Mark 9:38-50 (NRSV)
Verse 38John said to him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us." Verse 39But 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. Verse 40Whoever is not against us is for us. Verse 41For 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.
Verse 42"If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. Verse 43If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. Verse 45And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. Verse 47And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, Verse 48where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
Verse 49"For everyone will be salted with fire. Verse 50Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."
In the narrative that just precedes today’s reading the disciples of Jesus try but are unable to cast out a demon. Later we find them arguing among themselves about who is the greatest. Now they see someone they do not know casting out a demon and they become upset and report it to Jesus. When Jesus hears this “only us” attitude, he responds, “Whoever is not against us is for us.” Then, I believe, he moves to an even deeper point that seems to say to them, “If you behave like a self-righteous know-it-all or like one who is great and all others are beneath you, then I want you to know, you are better off dead or lame than going to the place I would throw you.”
So what are they to teach? Teach, with humility, the love story they will see though him and have the confidence to recognize the Holy Spirit working through others. Have the confidence to say “yes” to others’ good ideas and leadership.
Almighty God, thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ, and the love he has taught us. Guide us in our churches to avoid a self-righteous attitude and guide us in ways to tell and share his love story so it makes a difference in the lives of others as it has made a difference in ours. Amen.