Mark 9:38-50

Working Together For God’s Glory

September 30 2018

            In the Gospel passage before us today Jesus is calling on His followers, and of course that includes us, to work together for God’s glory. Jesus says: “Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

You know, sometimes it takes just one person who is dedicated to peace and to working for peace to make a difference in the world. One person armed with the Gospel of peace can change the world. Telemachus was a monk who lived in the 5th century. He felt God saying to him, “Go to Rome”, so he left the safety of the cloistered monastery and set out for Rome. When he arrived in Rome, the streets were crowded with people. He asked what all the excitement was about and was told that this was the day that the gladiators would be fighting in the coliseum. Telemachus thought to himself: “Four centuries after Christ and they are still killing each other for enjoyment?” He ran to the coliseum and heard the gladiators saying, “Hail to Caesar, we die for Caesar” and he thought, “this isn’t right.” He jumped over the railing, went out into the middle of the field, got between two gladiators, and tried to stop them. The crowd became enraged and stoned him to death.  When the Emperor heard about the monk he put an end to the games. Legend has it that the very last Gladiatorial game was the one in which Telemachus died.

Jesus said, “Have salt in yourselves – be at peace with each other.” Jesus said we need to work together for His glory in the world.

You know, sometimes it seems we have gladiator games going on even today in society,  inside our homes, at work, and and even in the church and between churches.  And the “games” have been going on for as long as we can remember! We are blessed that  here in Lee County the Presbyterian churches work well together to get God’s work done in our community and the world and other denominations join our work through CUOC and other organizations, but for a myriad of reasons there are many places where churches do not work together.  Even here at Edgewood there are other ways that we can work together and other ways we can do things  but it takes someone willing to step up and come up with and suggest ideas for new things for us to do and new ways for us to do what we do. It may take someone willing to step up and suggest that we pray for a vision from God for a new way we can do things instead of always doing things the same way.  It may take someone to take the lead.   It may  take a Telemachus.

Who will be a Telemachus? Who will be the one willing to step up with a prayer and a plan for new things we can do?

Jesus said, “Have salt in yourselves – be at peace with each other.” Jesus said we need to work together for His glory in the world.

Why do you think it is that it is so hard for us to come up with new plans for how we can do ministry together?  One reason may be that we want to keep doing things the way we always have done them. We have our ways of doing things and we are not about to change, regardless of who suggests we might need to consider doing so.  The way we “do it here” is the way we “do it”, period.    It’s the way we’ve always “done it” and it’s the way we will keep “doing it”, no matter what. The word “change” is a dirty word in many churches. Sometimes it may seem that church members won’t even agree to change a light bulb in the fellowship hall. “Change the light bulb? What do you mean change the light bulb?  My granddaddy put that light bulb there and there is no way anyone is going to change it!”

“The way we do things here” can  many times keep us from doing things in new ways, maybe God’s ways, maybe ways that will help us put Jesus’ instructions to work together for the glory of God into practice. “The way we do things here” can also kill a Church.  Do you know what the 7 last words of a Church are? “That’s how we have always done it”

So  one reason it may be hard for us to look for, pray for, and come up with new plans for how we can do ministry together is that the plans may threaten “the way we have always done things” and may mean we will have to change the way we do some things.

But — Jesus said, “Have salt in yourselves – be at peace with each other.” Jesus said we need to work together for His glory in the world.

Another reason this may be hard for us is that sometimes we would rather fight over our traditions and beliefs than learn to work with those who may hold to a different tradition or belief. A man was walking across a very narrow bridge and came upon a man coming from the other side. As they stood in the middle, neither was sure they wanted to let the other pass, one said to the other “Are you a Christian?” “Yes, as a matter of fact I am” the other answered. “Well so am I. Are you Catholic or Protestant?” the first asked. “I’m Protestant,” the other answered.  “Well so am I. What denomination?” the first asked. “I’m Baptist” came the response. “Wow… I am too. Are you Southern Baptist or American Baptist? ” the first asked. “I’m Southern Baptist,” the second replied.   “Me too, that’s amazing! Are you original Southern Baptist or Southern Baptist reformed?” the first asked. “I’m Southern Baptist reformed.” The second answered.  “I can’t believe it, so am I. But tell me, – are you Reformed Southern Baptist of the reformation of 1879, or reformed Southern Baptist of the Reformation of 1915?” the first asked. “Reformed Baptist, reformation of 1915” the second replied. To which the first man said, “Die you heretic” and pushed the other man off the bridge.

