|Ms. Patricia R. Bjorling, Associate Conference Minister for Generosity Ministries|
This week's author is Patricia Bjorling, Associate Conference Minister for Generosity Ministries for the Connecticut Conference, UCC.
"Teacher," said John, "we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us."
"Do not stop him," Jesus said. "For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.
"If anyone causes one of these little ones -- those who believe in me -- to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they 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 with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where
"'the worms that eat them do not die,
and the fire is not quenched.'
Everyone will be salted with fire.
"Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other."
The Gospel text for September 30, 2012 has leadership in mind. We have several loosely strung together teachings related to a perceived challenge to Jesus' authority and things that get in the way of doing God's work in community.
We can hear in these lines warnings about abuse of power in a variety of iterations, and imagine the havoc it can cause in families and groups. Possibly most dramatic are the sayings about causing little ones to stumble, which may have originally referred to young children. Hearers of the day would have been all too familiar with exploitation and violation of youngsters -- not the least sexually. Yet the violent language of this passage is still troubling. It is clearly meant to be understood metaphorically, not literally, and to highlight God's hatred of injustice.
Mark ends this passage with the image of salt... salt that has lost its saltiness.
And how does that happen? Unsalty salt? Salt might cease tasting very salty if it becomes contaminated in high proportions over time with other unsalty substances, such as gravel, dirt, or sand. It would then be quite useless as salt.
Mark links salt with peace, and in that context salt becomes an image of integrity and wholeness. Being at peace with one another is about wholeness in community. When there is wholeness in a community of faith, church controversies are dealt with openly and honestly, rather than being swept under the rug; there are no parking lot conversations, gossiping about one another, or griping about the pastor or church leaders. Wholeness is also living in such a way that you don't have to lose limbs.
Providing leadership in a community of faith can be challenging, because journeying together in a community of faith can be as unpredictable as it is wonderful. May we always remember that Christ is with us, and be at peace with one another!
Christ, help us keep our saltiness; Christ, help us nurture communities of peace and wholeness; Christ, be with us. Amen.
those gathered at General Association for revival and renewal.
with joy the birth of John Gregory "Jack" Rosenthal, born to the Rev. Kristen Kleiman, pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC of Bristol, and her husband Stu Rosenthal, on September 16;
the Rev. William K. Dunlap, pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC of Norwich, who is recovering following bypass surgery last week;
the friends and family of Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, Christopher Stevens, and Tyrone Woods, who were killed at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11;
Archelaus Terrentine, father of the Rev. Shannon Rye Wall, pastor of the South Britain Congregational Church UCC, who is recovering from a stroke;
those grieving, injured, homeless, deprived of livelihood, or otherwise affected by the earthquakes in southwest China on September 7;
the Rev. Stephen Camp, senior pastor of Faith Congregational Church UCC in Hartford, who is recovering from severe injuries suffered in a fall;
the Rev. Carl F. Schultz, Jr., pastor emeritus of First Church of Christ Congregational UCC in Glastonbury, doing well recovering from a broken hip;
the Conference Minister Search Committee as they consider candidates;
the Rev. Dr. Barry Cass, the staff, members, and friends of the Somers Congregational United Church of Christ, which lost its 170-year-old meetinghouse to a devastating fire the night of January 1-2;
the Rev. Alison Buttrick-Patton, the lay leadership, staff, members, friends, and community of the Saugatuck Congregational Church UCC, which suffered severe damage from a substantial fire on the night of November 20;
the Conference's partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery and their communities on the Korean peninsula;
the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia amidst violence;
the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
this nation, that it may continue its difficult work to end the practices of racism;
those suffering due to the ongoing financial woes of the nation, be they struggling to meet an unaffordable mortgage, seeking employment, or working to find just resolutions; and
those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck.
To be added to the prayer list, please send an email to Rev. Eric Anderson at: email@example.com.
Spring Glen Church
P The Rev. Jeffrey J. Crews
CE Ms. Jennifer McCleery
IAP The Rev. Clare G. Robert
Whitneyville United Church of Christ
P The Rev. Carolyn L. Young
Hampton Cong'l Church
P The Rev. Howard A. Mayer
P The Rev. John L. Selders Jr.
Asylum Hill Cong'l Church
P The Rev. Matthew W. Laney
PE The Rev. Gary L. Miller
PE The Rev. Peter B. Grandy
AP The Rev. Erica Ann Thompson
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The Spirit Calendar: September 24, 2012 by Ms. Patricia R. Bjorling, Associate Conference Minister for Generosity Ministries