Sermon Pentecost 18 Year B
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
God uses people we don’t expect – to welcome everyone and bring us into relationship. And God works in unexpected ways. God even works outside of the ways we know God has already planned to work.
In our first lesson, God instructs Moses to gather 70 elders of the people and bring them into the tent of meeting. The LORD spoke to the elders and they received God’s Spirit. They started to prophesy.
However, two men, Eldad and Medad didn’t join the 70 in the tent. We don’t know why. Maybe they weren’t invited. Maybe they refused to go. In any case, it didn’t seem to matter to God. The spirit rested on them anyway. They started prophesying.
Another young man heard them prophesy. He doesn’t approve so he whines to Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” Joshua, second in command to Moses, agrees with the young man and even insists that Moses stop them. After all, they were not part of the crowd in the tent. They didn’t belong to the group of 70, the chosen ones.
Moses refuses to stop Eldad and Medad though. He accuses the others of being jealous. Moses wished that all of God’s people received the spirit and could prophesy.
In today’s gospel lesson we have a similar story. The disciples come whining to Jesus. It seems someone who isn’t part of their group, someone who doesn’t belong, is pretending to be a disciple. This man even has the audacity to cast out demons in the name of Jesus.
What nerve this guy has! Helping people in the name of Jesus! Well, the disciples try to stop him. After all, he wasn’t part of their group. He had no right. Jesus was their rabbi, not his.
But Jesus agrees with Moses on this matter. He says that anyone who isn’t against them is for them. He also says that no one who does a deed of power in the name of Jesus will be able to speak evil of him.
Jesus knows that something happens to us when we do good deeds in his name. Helping others transforms us. Our actions transform our feelings and beliefs. If you act like you believe it, you will believe it.
We know this is true. We tell our children to behave appropriately even when they don’t feel like it. We tell them to be nice even when they don’t want to.
We tell our children that behaving kindly toward someone helps us understand them better and may even help us like them better. We have to remind ourselves of that sometimes, too.
We call it “good customer service” when we are at work. We are polite, respectful, and kind, even when someone comes to us with a complaint. We know that treating them with consideration will help calm them down, but we also know that it will help keep us calm.
It keeps us from saying things we will regret, too. Behaving with kindness and consideration can transform our feelings and thoughts about other people, especially the ones who don’t make a good first impression on us.
Jesus reminds the disciples that God welcomes everyone. God welcomed the ones who were outside the tent when the gift of prophesy was being given out.
Jesus welcomes the stranger who dared to heal in his name. Even though this man didn’t have the proper credentials and wasn’t a card carrying member of the disciples.
This can be a challenge for us. Jesus even welcomes the people we don’t like, the ones we disagree with, and the ones who annoy us. Even the ones who call themselves Christian and express beliefs on television and radio that represent a view of scripture that is in complete opposition to our beliefs.
Jesus even welcomes them. And he calls us to welcome them. He calls us to treat them with kindness and respect even when we have completely opposite opinions about everything Jesus taught.
However, God doesn’t call us to let others be the only voices that are heard. We can let our prophetic voices be heard, too. God gives the gift of speaking prophetically to those inside and outside of the tent. Would that all God’s people were prophets!
Actions do influence beliefs. You cannot help someone in the name of Jesus without receiving the gift of faith. We go on mission trips and we encourage our young people to do mission trips for this reason.
Our campers at Carol Joy Holling have a mission project each summer. Two years ago they packed health kits for Haiti. Last year they packed over 101,000 Kids Against Hunger meals.
But small gifts and simple gestures are just as important as big mission trips and projects.
When I was serving as church relations director at TLU, I went on a recruiting trip to the Phoenix area. Everywhere I went, I was given a bottle of cold water to drink as soon as I walked in the door.
The climate is so dry there that they knew a visitor from out of state would not realize the need to stay hydrated in that desert. They knew I needed the water even before I did.
Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
It is amazing how deeply people respond to small gestures. I have not forgotten the water even though it was years ago. Sometimes we hear of a big need and the thing we can offer seems so small that we don’t bother to give it. We forget that others are sometimes so bombarded with negative messages that even one kind word, or one cup of water is remembered.
There are many ways we give small gifts and share simple gestures in the name of Jesus. We do this when we greet our neighbors with a smile and genuinely ask how they are doing. We donate items for the LWR health and school kits. We bring cans of food for the food pantry.
We will have more opportunities to help others in the name of Jesus in November when we have our Fair Trade Fair. When we buy the beautiful hand made crafts we help two people. First we help the artisan earn a living and support her family.
Second we help the person who receives the gift we buy, because in addition to the gift, we share the joy of helping in the name of Jesus.
God uses people we don’t expect to welcome everyone and call us into relationship. God even uses us. Let us welcome everyone. And let us prophesy and heal. And may all our gifts, even the small ones be given in the name of Jesus. Amen.