Our refusal to work with someone who may have a different tradition or belief can be so petty, and our passage for today illustrates how this has been going on since Jesus and the disciples. One day as they are walking around the area of Capernaum, John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, came up to Jesus and gave a report that he and some others of the disciples were out among the people and saw a man who was not one of them driving out demons, and doing this in the name of Jesus. John and the others realized that the man had not been trained by Jesus as they had been and had not been chosen by Jesus as they had been so they ordered him to stop. It is obvious that the disciples expected to be congratulated by Jesus for this. They expected Jesus to say: “Good for you!” They expected Jesus to say “We can’t let this Kingdom of God business get out of hand, it can only be done by us and our group and in our way” But instead Jesus says that God has given others gifts for ministry and ideas for how to do ministry, and sometimes we need to listen to their ideas.

“Whoever is not against us is for us” Jesus says.  In other words, just because they have a different idea doesn’t necessarily mean that they are wrong.  We need to continually pray for God to give us a vision for new ways to His work and be on His mission and pray for a new vision and new ways to do God’s work and will in our community and the world.

Yea — Jesus said, “Have salt in yourselves – be at peace with each other.” Jesus said we need to work together for His glory in the world.

We do a lot of things and are involved in a lot of things here at Edgewood.  We are doing the mission of God in our community and the world in so many ways. But are there other ways we can work together for God’s glory in our community and in the world? Are there other things “we have always done one way” but that we might need to look at other ways we  can do them , maybe ways that are more in line with what God would have us be doing what we are doing?

What would it look like if were willing to work together and pray for a new vision for how we can be about God’s mission in our community and the world? What might new ways of “doing Church”, new ways for worship and new ways for fellowship and mission look like?  They may be new and different things to do and it may merely be being willing to do something we are doing now in a new way, a new way that may touch someone in a new way,  maybe even touch you in a new way.  Think about the Sew Be It group here at Edgewood.  Someone heard about how the ladies at Pocket Presbyterian were sewing dresses to send to Central America to help the young girls who were being preyed  upon by sex traders and suggested we try it here at Edgewood. We started doing it, and we have now sent dress to Central America and Appalachia, and are getting ready to send more to Africa.   We have been  blessed by trying a new idea, and others are being blessed also.  Think about how we are blessed by different styles and types of music in our worship.  That is truly a blessing to us, and began as we tried new ways to give praise to God.

And Jesus said, “Have salt in yourselves – be at peace with each other.” Jesus said we need to work together for His glory in the world.

We at Edgewood do a lot of things as we go about God’s mission and our worship,  – and I celebrate that, but there are other things we can do.  Things that might mean putting aside the way we have always done things and trying new things, or trying new things along with the old things.  

Sometimes it takes someone willing to step up and come up with and suggest ideas for a a new program or a new way to do things. It may take all of us praying for a vision from God for new ways we can do things. It may take being willing to listen to new ideas and try new things. Like Telemachus climbing into the arena with the gladiators to propose peace, sometimes it takes someone willing to stand up and suggest new things that we can do together for us to move past “the way we do things” to the new ways God might be calling us to do things.

Who will be our Telemachus? Who will dream of new things we can do together? Who will let God  give them a vision of the new things we can do for His glory in the community and the world, and step up and suggest new ways for us  to work and worship together, with God’s strength, to make that vision a reality? I urge you to let God use you and to pray for and dream about new things God might want us to be doing together.

Jesus said, “Have salt in yourselves – be at peace with each other.”  Jesus said we need to work together for His glory in the world.

Pray that God will give you a new vision for how we can Worship, learn,  and serve God and others,  and a new commitment for working for God’s glory in our community and in the world. Amen.