Friends, our Gospel lesson for this Sunday includes of themes on Jesus tolerance for unknown exorcist and Jesus critique on the disciples exclusivism, the danger of being a stumbling block and the loss of identity/flavor.
I will focus on the danger of stumbling blocks.
The story begins with Jesus’ turning a spotlight on the disciples. The disciples complain about a rival exorcist whom they tried to stop. While they were eager to bring judgement on this outsider is acting in Jesus name, Jesus himself wants the disciples to pay attention to their own behavior.
Early Christian communities struggled in the midst of persecution, conflict over Jewish-gentile relations and the growing pains of a infant church. Many Christian groups disagreed and contested each other claims to authenticity and often times censure each other.
Christianity is all about transformation, healing and challenge. My question then is what stumbling blocks do we Christians put up that hurt the cause of the Gospel in the world? When are you or I a stumbling block or stepping stones? I like Norma Woodcock’s, Australia’s spiritual writer and mentor, reflection on areas in her life when she was a stumbling block and at the same time a stepping stone for others.
She begins with the phrase, you am a stumbling block when you are unkind and unjust in the way you treat me and make me feel small, you damage my self confidence. …you am a stumbling block when you fail to understand my weakness, mistakes and sins and write me off and when you condemn, you make me feel that I am evil…you am a stumbling block when you exclude or ignore me, you make me feel like a stranger and an outsider.
Woodcock continues to ask, when do we become stepping stones? You are a stepping stone when you support me in moments of weakness and doubts. You are a stepping stone when you help me believe in myself and boost my self confidence. You are a stepping stone when I feel inadequate and you help me discover my special talents that God has given me. You are a stepping stone when you accepted me though others reject me.
The challenge for us then is that we are all called to transformation and healing at the same time challenge to examine areas in our life were the light of Christ can shine and move us to better places of healing and love and let the hard and harsh places within us die.
The Rev. Isaias Ginson is priest of The Episcopal Church. He is currently priest in charge of the Episcopal church of St. Margaret’s in Plainview, NY.