The Wrong People

wrong wrongFriday, September 25, 2015

Mark 9:38-50

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.”

An outsider.
Someone who did not fit the criteria of a follower.
The wrong person to be acting in Jesus’ name.

It got me thinking about some of the wrong people in my life as a follower of Jesus.

There was the tough-as-nails director of the domestic violence shelter who chain smoked Swisher Sweets and swore like a sailor. Everyone was terrified of her, including me—until I learned that it took more than walls to protect those women and children.

At that same shelter, there were the Navajo traditional healers who built a sweat lodge in the backyard and kneeled on the living room floor to create sand paintings. These rituals were just as much a part of the healing process as counseling sessions. Because of their presence I noticed absence of the Christian Pastors.

There was the recently divorced Jewish woman, more than 30 years my senior, who took me along on adventures like hiking the Grand Canyon. She encouraged me to explore the religious issues I was seeing in my work at the shelter, signing us both up for a training in Seattle on that very issue. That conference was the very first time I met a woman pastor.

There were the colleagues at the sexual assault advocacy program who were so angry with the church—for the way they have been further harmed as survivors of abuse, for the way they had been treated because of their sexuality, for the protestors who regularly gathered outside our office building with crosses and rosaries. These women inspired me to go to seminary long before anyone in my church did.

There was the Muslim woman in a hijab who showed up that first week of seminary at the door of my apartment offering a strange and beautiful towering sculpture made entirely of fruit. It was an overwhelming gesture of welcome during what otherwise proved to be a very lonely year.

And there were the security guards and janitorial staff and cafeteria employees during the long nights at the children’s hospital. They were often the first to encounter people in need because they were out where the people were. They motivated this chaplain to stay out of the office and keep walking the halls.          

And there were so many other folks who offered something to refresh this follower on the journey. Maybe not a cup of water, but instead—a good story, a song, creampuffs, dried beans, moonshine. Maybe these people are not the ones you’d think of when you go looking for role models for ministering in Jesus’ name, but they are an invaluable part of my formation as a pastor.

You may feel that you are the wrong person—to encourage, to teach, to lead, to offer comfort, to speak out, to heal in Jesus’ name. But it is often the wrong people who are able to do what the right ones just can’t.

Pastor Sarah