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Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church
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St Mark 9:38-50 

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.’   But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards 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.
 
‘‘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.   If 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.  And 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.   And 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,  where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
 
‘For everyone will be salted with fire.  Salt 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.’
Reflection
“Birds of a feather flock together,” “Like goes with like” – sayings which tell it like it is for human beings. Whether in terms of age, race or social background we can find it easier and more comfortable to be with people like us. This is, surely, one of the Church’s greatest dangers as it so easily leads to an often unconscious exclusivism – and for some parts of the Christian family to a very deliberate exclusivism and unwillingness to associate with those who differ in their understanding and expression of their faith in Jesus.

How very different was the response of Jesus to John’s wish to stop someone, not part of the group of disciples, using the name and power of Jesus to help and heal. The phrase, “Whoever is not against us is for us” was not original to Jesus but he used it because it so clearly reflected his approach: I find it interesting to learn that an ancient papyrus text goes on, “The one who is far off today will be close tomorrow.”

Surely Jesus was telling the disciples, and us, not to look for labels – look for actions. When we see mercy, compassion, faith, should we not rejoice, as Jesus rejoiced? We recall, from Matthew’s Gospel that in speaking of a Roman centurion Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith” (Matt 8 10).

How readily does this reflect our attitudes? We may mean it when we say and sing, “All are welcome in this place,” but would all, yes all, feel welcomed? And on what terms would our welcome be given? How easily we build thorn hedges, even walls, to keep separate and distinguish our group from others – “like goes with like” and we consolidate our position by appeals to tradition, personal preference even attempts to cite apostolic authority.

The words of Jesus are a rebuke to any arrogant assumption that God only works in ways with which we are familiar and which we approve. To quote H E Luccock, “If one tenth of the time Christians have devoted to building fences had gone into building roads as a highway for God, the world would be a far better place today.”
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, forgive the ease with which we can discriminate against those who differ from us, and forgive our failure to recognise when we do so.
    
Thank you that you welcome us even though you know us as we truly are – so guide us to accept others who seek to make our world into your world. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Julian Macro is a retired minister and membrer of Verwood URC in Dorset.

Bible Version

 

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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