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9/27/2009 - The Rev. Caron A. Gwynn - The 17th Sunday After Pentecost

posted May 21, 2010, 6:42 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 21, 2010, 6:42 PM by Terry Brady ]
“Come to hear the Word, Come to do the Word, Come to experience Comfort. Come to experience Challenge. Come to find Cost. Come to find joy. Come to find Humility. Come to find Community. Come to find Church. Come to find God.” (Katharine Hawker, Synthesis 1997, 9/28/97)

In the one holy and undivided Trinity. Amen.

When I completed my undergraduate studies at Towson State University with a degree in community health education, I wanted something different from a ‘9-5’ job. VISTA (Volunteers In Service to America) was my answer. I became a volunteer in Columbus, Ohio at the Federal Summer Food Service program. I was a grass roots community organizer and an advocate for thousands of hungry people who lived in the city. My job was to expand the summer feeding programs to ensure that children participating in school meal programs would have access to the community summer programs. There were thousands of children in Columbus living in poverty.

At the Federal Food Service program, It was apparent that the office staff was unable to identify eligible community locations to serve as food distribution sites. The director welcomed me, even though I was an outsider. I took on the task of researching and locating the sites. The director of the program agreed to process the sites I was able to identify. We both wanted to help the children get their meals because we knew that for some of those children, that breakfast would be the only meal they would possibly have all day.

The point I want to make is that I did not have to be an employee of the organization to get the food to the children. Perhaps the director’s non-proactive approach to the distribution issue would have been fine if there had been marketing and advertisements informing the community about the food program. My approach was to use aggressive marketing strategies to inform and access the eligible community sites, which included personal contact.

That summer, the program served an additional 3,500 children through six new sites that had joined the program through the efforts of an outsider – a volunteer. The food program had also been in jeopardy of being cut and labeled ‘under utilized’ if the funds had gone unused. The director had accepted me - even though I was an outsider - to expand his outreach to the community. We had different approaches but we shared a common mission to eradicate hunger in the city. Incidentally, according to the Capitol Area Food Bank in DC, there are approximately 200,000 children at risk of going hungry and the children’s poverty rate is 48.2% compared with 36.4 % nationally.

Mark’s Gospel today proclaims that not only the insiders - the 12 disciples – but also the outsiders as well have helped to expand the boundaries of the new kingdom of God. This is the mission of Jesus for all people - not a select few. John out of jealousy informs Jesus that someone not in their group was successfully performing exorcisms in his name. John and some of the disciples had tried to stop him. They had been very upset about the matter and thought Jesus would be. How dare anyone attempt healing in the name of Jesus who was not, as John says, “one of us!”

Jesus, however, was not at all upset in hearing this news. I think he was glad. Jesus warns the disciples not to stop any of these individuals because “Whoever is not against us, is for us.” The outsider was doing the work of God. The outsider’s work made him equal to the disciples. The disciples thought of themselves as ‘the in crowd’ who had exclusive ties to Jesus. God’s reign is not exclusive. God’s reign is for the world. Moreover, we know others of different faiths who, nevertheless, believe in the one God of us all.

Jesus says that, "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.” You may recall that there were some stumbling block issues among the early church apostles in the Book of Acts. Case in point, Peter and Paul fall out over the issue of taking the Gospel to the Gentiles. Paul advocates for it and Peter is totally against the idea. Peter is not convinced until the Holy Spirit, in a dream, calls him to go to the home of Cornelius, a Gentile. Peter wakes up, finds the house, and shares the Gospel with all in that house. Before Peter leaves, amazingly Peter baptizes everyone in the Gentile’s house. God opens Peter’s eyes to evangelize among the Gentiles as he has been within his own Jewish community.

At some point in our lives, we all have experienced some form of exclusiveness. The Good News is that God is inclusive. The Gospel is inclusive. There are no boundaries of exclusion. Mark’s Gospel calls everyone to “taste and see” the transformative power and love of God. The Gospel calls us to see the wonder of Christ beyond ourselves in the world. The Gospel calls us to be filled with the salt of Christ as we work, pray, and share together in the mission of the Church. We are called to offer cups of water and bread to quench the hunger and thirst of our brothers and sisters in the world as we remember that the heaven of God is a rainbow of the human race.

Let us pray a prayer written by Mother Teresa:

Dear Jesus, help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go. Flood our souls with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly that our lives may be a radiance of yours…Let us thus praise you in the way you love best by shinning on those around us. Let us preach you with out preaching, not by words but by our example, by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what we do, the evident fullness of the love our hearts bear to you. (To Preach without Preaching,” Synthesis1994, p.2)
Amen.
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