- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 15, 2006

The following are excerpts from a recent sermon given by the Rev. Doug Jones at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Herndon:

The 12 verses of Mark 9:38-50 are loaded with enough material to fill a dozen sermons. Each verse holds its own meaning and can provide insight into both God and our lives with one another in this world.

In the opening verse, some of Jesus’ disciples question allowing someone, other than themselves, to act in Jesus’ name. How many times in the history of Christianity has the proclamation of the Gospel been thwarted because someone did not belong to the right group or have the appropriate credentials? The disciples’ question reeks of self-interest.

However, there is a serious concern, which underpins the question. How does one know that this strange exorcist is truly one with Christ? I watch people struggle with similar questions every day. Many claim to be Christian and spokespeople for the church, yet they are saying such different things. How do we know if the other is truly one with Christ?

Jesus’ answer is surprisingly simple. “Whoever is not against me is for me.” That seems somewhat obvious. In today’s world, however, we are more likely to invert the order of the statement, “Whoever is not with me is against me.” That leads to unnecessary division in our society. We see that playing out in politics, business and the church.

How do we act as Christians in today’s world? Many times I think people are overwhelmed by that question because it seems to demand some exceptional action. But Jesus’ words here are clear. Acting in Jesus’ name comes in the simplest, most basic actions. Giving a cup of water can be done by anyone — anyone — even a child. Most Sundays, there is a cup of water here at the pulpit. I have little idea who placed it there, but I do know that it means I am cared for — that I matter to someone. It reflects God’s love to me in a most basic way. But it is also a powerful statement.

The classic movie “Ben Hur” has numerous memorable scenes. When most people think of that movie they think of the chariot race. It is a scene filled with drama and grandeur. But it is another scene, which gives me pause. Early on in the movie, Ben Hur has been arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment as a galley slave. Imprisoned, he will live out his life chained to an oar in that galley. He is being led from Jerusalem to the sea chained to dozens of other men. Hungry and thirsty, the men pause in a small village — Nazareth. The centurion leading the group orders the villagers to water the prisoners. Ben Hur stands there, desperate for water. But none comes … until a shadow blocks out the scorching sun and a man is standing there with a cup of water — Jesus. That cup of water keeps him alive, and he carries the vision of that man throughout his life.

In the movie, that cup of water epitomizes who Jesus is. It saves Ben Hur, both physically and, ultimately, spiritually. A simple act can be that powerful. How many times, while we are finding excuses for why we cannot perform the exception or grand act, do we fail to perform the simple act of kindness, which might save another?

These verses invite us to see the world differently, to see the person beside us differently and to act differently. Remember this week that God may not be asking great actions of you. Rather, God is asking that you be faithful in Christ. God is asking that you offer that cup of water. It may save a life. It may save a soul.

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