The reflections over the last four weeks have focused on what comes from within. The first week we reflected on the message from Jesus that everything that defiles comes from within. Evil cannot come from anything that comes from the outside. Rather it is our heart that leads us and if we allow it to be touched by evil then we risk acting in an evil way. Therefore we should always protect our heart.
Three weeks ago we reflected on another area led by the heart, judgment. We tend to filter our response to people based on how we might judge them. This judgment is influenced by past experience of others we may or may not have met, but judged. With every judgment we are deciding what filter to use when interacting with people. Jesus’ example is to take the deaf man aside to cure him and build a relationship. We should practice non-judgment so we can meet and get to know people before we think they are to sit at the lowest or highest seat. Always guard against judging the person standing in front of us.
Two weeks ago the reflection spoke about service, how we are called to serve and how serving from within is actually transformational. If we truly die to our self as Jesus requests when he speaks of serving one another than we are truly brought to the face of God and we grow and love deeper. If we serve as Jesus calls us to serve we demonstrate our love for our brothers and sisters and we see the face of God. By serving from within you are changed from within and discover God’s presence in you more deeply.
Last week the reflection centered on welcome and hospitality, but not just hospitality, radical hospitality. Going completely out of our way to make someone feel welcome, and that welcome coming from deep in our own heart. People know when you really want them present so make sure your welcome comes from within. Welcome people at your church, when you see them in your community and neighborhood and when they come to your home. When you welcome from within you are showing people the image of Jesus. When you welcome people as a church community everyone must be a radical welcomer.
The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary time; We can infer a common thread reading them together: Numbers 11:25-29; Ps 19:8: 10, 12-13, 14; James 5:1-6 and Mark 9:30-43, 45, 47-48. Cast in the idea that the Christian is led by what comes from within, the heart drives our direction, defining who we are and what we do as a disciple. These readings send the message that just acting in the name of Jesus brings with it reward, not condemnation.Today we look at the readings with the idea that doing things in Jesus name can be enough for eternal reward.
The reading from Numbers describes the LORD bestowing a spirit of prophesy over seventy-two elders. Two men Eldad and Medad were not present when the spirit came to rest on the elders, yet they were prophesying in the camp. Moses when told they were prophesying responds that all people should be prophets for the LORD. Moses shows support for those not actually receiving the spirit of the LORD.
In the reading from James we hear about earthly treasures and how they cannot be stored and saved. James compares these treasures used for a life of luxury for the rich and yet the rich do nothing to help the just person, the righteous, the poor. It is a message Jesus spoke, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieve break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19-20) The message of God is that we must take care and be concerned for one another. No matter what we have in this world it is more important to help one another.
In the message from Mark Jesus speaks the same message we read in the Numbers, if anyone who performs a mighty deed in Jesus name then they could not speak ill of the person, in fact anyone who does good in Jesus name will not lose their reward. Jesus slips into a discussion about sin and causing others to sin. It is not good for the one who causes others to sin. In fact Jesus indicates that a person who causes another to sin will end up in Gehenna, an unquenchable fire. Jesus is using Gehenna as an image of future punishments of the damned.
What Comes from Within
Over these past weeks the reflections have centered on what comes from within. We cannot be harmed from what comes from the outside, but only what comes from our heart. We are directed in life by what drives our heart. It is the heart of the Christian that represents who they truly are and what they truly believe. Today’s message from all the readings indicate it is not necessary to believe in Jesus to do good in Jesus name. In fact Jesus indicates they will receive a future reward even without belief. It is a surprising message, as many believe to attain eternal reward, one must believe and follow Jesus. Also as a believer in Jesus then you should become a member of a Christian community, a church. To be part of a church requires belief, and generally requires giving support to the church on behalf of Jesus. This is the most common path for the disciples of today.
However, the message we hear in the readings is that doing something in the name of Jesus and not believe is a good thing. Supporting a non-believer who does speak in Jesus name does not mean Jesus is advocating a non-church community. Certainly not. In another verse of scripture Jesus reveals he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Speaking about the destruction of the temple he said he would rebuild it in three days. Jesus knows community is important and in fact His first action in his public ministry was to build a community of people who would share his vision. One of Jesus defining acts was to announce that Peter is the rock upon which he will build his Church.
