Sunday, September 27, 2009

"There Are No Outsiders In God's Eyes" -- 17th Sunday After Pentecost - Sermon by the Rev. Canon Renee Fenner

Click above to listen to the sermon streamed online.

Preached by the Rev. Canon Renee Fenner at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, September 27

“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.”

“Do not stop him…”

These words come after the disciples witnessed a man casting out demons in Jesus’ name. Now this probably would not have been an issue if this person had been one of them; a part of the inner circle. After all, by this time in Mark’s Gospel the twelve had a fairly strong relationship with Jesus and they themselves had been sent out by him two by two to cast out demons and heal the sick (Mark 6:7-13). We are not told who this man was or what connection, if any; he had to them or to Jesus but their attitude spoke volumes: ‘How dare this ‘outsider’ go out and do what we do? He is not one of us!’

We know how we are as human beings: someone new walks into the room and all eyes turn toward that person. We size him or her up. We wonder who that person is and what connection that person might have with anyone before we go on about our business. Depending on the circumstances we might make that person feel comfortable right away and sometimes we may not be so quick putting out with the welcome mat. It was that way with Jesus’ closest followers yet Jesus was not concerned that this man was acting in his name. Jesus knew that his world, just like ours today, needed all the help it could stand. Casting out a few more demons was and is a good thing! “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name,” Jesus told his disciples, ‘will be able soon after to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us.” Jesus had not come to form a closed fraternity where no one else is invited in. He was all about manifesting Himself in others and modeling for us ways to move aside our selfish ways and our differences. So often we fail to look for Christ working in the hearts of all of us; man, woman, boy and girl.

Jesus’ words this morning remind us that the Kingdom of God is not meant for some; that the work of God is not meant for a handful of a select few; and that God’s gifts are not stingily bestowed randomly upon certain individuals but rather, abundantly upon ALL! In Jesus’ name there are no outsiders. And if we are too focused on ourselves and our gifts we will miss out on the many gifts God wishes to give us through others.

People will come here at different levels of their spiritual walk. Regardless of where they are or where you are, they must be made to feel included in order for us to be truly whole, the Body of Christ given for the world. We will not get there by excluding those whose ideas might be a little different, or because they look or walk or talk a little differently. We are encouraged today to welcome ALL people who are willing to join the journey, putting on the mind of Christ every day of their lives.

Barbara Brown Taylor, a great preacher, once wrote, “The call of God is insistent, and whenever we limit who we will be to other people or who we will let them be for us, God gets to work, rubbing out the lines we have drawn around ourselves and calling us into the limitless country of his (God’s) love. We may well formulate new limits and draw new lines, but none of them last very long, because that is the way it is when people have been called out by God.”*

May we recognize the presence of Christ in our midst and that of the Holy Spirit working among us and all people. Today we need one another more than ever. I need you. You need me. We need one another. There are no outsiders in God’s eyes! Amen.

*Barbara Brown Taylor, “Crossing the Line”, The Seeds of Heaven, pp. 66-67

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