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.
“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.” (Mark 9:38-50)
John was one of the more mature disciples. By his gospel’s reckoning, he was called, ‘the beloved disciple.’ He conscientiously brings a question to Jesus about persons beyond their discipleship community casting out demons in the name of Jesus. The question more broadly is, what should we do about others who say they are followers but do not seem to be?’
Jesus neighbors this group saying, ‘whoever is not against us is for us (v.40).’ In short, we do not let others determine our own faithfulness—we can still see the ‘other’ as ‘neighbor.’
More deeply, Jesus casts the spotlight on boundaries and integrity--and asks us to focus on our own integrity. Salvation for Jesus is about wholeness that is both personal and social. Our faith seeks a salvation of personal wholeness and whole community.
His most challenging words in this text are related to our own integrity. The ‘little ones,’ the baby believers, are to be treated with care and dignity.
The bankruptcy case of the Boy Scouts of America reminds us that our safe sanctuary policies or baptism vows are not just rules, but about maintaining integrity in our life together. Our focus is not only fiduciary but more deeply about justice that is restorative and actions that are healing. Our daily choices seek to live out a salvation of personal wholeness and whole community.
In the September 13 issues of the Wisconsin State Journal, a story featured the issue of lead pipes in our cities. A father describes the setbacks his son has in reading and speech. His children are among the 9,600 children younger than 16 found to be poisoned by lead between 2018 and 2020. Replacing lead pipes at the pace it is going now would take 70 years. Integrity in our witness is not just concerned with the Boy Scouts who have met in our buildings, but we are also concerned with racial justice and environmental justice for our neighbors. Integrity in the future requires making peace with our past.
The Native American International Caucus of the UMC has called on the church to engage the Boarding School Healing Project and designating October 6 as a Day of Remembrance. On that day in 1879 General Richard Pratt took children from First Nations and opened the boarding school in Carlisle, PA. This year, we call on the Church to observe October 6, 2021, as a day of Truth and Repentance for Our Children. These are the concrete acts that will begin a process a healing, justice and reconciliation for families and communities to heal as the voices of the lost children are heard once again, as they are honored with the respect and love they did not receive from the Methodist Christians of the time.
Integrity refers to a state of being whole and undivided. How do you neighbor the ‘other,’ in your span of relations? How have you attended to creating safe spaces in your ministry’s span of care? How might we all increase our advocacy for racial justice and radical inclusion? As we attend to a salvation of personal wholeness and whole community, know that I am praying for you.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).