Dear Christ Church Family,
Our lesson from the Gospel According to Mark has a question for us. When we think of who our “us” is, are we excluding Jesus? The Disciples are faced with this very question today.
Monday, March 30, 2020 RCL Daily Office Readings, Year 2
AM Psalm 31
A Lenten question: Does our “us” include Jesus? I have a canonized saint in my lineage. I’ve even attended events held to commemorate him. Yet, I’ve never actually mentioned my family connection with him at those commemorations. The fact is, I’m uncomfortable with his consecration as a saint. Yes, it’s true that he held fast to his faith through a time of great trial and was martyred for it. I can honor that. I would hope, if called upon, to be able to emulate that. My problem with him is that when he had held temporal power himself, he was more than willing to martyr others for holding fast to their faith. It was during the Reformation, and his was a sectarian, “us” vs. “them” faith.
That’s the problem that comes up in our Gospel lesson this day. Jesus’ disciples come to him to report that they have just righteously stopped someone they don’t know from doing an act of healing in Jesus’ name. “We stopped him because he is “not following us,” they report. By “us,” the Disciples presume to include Jesus in their action. But Jesus’ response makes it clear that the Disciples’ “us” does not include him in this case, even though they think it does.
Jesus tells them, “Do not stop (someone who does good) in my name. For, (their success) will keep them from speaking evil of me.” By this, Jesus is telling the Disciples that the point of good works is about him, and about those in need of those good works. It’s not about the Disciples. In this, Jesus is also telling us that our good works for him are likewise not about us, no matter how good our works may be. The problem is that the Disciples don’t want competitors in the good works business. In this particular case, they are clearly envious of the success of their “competitor,” just after their own failure. Their “us” has come to be more about their way than Jesus. They want to govern who gets to claim Jesus. Anyone who does good outside their way is a “them.”
Now, I could have gone off on all the ways that this has been the cause of all the evils done in the name of Jesus by the Church for centuries. And, this opened a lot of other ways I could have gone with this devotional today. But something caught my attention this week that really got me focused on the whole “us” vs. “them” mind set in a particular way.
There is a peculiar “us” vs. “them” divide that is happening right now because of the Covid-19 pandemic. You won’t find much mention of this in the Press right now, but some hospitals around the world are cautioning their health care workers to not wear their scrubs on the way home from work, especially if they intend to stop off anywhere along the way. Reports are mounting of health care workers being assaulted in markets and other places because of fears other patrons have that the workers might be spreading the disease. I heard this directly from the Wake Forest University Hospital in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which issued the warning to their doctors and nurses. It seems that these attacks also have a xenophobic element to them as well, as the workers most likely to be assaulted are of Asian descent.
In this moment of time, there are voices calling upon us to divide, to fear the “other.” To see the world in terms of “us” vs. “them.” But you and I are disciples of Jesus, and any “us” to which we may lay claim to belong, must always be one that can include Jesus. Without him included in our “us,” we will be in danger of seeing anyone outside our “us” as a “them.” In these days ahead, when the voices of fear speak, remember, Jesus has NO “them.” Neither can we.
* Commemorations in italics are from A Great Cloud of Witnesses; others are from Lesser Feasts & Fasts 2018.