Mark 9: 38-50
What do you say when you stub your toe? When the potatoes boil over? When your phone is out of battery or there’s no 4G signal? … In these situations, many people shout, “Jesus!” or “Jesus Christ!” When I hear someone use Jesus’ name this way, I think to myself, “He’s not going to help you with that!”
How do you use Jesus’ name? Do you use his name in frustration? … Do you use it in prayer and praise? … Do you ever use Jesus’ name to make good things happen? …
Jesus replies that they should not worry about Joe and people like him. The disciples will soon see that no one can use his name for any evil; only good will come from using his name. Even if they mean something different than Jesus intends, those who are not against Jesus are for him. Those who offer as little as a cup of water to another in Jesus’ name is blessed.
From here, Jesus goes into a little sermon about stumbling blocks, millstones, and body parts which can lead us or others astray from Jesus’ message. Jesus wants nothing to come between us and our faith in him.
If something we do or say puts stumbling blocks in the way of those who would believe in Jesus,
Instead of placing stumbling blocks in front of people, reserving God’s gifts for only certain people, we are to be salty, sprinkling the love of God everywhere we go. This is the reason everyone is welcome at the table here. We don’t use Jesus’ name to tell people that we will not share the bread and wine with them.
I have watched a lot of the coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to the US. I was struck by the way he addressed the crowd at the Capitol building after his address to Congress. He said, “Please pray for me. And if you don’t believe, or if you don’t pray, please send me your best wishes.” Francis is sharing Jesus’ love by sprinkling it liberally on all, whether they believe or not.
For over fifteen years, New Start ministry of Bethlehem Lutheran Church near Pittsburgh, PA, has collected furniture, bedding, kitchen supplies, and other items. They are given to folks leaving homeless shelters and moving into their own homes.
In January, they hit the jackpot. A nearby hotel was remodeling and had hundreds of items to give away. There were shower curtains, hair dryers, ice buckets, coffee
makers and more.
New Start arranged to receive and then distribute the items to 25 organizations in the area. A homeless ministry received bed pads, pillows and blankets for people living in tents on the streets. Poor families with homes were able to enhance their homes with beds, sofas, table lamps, and small appliances. Countless people were blessed in Jesus’ name by this hotel’s actions and the cooperation of New Start ministry.
we already know we can give about a dozen children a nice Christmas;
we already know we can make dozens of quilts for the homeless;
we already know we can give away food and personal products;
we already know we can maintain and improve the grounds and buildings;
we already know we can fix the roof and get a new sign, and TVs and improve the sound system.
We have done and continue to do a lot in Jesus’ name. If we weren’t worried about money, what else could we be doing in Citrus Springs?
Start a meal program? Open a food pantry?
Start a mission with the Latino/Latina community?
Open a clothes closet for job seekers? Start a community garden?
Tutor children in reading and math? Teach sewing and needle work?
Teach wood working and painting? Teach cooking and nutrition?
Host soccer or chess tournaments? Wash feet and trim toenails?
Host a program for those suffering with Alzheimer’s and their families?
Have a band to lead some of our music with guitar and drums?
Lay a labyrinth on the grounds so our neighbors can come and walk and pray whenever they wish?
As I mentioned during announcements last week, the Citrus Springs Civic Association has determined that they are unable to pay for a company to hang and then take down the Christmas decorations we so enjoy on the Boulevard. I thought about that for a while, and on Monday made calls to the nearby churches asking for their help in raising funds to hang the decorations. So far, I have heard from three pastors, assuring me of their congregation’s support. I am assuming Hope will also participate, though I haven’t yet officially asked the council about this.
This week, pay attention to how you use Jesus’ name. What can you do as an individual if you pray for his power to help you? What can we as a congregation do if we pray together in Jesus’ name?
Please pray with me. Most powerful Jesus, guide us to act in your name. Remind us to call on you when we are struggling or suffering, and when we see others in distress. Respond with your power to make amazing things happen, so we may give you the glory. In your holy name, Amen