Damariscotta Baptist Church
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

09/30/12 Sermon

Mark 9: 38-50

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer, Amen

A few weeks ago, the very exclusive Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia was in the news.

They announced that for the 1st time in their 80 year history that women were now being allowed to join their membership.

One of those joining is former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The issue of its formerly all-male membership has long been a sore spot for the private club and has at times threatened to overshadow the Masters Tournament, which is one of golf's most prestigious events.

Of course Augusta National is not the only elite, exclusive clubs in the world.

The Core Club in New York has a membership requirement that your annual earnings rank in the top 1 percent in the United States -- which was just over $3 million dollars last year. Business networking is encouraged. Conceit is expected. Entitlement is a given.

The Groucho. Named after Groucho Marx, in Soho, London, caters to the elite and important in the arts, entertainment and fashion. To get in, you must be nominated by a member, seconded by another and then wait three years for entrance, if accepted. 

Of course not all have to do with money:

The Ejection Tie Club. There are 5,607 members who have achieved a very ill-earned club membership standard – they've been ejected from a plummeting military aircraft and survived to tell about it.

This is the club where you get thrown out in order to get in. They give a necktie to those who survive their emergency ride.

So what do exclusive clubs have to do with our scripture today?

Well in our scripture we see the account of Jesus speaking to the disciple John.

John shares with Jesus that he and the other disciples had witnessed someone who was driving out demons in Jesus’ name.
And clearly it was something that bothered them so they told the ‘Someone” that they needed to cut it out.

Well because this person wasn’t one of THEM….John told him you’re “not following US”.

This “Someone” wasn’t part of the club. Driving out demons was reserved for members only.
Of course Jesus goes on to teach them the error in their thinking.

He says in verse 39: “Don’t stop him. No one can use my name to do something good and powerful, and in the next breath cut me down. If he’s not an enemy, he’s an ally.

The disciples clearly had already developed an "us versus them" mentality.

But Jesus was teaching against this elitism mentality especially when it comes to following him.

In fact in the verses leading up to this, in verse 35 Jesus said if anyone wants to be first, they must be the very last, the servant of all.

Now the question to us today is whether this “members only” mentality is still relevant.

Is there still an elitist, “us vs. them” problem in the Church today?

Well one of the first places that might come to mind is when we think about all the denominational differences in the Body of Christ.
A couple of years ago I was in charge of putting together the Ecumenical Good Friday service that we hosted here at this church.

And I was so surprised when I contacted a couple of churches to be a part of it that they refused.

They didn’t want to participate because of who some of the other churches involved were.
To them some of the churches were heretics. They weren’t one of “them”.
So often there can be an “us vs. them” mentality when it comes to denominations. People get stuck in the rules of being a Baptist or a Methodist or Congregationalist.
Instead of working and worshipping together, we remain separated by differences.
And what’s so silly is that there are congregations all over the place who are struggling financially but refuse to come together because they’re holding on to their denominational member only rules.
But what if we let go of these differences and decided to work together? How might we become better stewards of our resources?
And what witness might we convey to others if we came together?
Now besides denominational member rules, there are other ways we see a members only mentality in the church.
It happens no matter what denomination you are.
And it displays itself any time there is change in a congregation.
Pastor Richard Fairchild shared a true story of a small church he served that had a major dispute that began because of where pies should be placed in the kitchen prior to serving them for the annual turkey supper.

He said one woman left the church because several newcomers to the congregation had convinced the rest of the women in the kitchen that it would be more efficient to put the pies on the counter beside the sink instead of the counter next to the refrigerator.

She said, "It's not the right way to do it. We've never done it that way before, and I am not going to be part of doing it that way now. I won't have any part of that kind of thing.

And then she added: “Those new people are going to ruin this church. They don't know anything. They aren't even from around here."

Sound familiar to John's statement?-----Not one of us….

You know in so many ways the“member's only” attitude can be a problem in the church.
It occurs with the elitism of who can serve communion (or receive communion).

It happens with the by-laws of who can join the church.

How about the “us vs. them” attitude in certain cliques of small groups or the choir?

How about the “us vs. them” mentality when it comes to certain kinds of worship?

All of these kinds of rules, either spoken or unspoken can cause such dissension and a lack of unity within the church.
And it’s this lack of unity that Jesus was so concerned about.

He knew that this kind of separation would lead to an ineffective witness.

It would deter from the transformative message of being a follower of Christ and instead cause people to follow a bunch of member rules where people were playing church instead of being the church.
And we’re seeing the fruit of this in today’s church buildings. Look all around you.
Our buildings are half empty because the unchurched have resisted being a part of an elitist club, where you pay club dues and follow club rules.
People have refused to be a part of pettiness and outdated denominational ties.
We are now living in a new time in the church.

And as we look around our church sanctuaries on Sunday morning we see that we are being forced to take Jesus’ words to heart.

