Our September 26 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. We are excited to say that our Sunday 8 & 10:30 am services are open again for in-person worship. Services will continue to be streamed online.
The October 3 Sunday worship service will be held with in-person attendance. We have returned to regular in-person worship services. With an upturn in county COVID cases, we recommend masks even for those who are vaccinated.
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Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29 | Psalm 19:7-14
James 5:13-20 | Mark 9:38-50
Looking at the texts today, which at the surface all appear to be very different, there are some common themes. One is, “You don’t have to go it alone.” Moses gets help; James says pray in many situations (and with other members of the Church) – God will hear you; Jesus says those who aren’t against you are for you. Interesting. The other theme is in a sense, Good versus Evil; and by extension, how it relates to ultimate Authority. BTW, Good wins, Ultimately.
In the OT lesson, a group of the Israelites are complaining, again. It will be a recurring theme through the 40 years in the Wilderness. But, this time the rest of the people join in. Why? It was something which everyone could identify with – food, which was one of their usual complaints (see my wife, the Food Service Director). They are looking fondly back, “In Egypt, we had good things to eat; meat, fish, vegetable and fruit.” They forgot that they were also slaves in the land of Egypt; that they were literally being worked to death, and their male children were being put to death. “Now, all we have is this Manna to look at.” Notice, they didn’t even say to eat, just “look at.” Acting like children. My daughter was a picky eater when she was younger. Actually, she is still a picky eater. It can be entertaining when she is giving her order to a waitress at a restaurant. When I would be cooking supper, I knew that she would ask what I was making. When she would ask, “What is it?” (which BTW, is what the word Manna means, the Israelites didn’t know what it was), or “What are you cooking?” I learned to just say, “Chicken.” She liked chicken. She has had all kinds of things that she thought was chicken: tuna, salmon, pork, rabbit. And, she would eat it. The Israelites don’t want to eat the Manna. It seems that they don’t even want to look at it. This is God’s gift to sustain them in the wilderness. It comes every morning, except on the Sabbath. It is a dependable food supply in the midst of nowhere. They’ve complained before about it. Well, this time God gets very angry. They are rejecting his gift, the miracle of the manna. And, Moses, we are told, is “displeased.”
What is entertaining in this text is that God and Moses go into one of their dialogues (they too can be childish). Moses, the most important person in all of Judaism, tells God: “Why are you doing this to me? The burden of the people, they are terrible! All they do is complain, they are never satisfied, and they blame me!! Do me a favor just kill me, and get it over with. Don’t leave me in this misery.” God decides to have compassion on Moses, if not the Israelites, spread the authority, and the responsibility around a bit. Pick 70 elders (in most organizations, you don’t get help unless you ask for it). God’s “spirit rests on them, and they prophesy.” But, two were in the camp, late for the meeting. The spirit rests on them too. And for this, Joshua is upset, “jealous” for Moses’ sake. However, Moses is glad, “I wish that all were prophets. Then all would know, and have a stronger faith in God.” The same Spirit of God rests on us, in faith – through baptism and through the Lord’s Supper.
That brings us to the Gospel lesson: Someone is casting out demons in Jesus’ name. John is the tattletale. But Jesus’ response is surprisingly, “Don’t stop him!” It sounds like Moses’ answer.
Again, the issue is good and evil, and the question of authority, ultimately God’s authority. It is done in Christ’s name. His is the authority. “Whoever is not against us, is for us,” that’s an interesting line coming from Jesus, the Son of God, our Savior. But, here is the thing that some don’t understand. Christ may start out on the periphery of a person’s life, like this unknown exorcist, but in time, in faith, as faith increases, Christ becomes the center of a person’s life. “For no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.” So there.
It is a process, faith, beginning at baptism, and continuing throughout a person’s life. Like a tree; in baptism or upon hearing the Gospel, the seed is planted, and slowly, with nurture in faith, it will grow to fruition, literally, the bearing of fruit, good fruit.
Then, there is that bit about salt. Jesus said, “Everyone is salted with fire.” That is a strange saying. Salt and fire are two of the ancient cleansing agents. The other two were water and smoke. They were used for processes of purifying something, to cast out evil. We are salted with the Holy Spirit, which rests upon us. We have that “salt” or spirit within ourselves. Now, if we take the remainder of the text literally, we are to be the seasoning for the rest of the world, to add a bit more of Christ’s flavoring to the world’s mix. If you watch cooking shows on television, like I do, you may notice that the cooks use lots of salt in their recipes, and often salts something several times. Often, more salt than I would consider using. Jesus uses billions of us on the world! Now, let us prepare to be salted some more, to receive another dash of salt of the Spirit, if you will, and with it the gifts of the Spirit, and Christ’s authority, as we come forward to receive Our Lord’s body and blood in His Holy Supper, to strengthen us in faith, and prepare and sustain us in the work for the kingdom of God. For we all are called to recognize the authority of Christ, who empowers us to work in his kingdom, and against the evil which we may encounter. Come forward to be salted, strengthened, and share in his Gospel to and for this world.