The Best Soup

A sermon from Sunday, September 27th, 2015

Mark 9:38-50
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. “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.  “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.”

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Stones In Soup Cup --- Image by © Bloomimage/Corbis

Stones In Soup Cup — Image by © Bloomimage/Corbis

Pent18 / First Lutheran Church / 9-27-15 / John Stiles

Children’s Time: I told the story of “Stone Soup.” But unlike the popular children’s version (see below) I made sure that the whole community pitched in something to make stone soup.  Jesus said “Have salt in yourselves…” to share what God has done for you with others. That’s the best soup of all – when everyone’s ingredients matter!

Intro: Dear friends in Christ: grace to you and peace, from God, our First Love, in Christ Jesus. Let all who hear say Come! Amen.

Are you hungry this morning? Hungry for soup? And not just any soup, but soup made with a little help from everyone?

That’s the beauty of a story like Stone Soup: that everyone’s contribution matters. In fact, it’s the rich variety of carrots and onions and potatoes and spices that make the brew all the better! (Not too much of any one ingredient, mind you. Just enough to season to taste.) Too much – or too little – salt and the whole soup just won’t be the same.

In our gospel lesson for today we have a classic example of “too many cooks spoil the broth!” Jesus is cooking up a ministry with his disciples, calling them to “have salt in themselves,” when they find out that someone else is preaching in his name: “Who authorized this!” they ask indignantly. “We can’t have just anyone casting out demons in your name. Who knows where this would lead?” And Jesus simply says, “Let it be. Do not stop him. If he’s not against us, he’s for us.”

Why do we put stumbling blocks in the way of others? Why is it hard for us to watch someone near us succeed? When we could be rooting for them, here we are secretly hoping they’ll fail? Now, I’m all for accountability. But when every decision has to go through a committee, that can become a stumbling block.

I sent an article off to our church council for review this week by Bill Easum (from his book: “Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Burgers”). It’s a call for churches to become more “permission-giving” rather than “top-down” decision-makers. Jesus never said, “Go, make decisions” he said, “Go, make disciples.” And we’re already moving that way at First Lutheran, by having ministry “teams” rather than committees. Teams that have more autonomy and yet are working in a way that is in keeping with our overall vision and mission. Next Sunday, you’ll have an opportunity to express your interests & passions at the Ministry Fair. We’ll have our Time and Talent forms out – to give you a chance to sign up for the areas that most interest you – or to write in a new one that may not be there.

With all the bad news in our world, it’s so vital that we take steps to lift others up – to not become a stumbling block to others. In his book: “The Body Keeps The Score” Bessel Van Der Kolk writes about his work with treating people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s not just for veterans, returning home from the war. He writes: “More than half of all rapes occur in girls below the age of 15. Each year about three million children in the United States are reported as victims of child abuse and neglect. In other words, for every soldier who serves in a war zone abroad, there are 10 children who are in endangered in their own homes.” Talk about a stumbling block! And the body remembers the trauma. Just as fireworks can trigger a flashback for a veteran – so too can a song, or a smell trigger a flashback in anyone who has experienced trauma.

One way you can make for positive change is to talk with Pastor Steve Ellerbusch. He attended a workshop last month at Camp Vermillion about how to minister to people with PTSD (and not just veterans). He hopes to get a small group going in the coming days to make for positive change – and to remove the stumbling block of past trauma.

Jesus goes so far as to say, “Enough of this! It would be better if a millstone were hung around your neck and you be cast into the sea than to cause one of my children to stumble.”

So, how are we going to make the best soup? A good start is to end each night with “Three Good Things.” I’m borrowing a page from Dr. Bryan Sexton – featured speaker at the Crow Wing Energized workshop this week, sponsored by Essentia Health. Dr. Sexton proposes: that instead of working on your “to do” list as the last thing you do before bed… think of “Three Good Things” to end each day with. And, learn to “Hold on the light switch” for someone else…

Christians have known for years what makes for good soup: a life of gratitude where everyone’s ingredients matter. Now let’s get cookin’! Amen.

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