Jesus is reminding us and calling us to let go of the stifling and petty member rules of the past so that we can get united in the purpose of proclaiming the power of Jesus’ names in people’s lives.
That’s what church is supposed to be about. It’s about the power of Jesus’ name in people’s lives.
But what exactly does that look like?
How do we go from a member’s only attitude to being a people who proclaim the power of Jesus’ name in their lives?
Well Jesus tells the disciples and he tells us what our unified purpose is supposed to be.
The first thing he says is that we are to give a cup of water in his name.
For those of you who were part of the Present Future Study you may recall a literal example of this.
A church decided to give away bottles of water at a huge community event.

They even decided to not have a church service that Sunday and instead went to the streets to give people a cold drink of water on a hot day.

Inevitably people ask why they were doing it and it opened the door for them to say they were doing it because they loved Christ and he called them to selflessly love and care for others.
Church is not something to go and do on Sunday morning as all good members do.
It is way of being; it’s an intentional way of paying attention to people, listening to them, and praying for them.

Christians have a thoughtful compassionate way that takes Jesus’ greatest command to love others and his Great Commission to go and make disciples, puts them together and lives it out.

We have to ask ourselves as a church if this is what we’re about. Is this our top priority or are we playing church by following rules that distract us from our purpose?........................
Now along with giving a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name, Jesus also tells the disciples that they aren’t to be a stumbling block to others:

William Barclay, a British theologian, gave an illustration on today’s scripture about a boy who changed signs at an intersection of the road.

One sign pointed to the city of Seattle and the other to the city of Tacoma.

After the boy made the switch, he wondered: How many people will I send down the wrong road?

Barclay added, “Your very life is a sign post with a sign on it. Are you sending people down the wrong road or the right road?

Who we are is what points others to Christ.
And yet when we are caught up in playing church, turning it into a bunch of member rules we are not changed people who point to the power of Christ.
So many churches are empty today because the unchurched see the churched as no different than anyone else.
Christians who argue, who are self-centered, who lack patience, are critical of others, busy and anxiousness. And that happens because we’re basically playing church instead of being church.
But Jesus calls us to be different; in verse 50 he calls us to be salt that flavors everything around us.

By who we are, people are pointed to something different; something they long for.

So ask yourself, if I were a signpost where would I be pointing others?

Does my life point others to Christ and his power or is it a stumbling block pointing to the flavorless ways of the world and its members only mentality?

Jesus tells the disciples that their witness to others is critical. There are consequences to being a stumbling block to others.

Consequences because our witness to others shows whether we are actually true followers of Christ and his transforming power in our lives or not.

Now along with giving a cup of water and not being a stumbling block to others, Jesus also reminds us that being part one of his followers is being at peace with one another.
John’s elitist “us vs. them mentality” was a way of disunity and discord instead of peace. Our member rules do nothing but divide us and prevent us from being true witnesses to Christ.
But Jesus called his disciples to be peacemakers. He called for unity among his followers because when we are unified we become strong witnesses to others.
We can see how this happens when churches come together for ministries such as the Ecumenical Food Pantry.
There is also an ecumenical group that meets on Monday afternoons that is working to fight homelessness in our community. In fact they are looking for a representative from our church.

There is such a powerful witness to others when we are unified and at peace with each other.

In a world where there is so much NON-peace, where there is conflict and polarization and dissension, Christ calls all his followers to be countercultural peacemakers who seek unity with each other.

For only when we overcome the “us vs them” problem within the Body of Christ will we be a truly powerful witness of Christ and change the world in which we live.

In closing this morning we are being reminded that the Body of Christ is not some elitist club made up of member rules.
We’re not an institution.
We are instead a people; a vulnerable people who have been transformed by the power of Christ and set on a journey of proclaiming that power of Christ to others.
Today as our churches grow smaller in numbers, as today’s generation rejects member’s rules of being part of an institution, a building or a denomination, the Spirit is calling us to the way of Christ.
This morning I want to close with some words from a former pastor of this church.

Back in 1969, Donald Harrington wrote a report for the church directory celebrating the church’s 150 year anniversary.

And in that report he asked the congregation to reflect on what Damariscotta Baptist Church might look like in the next 150 years?
He wrote:

Perhaps (DBC) will no longer be in the same building; possibly not a ‘baptist’ organization; and very likely not recognizable to previous generations.

But the church as a “called out” fellowship of believers in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, will prevail and its commission to proclaim the Gospel will have remained unchanged”.

When we peel away the institutional “members only” mentality, when we take away the building and denominations, we get to the heart of who we are to be--------a called out fellowship of believers with a commission to proclaim the transforming power of the Gospel.
Today may we be committed to Jesus’ call to be the church; to give a cup of water, to point others to Christ, and to be people of peace.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen