Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sermon: September 27

May the words of my mouth…
Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp." And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, "My lord Moses, stop them!"

And in the Gospel, John said to Jesus, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us."
“Stop them” we say, they don’t follow us. There’s us - and there's them.

· We're all right. They're not. We do it the right way. They don’t.
· We know the truth. They don't understand; they're ill-informed.
· We're concerned for the common good. They're out to grab whatever they can get.
· Don't ever question our good intentions, our values, our patriotism. But watch out for them.
· You can trust us - but be afraid of them.
· We're all created equal - but some of us are more equal than others.
· We are all children of God - but we're God's favorites.
· We're the people of God - we pray for them.
· We have the Spirit. They do not.

In the end, it really is about control. We love to be in control. Who is in and who is out. Stop them we say. But the problem is, that’s not how God acts and that’s now how God wants us to live.
But Moses said to Joshua, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD's people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!"

But Jesus said to John, "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.”
In admonishing John in today's Gospel, Jesus is calling for an end to the us vs. them mentality; and Moses likewise wishes there were more prophets provided by the Spirit of God.
Thomas Merton, a monk mentioned by Pope Francis in his speech before congress, put it this way: "As soon as you begin to take yourself seriously and imagine that your virtues are important because they are yours, you become the prisoner of your own vanity, and even your best works will blind and deceive you. And the more unreasonable importance you attach to yourself and your work, the more you will tend to build up your own idea of yourself by condemning other people. Sometimes virtuous people are also bitter and unhappy because they unconsciously believe that their happiness depends on their being more virtuous than others."
There is a humility of Spirit that we are being taught through today’s lessons.

We should not be surprised that the power of God moves in unexpected ways in our world. It is not under our control or guidance. To "act in Jesus' name," means to reach out to all without condition, without prejudice, without judgment.
Years ago, there was a poor farmer who was an alcoholic. When he drank too much (which happened fairly often), he'd become abusive, forcing his family to escape into their cornfield, with him frequently shooting after them with his .22 rifle.

One day, their neighbor, an elderly Amish farmer, came by. He explained that rats had been in his corncrib and asked if the farmer knew anyone who could sell him a .22. A bargain was struck and the old Amish farmer took the rifle and ammunition and set off for home.

One of the poor farmer's children followed the Amish farmer from a distance and watched him cross the river bridge. The old man stopped midstream and the boy watched him drop the rifle and ammunition into the swift water and then continue home. [James Didlow, writing in Reader's Digest.]
It is the Spirit of God that moved the Amish farmer, for his generosity of heart and humility of spirit to buy and get rid of the rifle; it is the "cup of water" that Jesus speaks of in today's Gospel: a reflection of the compassion that Christ asks of all who would be his followers. Sometimes the Holy Spirit rests and guides unexpected people.

Let me use a short story taken from Albert Camus the Plague –

God works through many people. It is to such life giving work through the Spirit that we are called to do.
Just as Pope Francis said in his speech at the White House: “The efforts which were recently made to mend broken relationships and to open new doors to cooperation within our human family represent positive steps along the path of reconciliation, justice and freedom. I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development, so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity which God wills for all his children.”
In whatever opportunities we have, with whomever we meet and are able to help, may we not hesitate to act in Jesus' name, Amen.

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