Church, a community of believers, is a tenet to coming to belief in Jesus. The strong support of a believing community is what gives strength and a place where belief can be increased and faith grow. It is a place to learn about Jesus, a place to learn how to love others and love God. A church community is the best place to come to speak about Jesus and in the name of love. Church is a great place to live a life that represents the message of Jesus and a vision where love is a core belief to life.
The readings from this weekend hold a central message of speaking in Jesus name and supporting others. The readings include prophesying, supporting words and actions about God and Jesus by those who were not followers or disciples. In the readings we see that these people are allowed to continue and in fact held up as doers of good. Not only are they good but there is eternal reward for speaking in the name of Jesus. Reflecting on what comes from within, Jesus makes this support for those who are not followers because he knows their heart is good. What comes from within is so important in the mind of Jesus that you can act in Jesus name and even if you don’t believe can receive eternal reward.
Non-believers doing Good
Each week I go to a local kitchen that collects food, and cooks meals for people in need. The work is managed by several employees but for the most part the food collection, the food preparation, cooking, serving and clean-up are handled by volunteers. Some volunteers show up every day, others like me serve once or twice a week. While serving it is possible to speak together and discover what motivates the presence of the volunteers to donate their time and service to people that they don’t know but most definitely help.
I know I serve because I am a believer in Jesus and he calls me to serve others, in fact Jesus asks specifically to feed the hungry. But it is not true of everyone. Others serve because they are older and have free time and so use this service as a way to fill time. Others serve as believers in Jesus and want to follow his request for service. But there are still others, who are not believers, and don’t follow Jesus in any way, yet they do serve because it is what Jesus says to do. They hear the words of Jesus and think there is wisdom in what he says and they do what he says. It is a very beautiful testimony.
They will speak of the reward they receive serving. How their lives are impacted by the kindness of those they serve. When we discuss how Jesus spoke about serving others, how he asks us to feed the hungry, they respond with agreement. I can’t say they are people that speak out for Jesus, as we read in the readings, but in their support through action, they are doing it in Jesus name.
Reward for Non-believers
For people who don’t believe in Jesus it is a very hopeful message. It leads me to believe there is a path for non-believers to attain eternal reward. Of course believing in Jesus and joining a church leads to a better life. We cannot live our lives for eternal reward therefore believers living in the Kingdom of God are truly on the path to the best life. However, for a non-believer the message is hopeful.
What is Jesus support and reward depended upon, exactly what we have been reflecting on for these past five weeks, what comes from within. The Christian is led by the heart. But it is a message that we are judged by Jesus by what is in our heart even if we are not a believer. We can have goodness, and a moral code that leads to doing good and supporting an agenda preached and desired by Jesus that will lead to eternal reward without belief.
So is it okay to have doubt? Yes. Even for the doubter, acting on Jesus message is seen as good. So we should always hear and act upon Jesus message. We are always called to support one another, and we can find truth without believing and speak that truth. Therefore doubt is OK, we don’t have to be from Jesus to speak about Jesus and his message. It seems unlikely that we would speak for Jesus when non-believing, but sometimes we speak more with out actions than with our words.
We have been reflecting to guard our heart, build up our moral code and protect our thoughts and what effects how we lead our life. You may meet someone against you, who speaks badly about you, don’t let their words effect you. You might have a financial crisis and need help but not receive any assistance and struggle for survival, don’t let that turn your heart against what is good. Perhaps there is a relationship that is important, but it is a struggle in your life, it is broken from some reason, try to fix it, but don’t let it turn your good heart bad. Can you still love a person that has hurt you? Can you still help someone who is against you? Can you still find a way to help others even when you yourself need help? If you do these things your heart speaks in Jesus name.
Try to live a life with outside effects and patterns that bring good and bad into your world and protect who you are, what is in your heart is paramount to a good life. As we read even if we are not believers but with a good heart can still be judged for reward by God. God knows our hearts. Of course being believers and having Jesus in our life gives strength to not be disrupted by outside influences. Believe in Jesus, or don’t believe in Jesus but always act in the Jesus name.
Let your heart lead you. Welcome people radically, meeting God in the stranger. When serving others, serve with love, dying to yourself with a heart of care and love for the other. Practice non-judgement, if you meet someone that you would normally avoid, let your heart of love lead you to being open to them. Let you good heart meet the stranger. Always be sure to lead with truth, don’t let evil, no matter how minor near your heart and evil will never come from you. Follower or not, your heart leads you. Follower or not your heart is known by God. Follower or not, whatever you do, do it in Jesus name. Follower or not there is a promised reward.