Mark 9:38-50

Pentecost is the time in the church year where we usually learn about discipleship and Mark's gospel really reveals this to us. Unlike Matthew, who has Jesus' teachings early on in chapter five, Mark waits until the end for the disciples to receive instruction. Faith and fear were what we spoke about last week and this isn't too far from that. The disciples are upset when they find someone else trying to cast out demons. They think that Jesus will agree with them and be proud they tried to stop him. Instead Jesus responds in a way not expected: whoever is not against us is for us, don't stop them.

How many times have we looked around and criticized other Christians for doing it, whatever it might be, wrong.  It is much easier to criticize then to drop it all and say whoever is not against us is for us.  We seem to operate on the assumption that we have the corner on interpreting God or Jesus. On knowing how they prefer worship. On knowing how they come down politically or socially and we don't own the corner. 

Our faith is grace and in that grace we need to recognize others as not being against us, but for us. The pope in his homily at Independence Hall said there needs to be more exploration of pluralism (a belief that all religions have things we hold in common and should dialogue) within the church, we can't keep on thinking we only hold the truth as that has led to many wars, even now. 

Discipleship means we have the grace, the knowing of ourselves to be able to show up and support others in the body of Christ. We are all members of the body and all of us play important roles in our communities. It doesn't diminish us if we start building bridges with others even when we don't exactly believe the same things. We start to diminish when we don't talk or recognize one another. 

Faith grows with diversity. Even when we look at the Old Testament, such as Esther today, in this story God does not free the Hebrew people from their oppressor, only saves them from annihilation. They grow in faith because they have things still to learn about faith from those who are not like them. Only when we step out into diverse waters do we realize what is important to us. We also learn from others what is important to them. Through the waters of mutual respect we grow In New ways of being faithful communities. 

We can see in the early church everyone was not on the same page, but they knew together they would be stronger rather than in splitting apart. We see this with Paul in his letters and with Peter in Acts. They forged the first bonds of disagreement on whether you had to be a Jew first in order to become a follower of Jesus or none of it mattered. They still were brothers in Christ, still the people we still look at as examples of builders of the early faith and yet they did not agree whole heartedly with one another. They did learn and grow with one another. Keeping the fledgling church together as one body with many parts. May we, like them, be more open to listening to one another and grow in faith together.