The disciples had taken too much on to themselves. They thought they had a license, an exclusive product. And to them, Christ seems to be saying that more than one pathway leads to God. Each of you is on a pathway that leads to God. Each of you is on a pathway that you can follow to God. Christ himself claims to be the truth, by which he means that he draws a big, inclusive circle, not a little one. “Whoever is not against us is for us.”

We should draw big circles, too. It goes against this teaching to give a cup of cold water and not to see the one who receives the water as a child of God. We cannot share simply by giving away what we have. We are to recognize that a spiritual unity binds us all together despite differences of opinion and ways of reaching our goals. Evangelism, renewal, mission, ministry—all have the starting point of recognizing God’s presence in each other, and allowing it to lead and guide us all in his service. We cannot consider elbowing others out. We have to find ways to draw them in, just as Christ would have us do. And just as Christ did.

[1] Saint Mark 9:38.

[2] Saint Mark 9:40.