John said to him, “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.” (Mark 9:38 – 40)

The theme I am seeing this week seems to be random teachings whose lessons are difficult to discern. For the Old Testament passage we “visited” Queen Esther when the reason for her presence as queen was to save her people. However as a teaching story, it was challenging to know who was to be taught. The epistle credited to a writer by the name of James encourages prayer; not prayer as communication but as spiritual practice that leads to a variety of good things. How are to we to know, however, if our prayers will accomplish such things? And here, the disciples are trying to tell Jesus that someone is “impersonating” the disciples without the proper credentials. Isn’t that wrong?

“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.” (Verse 41)

In other words, you do not have to be a credentialed Christian to perform Christian acts. Oh what we might give for a “plumb line” right now! Perhaps Jesus, through the narrative of Mark, will shed some light on this.

“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.” (Verses 42 – 48)

“Enter life” – I think what is meant here is entering into the kingdom of God, which is a clue I am seeing in the latter part of the above passage. But, does that mean we can enter the kingdom of God is we have “stumbled”?

“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (Verses 49 – 50)

I wish, beloved reader, I could give more clarity this passage, and the scripture passages cited on the other days this week. Maybe I am having an “off” week where I feel more like a “Seeker” than one is sure of one’s understanding. And admittedly it might be pure stubbornness that keeps me from consulting the commentators. Oh beloved reader, can you see the trap I might be getting myself into if I always counted on my own understanding! And maybe, just maybe, that is the best lesson to be learned. When your intellectual understanding fails you, rely on your faith in the Divine until the way becomes clear, as I will continue to do! Shalom & Selah!