Emmitsburg Council of Churches


The Holy Gospel According to St. Mark 9:38-41: Earth Day Sunday

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. 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."

The Gospel of the Lord . . .

For Water! For Jesus!

As I have thought about this passage of Mark's Gospel in the light of this Second Sunday of Easter -- and its being Earth Day Sunday with a particular focus on the gift of water . . . I was intrigued to consider how it is that we are the recipients of the gift of abundant water resources and how it is that we might bless others with the gift of water. To be sure, the Gospel text, and it challenges us to think about the receiving of the gift of a cup of water from someone who may not have heard the story about Jesus! Or who may not have the Abundance of Water resources that we enjoy every day here!

In our lesson today, There is a kind of role reversal present in the text that we are not familiar with nor accustomed to -- For we are more familiar with the verses that speak of us giving water to a stranger, and that giving to the stranger is a form of giving to Christ. ("Anyone who gives a cup of water to the least of these my bothers or sisters, has given it unto me")

Since today is Earth Day Sunday we will be considering some of these thoughts along with some essential thinking about the practical realities facing all people and all creatures of the earth, and the issues related to Fresh Water, which is becoming increasingly scarce for many reasons.

Let us consider the two themes of the text and see if there might be some connections made between the disciple's thoughts about others who do good works in Jesus' name and Jesus' concern that the works are done, even on our behalf as Christians -- Bearers of the Gospel!

The matter of the unnamed exorcist (or miracle worker) from Mark's letter, does indeed open up some interesting possibilities when we pair the act of delivering a person or persons from some manifestation of evil, which could be a physical illness or a mental illness, -- OR without too much of a stretch, could include that the Stranger's acts of deliverance were for people suffering from the demons of drought and thirst --

The demons of drought and thirst are certainly realistic hardships faced by billions of people in the world today and has always been a hardship for people who living in the region of the Middle East!

In fact, as I have been preparing this sermon over the past few weeks there have been newspaper headlines that tell of the desperate need to restore drinking water and irrigation systems in the war torn countries of Afghanistan and Iraq so that these people will have necessity of a dependable water source -- the source of all prospering and life.

At this level of thinking in our Gospel passage, it becomes clear that Anyone who can Offer Aid to persons who suffer from the maladies related to water problems such as: Lack of rain, Wells gone dry, Crops not growing, or Contamination of fresh water supplies . . . anyone who helps people with these problems is considered to be among those who are "FOR JESUS!!"

"No one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. And Whoever is not against us is for us."

My friend, Pastor Sam Schmittenhenner, a former missionary to India, recently told me about an indigenous Pastor friend of his in India who traveled from village to village and saw many hundreds of children who were becoming ill and dying because of the poor quality of drinking water in those places. This Pastor, who was familiar with our text today, declared, after seeing the plight of the children, that "Anyone who showed pity on the children of the poor, no matter if they were Hindu, Muslim, or Buddhist, when they helped to improve the condition of the disease ridden water -- these persons were doing the work of Jesus!" This Pastor preached this message everywhere he went -- whether his audience was conscious of their affiliation with the spirit of Jesus or not!!

And so we recall that Jesus declares, "Whoever is not against us is for us!" And here there is a great openness toward all who are doers of the Word, and acting in the Spirit of Christ. Therefore, there is affirmation that people, whoever they may be, whenever they perform acts that affirm the Life Giving and Life Preserving power of the Gospel, these men and women are doing the work of God!!

I recall learning my own lesson about the gift of water, when at age 18, I went on a quest to seek and to discover the goodness or the negativity of humanity as it might be found by traveling by pedal power (!) for two and a half months. Interestingly enough, while on this journey I discovered the kindness of numerous strangers who allowed me not only to fill my water bottles along the way, but they invited me into their homes and offered gifts of food or other forms of hospitality. Even more interesting was the manner in which many of these individuals and families went on to share their Christian faith with me . . . and before I knew what ^^ "God"^^ was up to -- I was sharing what God had done for me with others! Perhaps you have also been on the giving or the receiving end of the gift of water too! SPIRITUALLY and MATERIALLY! For the Spiritual gift of water refreshes the Soul even as the Material gift of water renews the Body and keeps us alive and satisfied.

Jesus is saying that carrying out humane actions affirms the essential goodness of the Gospel Message . . . these works equate with Being "For Jesus!!" And Being "For Jesus" is to be - - -

For Actions that speak to issues of justice and concern for others -- especially those others who are without power or means to care for or protect themselves. And this becomes our Christian concern for the Keeping and Conserving Earth's Fresh Water Resources . . . And indeed our concern for the health and Flourishing of all of God's Creation on which humanity is completely and Equally dependent!!

What an interesting twist that Mark provides. We go out to do good works in the name of Christ, works of healing, sharing our wealth, providing a helping hand, or providing a word of comfort or wisdom . . . works of power and deliverance. And while we go out in Jesus name, we are in turn, blessed by others who reveal their acceptance of our being in Christ by giving of what they have. Something as simple and basic as the gift of Fresh Water becomes the medium for establishing trust and the basis for relationship . . . eventually and ideally, this leads to the mutual sharing of the Good News that Christ is the Risen Lord and fresh new faith is born -- instead of dried up spirits or withered souls caught in a drought of despair without Jesus and without hope. But as a result of the miraculous exchange, a cup of earthly water for the message about the Water that Wells up to Eternal Life: New waters will be poured in the rite of Baptism, and by Living Water a fresh life giving entrance is made into the Church! Alleluia!!

And to think that all of this is brought about by the intermingling of WATER and the WORD!!

So why have a focus on water for this year's Earth Day celebration?? I mean, after all, 70% of the Earth is covered with the stuff anyway -- we are the Big Blue Ball, the Water World Planet -- Right?? What's the Big Deal??

Well, the human population is growing exponentially at an all time high even as surface and ground water resources around the globe are rapidly declining and precious fresh water resources continue to be contaminated, depleted, used up, or possessed by privatized interests who desire control of access in the name of Profits and net worth! How CAN this BE in the light of the Gospel and of the JUSTICE of God? For we are called, even IMPELLED by the power of the Gospel to Keep Free Access to Fresh, Clean Drinking Water as a Basic Human Right for every man, woman, and child and for every Creature in Creation!! This may require us to Speak Out in times soon to come; before the gift of water becomes another controlled commodity and the Human Institutions of Profit and Control cause new rivers of human suffering . . .

From today's lesson we have learned that Mark's Gospel draws us into the connection where both acts of Physical Deliverance and the Reward for sharing the Saving message of the Gospel are drawn into a Love-affirming parallel where the medium of the positive exchange is either Jesus or Water. Both are life giving, and life sustaining. By water we make our entrance into the world, then through water and faith and Spirit we are also given the Second Birth, into God's family The Church. Through His own life giving Water -- Jesus gives us life, both now and for all of eternity.

Thus, at this special time in the Church Year we pause to give thanks for all of the natural and spiritual values we have in the goodness of water. And we are reminded to take care that both the physical access and spiritual access to water remain wide open to all people and all of creation. Thanks be to God for the gifts of Water.

May the peace of Christ fill us to overflowing with the abundance of his mercy and grace both now and forevermore.


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