Pentecost 18, Sept. 26, 2021

 Pentecost 18, Year B, Season of Creation 4 (full size gallery)

Another beautiful Sunday for our first Sunday in Fall with low humidity. We had 21 in the service and 5 online. Tucker was back from the first part of his world trip having visited South America and Europe. There he walked the pilgrim’s path, the Camino over 32 days. Unfortunately while doing that he broke his foot. Catherine provide a blessing for it. Subtlety, it worked its way into the Gospel reading on Mark which dealt with hindrances.

Larry Saylor was back on guitar with a Medley of Be My Vision/Sweet Hour of Prayer (Prelude), Seek Ye First (Opening Hymn), Potter’s Clay (Offertory) and “In my life, Lord by glorified”. Larry’s playing was outstanding and the congregation picked up singing better with a guitar this week.

This was not only Season of Creation 4 but the opening of the Stewardship Campaign which goes through October. The sermon was taken from a Richard Rohr meditation, “It’s all a gift”. Yes, we are stewards, caretakers of God’s gifts. Everything we have was a gift from God, and God asks us to use it all for God’s purposes. Generosity flows naturally out of our gratitude for the gift of love, family, and life itself. From the sermon:

“Rohr challenges us to choose to live in an economy of grace rather than an economy of exchange, which is an economy of reward and punishment, in which justice is retribution… So Rohr encourages us to choose to live in a gift economy. “In a gift economy, there is no equivalence between what we give and how much we get. We don’t really like this model, because we feel we’ve worked hard to earn our rights, and to earn what we have.

“Ultimately, the only way we can move from living in an exchange based economy into choosing to live in a gift economy is to experience for ourselves receiving something without earning it.”

Elizabeth who spoke on stewardship added a bookmark to the envelope to mark our passages in our Bibles, Book of Common Prayer. Passage also refers our time as well. The bookmarks have a plant on it to remember we are in the Season of Creation.

Today’s readings illustrate how God can choose unexpected people to do God’s work. The readings focus on healing and protection. Neither of these entirely comes from God, but involve our agency as well as divine creativity and care.

In Numbers Eldad and Medad, though not participating in Moses’ official “commissioning,” receive the same Spirit of prophecy as the seventy elders. James suggests practical guidelines for those who wish to do God’s work. Today’s gospel reading relates how Jesus, like Moses, endorses the work of those who, though not part of his “in-group,” still bring healing in God’s name.

Readers may squirm with embarrassment at the first words out of John’s mouth in today’s gospel. He brands himself a bigot with his snooty concern: those other guys are doing good! Translated to today’s terminology, it sounds all too familiar: someone of another age group/church/parish/gender/ethnic group/system of belief is threatening our monopoly on ministry. It is especially ironic in view of the fact that the disciples themselves had just failed at exorcism (Mark 9:14-19).

The passage has particular meaning as we enter an era when people are united more by common concerns than by religious labels. Could it mean more to be a committed Christian or a faithful human being than to be a good Catholic, Episcopalian or Lutheran ? If our brothers and sisters in synagogues or mosques make inroads on a social problem that plagues us all, we cheer for them, rather than jealously wishing we’d achieved that success.

As if we weren’t already squirming enough, Jesus directs a word to those who might consider themselves more educated or advanced in faith than others. He reserves his grimmest punishment for those who take advantage of the childlike. The next time we are tempted to poke fun at the simple beliefs of others, we might remember Gehenna: the smelly, smoldering garbage dump outside Jerusalem. Our little joke or ploy might buy us a one-way ticket to the place where maggots chew on offal. Is it really worth it?