John said to Jesus, "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 afterward 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. "We have an advantage when it comes to how we proclaim the Good News to others. As Episcopalians, we have much more freedom when it comes to talking with others about our relationship with God. There is no set formula. There are no particular beliefs that we insist others embrace before walking in our doors. Later on, if someone wants to officially be baptized, confirmed or received, yes, there are particular beliefs that they will need to understand and affirm. But when folks first join us, we don’t require them to pass any tests or make any promises.
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.
Why are we so loose about this? We understand that this is the approach Jesus took when speaking to others of God’s love. In this Gospel, John is upset that someone is using Jesus' name to heal, but he wasn’t part of their group. Jesus tells John to leave them alone. He said, “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. "
“Whoever is not against us is for us.” Those we talk with about God do not have to agree with all of our beliefs. And we don't have to believe all of theirs. They don’t have to be part of our group. Yet they can still be part of Jesus’ family.
When we talk to others about our faith, we meet them where they are in the spiritual life. We never drag them to where we think they should be.
To make sure we get this point, Jesus goes on to say, “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.”
Sometimes, those who are already members of the Church see their role as gate keepers. They want to keep the riff raff out of THEIR Church. Anyone who wants to be part of THEIR Church must believe just like they do. I don’t consider these folks to be gate keepers…I see them as gate blockers, stumbling blocks that attempt to keep others out of the kingdom of God. Jesus is pretty harsh in his description of such stumbling blocks.
To keep from being such a stumbling block, all we have to remember is the grace God has extended to us. None of us are worthy of being the beloved of God. We haven’t done anything to earn the right to enter the door of God’s kingdom. Every one of us is a sinner who has fallen short of the glory of God. It is only by God’s grace, God’s unmerited favor, that we have been redeemed, that we are able to receive God’s radically inclusive love.
And that love is offered to every person who was ever born. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever…WHOSOEVER…believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
This is the Good News we have to proclaim.