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Acceptable In Your Sight

Mark 9:38-50

The Rev. Jon Roberts

30 September

2018

Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name,[a] and we forbade him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. 40 For he that is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward. 42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,[b] it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin,[c] cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell,[d] to the unquenchable fire.[e] 45 And if your foot causes you to sin,[f] cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell.[g][h] 47 And if your eye causes you to sin,[i] pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell,[j] 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. 49 For every one will be salted with fire.[k] 50 Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its saltness, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

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Moses elects the Council of Seventy Elders, Jacob de Wit, 1737

Let the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. [1]

There was a southern preacher, who one day was driving down an old dusty road, when he noticed a church on the side. Just over to the left of it was a cemetery with two lone workers, busy with shoveling dirt into a large hole.
He pulled over instantly, grabbed his Bible and rushed over to the men and most importantly to the hole in which they were covering. “Pardon me,” he said, “but I couldn’t help but noticing your work and that there wasn’t a man of God overseeing this sight. Do you mind if I offer a word of prayer?” The two men didn’t seem to mind, so they stepped to the side and propped their shovels against the fence. The preacher asked them to remove their hats in respect, and so they did. He then raised his hand into the air, shut his eyes tight and began to pray. Not knowing the specifics related, he prayed that the Almighty would forgive sins that left unspoken. He prayed to the Lord that all people would be washed clean and made new. He went on to mention a few things more about baptism and repentance and quoted a number of scripture verses. When he felt he did an honorable job, he wiped his forehead, returned his hat and thanked the two men for witnessing the ceremony. When he left, one of the workers was speechless, while the other commented, “Have you ever seen anything like it?” The other just shook his head in disbelief. “In all my years I’ve never seen anyone do that for burying a septic tank!”

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight O Lord my strength and my redeemer. There is a lot of emphasis placed on the southern preacher, in the movie titled, “The Apostle” starring Robert Duvall. It gives a good look into the charisma, the evangelical zeal of a preacher whose words that came from his mouth, did not always connect to the meditation of his heart. He assaulted an innocent man and ran from the crime, leaving his family and church behind. In the bayou of Louisiana he went into hiding, to begin a new church. He worked part time with a fictitious name, as a mechanic, as a cook, at an ice cream stand. He connected with the soul of Black America, rooted in the Holy Ghost movement. On the side of a dusty road, with a cemetery to the left, was a deteriorating church to which he restored. By his words, he professed to be an apostle for the Lord and prayed for people wherever he went. He aired live on the local radio station and broadcasted the message of Jesus Christ. He restored an old bus, painted it red, with the name of Jesus on it, and picked up people and brought them to church. He laid hands on people, sang spirited songs, all the while, the words of his mouth called upon acceptance by the Lord. His heart wrestled with forgiveness. When you look further into his life, you see the impact his words had on those who struggled with the raw sewage of sin and the feeling of being apart from God’s grace and mercy.

In the letter of James, the ending is most relative to this account.
The Apostle James, brother of Jesus, writes, “My brothers and sisters, if any one of you wanders from the truth, and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” [2]
“A multitude of sins”

Perhaps the first story shared was simply a preacher who mistakenly prayed and consecrated an object of filth, but then again maybe there’s something more to it. There are so many who die and may never feel the love of God. Perhaps some of the best chosen messengers, apostles who carry God’s word are those whose lives have been corrupted themselves. Perhaps the meditations of their hearts struggle with sin and wandering. There is a parallelism in scripture that talks about how the good news, that God has in store for all people, within the Old and New Testament.

The first is the story of Moses, where he was utterly fatigued on a vast, dusty road across the wilderness of Sinai during the Exodus. It illustrates how he was able to call the wandering of his people back on the right path that God has chosen for them. God tells him to call seventy elders into the tent of the Holy of Holies, once forbidden unless you belonged to the family of Levi. The Lord’s “Spirit” which had been exclusively on Moses is now shared with the seventy. At that moment, it says they prophesied. In other words they were moved in a profound and spiritual manner. They were filled by the Holy Ghost. Then, it says, there were two others, who were not called into the tent. They were outside and they too, prophesied to others. Joshua informed Moses of this misdoing and said, “My Lord Moses, stop them!” “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all of God’s people prophesy the good news.” This was acceptable in God’s sight.[3]

The second story, that parallels the story of Moses, is when Jesus hears John, his soon to be apostle, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever is not against us is for us.” He uses examples of stumbling blocks, such as when a body part is leading the body in wrong directions, and what to do with them. If the eye is wandering where it shouldn’t pluck it out.[4] It’s painful. It needs that person who knows that tendency and perhaps even has lived under the tyranny of a similar sin, and one who has hopefully conquered it, to help you put your mind and heart in the right place. Since there are multitude of people, there are a multitude of sins, and yet there is an even greater multitude of God’s mercy who wants to live and nurture the thoughts of your mind and the meditation of your heart.

Perhaps there are those among us today who wonder how they can make it from the grave to the sky. Maybe you want to know how, through the multitude of your sins you can find acceptance in God’s sight. It is about a daily walk with Jesus Christ; along the barren and dusty road; By the boarded up church within your heart; Looking into an empty or cluttered hole; God’s Holy Spirit moves and breathes.
Daily, we seek God’s acceptance. Daily, we yearned to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” It’s a struggle at first, when you’re empty, but once the Holy Spirit fills you, it becomes light and easy. Isn’t that why we come before the Lord; to make our burdens light; to carry our yolk?
Daily, we need to pray; Pray that the words of our mouth and the meditation of our hearts will be acceptable in God’s sight, our strength and our Redeemer.

[1] Proverbs 19:14
[2] James 5:20
[3] Numbers 11:4-29
[4] Mark 9:38-50

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