As we get into fall and move towards the end of the green season, the tone of our Gospel readings becomes more challenging. These weekly pieces of Jesus’ teaching begin to confront us with the stakes of whether or not we rise to Jesus’ challenges. The stakes of our living or not living as disciples, the cost to us and others, the impact on God’s mission.
That’s the perspective today’s Gospel reading is coming from, and I want us to simply go through the first big section of it and think it over together this morning. Whenever we study a text in this way, remember that you’ll always get more out of the process if you look at it on your insert as well as listen.
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." Here is someone who is out in the world doing Kingdom stuff, but the church is not happy because it doesn’t have their trademark on it. Did you notice how John put it? His problem with the man isn’t that he’s not following Jesus, but that he’s not following who? Us. He’s not in our group. Whoever this man is, he is making a positive contribution to God’s Kingdom, and he’s giving Jesus the credit. But rather than applaud those good effects, John is stuck on official authorization. Is his name on the rolls? Has there been a vestry vote?
Last weekend 8 of us from this parish went to a workshop with Carrie Headington, the lay Missioner for Evangelism in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, and she gave a number of examples of ordinary Episcopalians doing kingdom stuff in their own homes: meals for international students, professional support gatherings, spa days, cooking classes, but all done in the name of Jesus and for the love of Jesus. Their parishes probably coached them first on how to think and live missionally, but nobody was functioning as an authorized subsidiary of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas. It was just Episcopalians acting in Jesus’ name to benefit others, not acting in the name of an institution to benefit the institution.