As I preach more and more in this season after Pentecost, I find my love for “Track Two” growing each week. I am learning to love the unspoken connections between the scripture lessons. I believe there is power in simply hearing God’s word read in a congregational setting, and, even if I don’t say anything at all about the OT lesson, it speaks for itself—usually in subconscious ways.
This week, the reading from Numbers is there to shape my understanding of the reading from Mark. It’s as if the RCL guru is saying to me, “In case you missed it, this gospel lesson is about the true test of discipleship…and that test isn’t based on what you believe but on what you do.”
Moses, overwhelmed by the responsibility of shepherding the entire, rebellious nation of Israel across the desert, is helped by God, who shares a little of the Spirit that is upon him with 70 elders. The funny part of the story is that two of them, despite forgetting to show up at the meeting tent, receive some of the Spirit and being prophesying back in the camp. Expecting a jealous reaction from Moses, some people run and say to their leader, “Stop them!” But Moses dismisses them, saying, “Would that all God’s people were prophets!”
That forms the background for Jesus’ conversation with John, who came to him upset that non-disciples were casting out demons in Jesus’ name. Jesus gives a similar reaction—let them! Some people say, “If you’re not for us, you’re against us.” But I think Moses and Jesus would have said the opposite. Contributing to the ministry of the kingdom isn’t restricted to those who have signed up. Powerful, godly works are done by people who don’t belong. Are we supposed to resent that? What is true discipleship anyway?
If you want to be a follower of the way, you don’t have to pass the doctrine test. Instead, as Jesus tells his disciples, you have to live the kingdom life: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off…” If your life bears fruit for the kingdom, your heart must be in the right place. We don’t have to worry about motives as long as the results are right. Who could do a mighty work in God’s name unless he were of God? Who could live a kingdom life unless he were already a citizen of God’s kingdom?