September 24, 2018
The Rev. Kristen Provost Switzer is the associate pastor of Newtown Congregational Church.
John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you 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 to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell., And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
‘For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.’
Hearing the phrase, “Don't worry about (insert name here), worry about yourself,” takes me right back to my adolescence. Maybe someone has said that to you at some point in your life. Maybe you have said that to your own children. Maybe you’ve even wanted to say that to a few adults.
The disciples are perhaps acting childish here, as they do for much of the Gospel of Mark. In last week’s lectionary reading, they were quarrelling over false ideals of being the best. This week, their jealousy of a local healer is apparent. Jesus quickly refocuses their conversation onto something worth worrying about: their own moral character.
I get where the disciples are coming from. It is easier for most of us, I suppose, to focus on the shortcomings of others than to examine ourselves in earnest. I will be the first to admit that the traits that I am critical of in others are often the traits that I am subconsciously faulting myself for. I often realize that after the fact.
But I get where Jesus is coming from too. Because before the disciples can get to work changing the lives of others, they must be willing to do the work on themselves. Just as you can’t understand others until you understand yourself, can’t be compassionate to others until you are compassionate to yourself, you can’t hold others to moral standards that you yourself do not embrace.
The #MeToo movement, which seeks to highlight the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault, exists because our society is more concerned with rendering the issue of sexual violence invisible than believing that such a problem could actually exist. Society’s reaction of disbelief to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations of sexual assault highlights this issue. It is far easier to find fault with the other, in this case, the victim, than it is to examine the logs of denial, misogyny and blatant sexism in our own eyes. And like the disciples, we can’t enact meaningful change and agency in stopping sexual violence in our society until we first examine what causes us to embrace disbelief rather than truth and ultimately, change.
The good news is that we worship a God incarnate who valued the sharing of sacred story, believed others when they shared their pain with him, was a woke feminist himself. And if people like Dr. Ford can be brave enough to share their #MeToo moments in the face of blatant disbelief, just maybe, society will one day be brave enough to believe.
Holy One, help us to focus on what really matters. Help us to be the change that we wish to see in others. Help us to see ourselves for who we really are, and then to be the best that we can be in your eyes. Amen.
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First Church of Christ Congregational in West Hartford, UCC
Flagg Road UCC Congregational
Manantial De Gracia
First Congregational Church of West Haven, UCC
West Suffield Congregational Church
This Week in History:
Sept. 24, 1789 (229 years ago): The Judiciary Act of 1789 is signed by George Washington establishing the U.S. Supreme Court. It is a 6 justice court with appointees serving until death or retirement. All 6 of the first justices were confirmed 2 days later on Sept. 26. The number of justices changed over the next 90 years, but settled on 9 in 1869.
Starting With Scripture: September 24, 2018 , by Kristen Provost Switzer.