How do we bring about God’s Kingdom on Earth? John made a statement to Jesus, including whoever was with him when this “other” was performing miracles in Jesus’ name. “’Teacher, we saw a man using your name to expel demons and we stopped him because he wasn’t in our group.’ Jesus wasn’t pleased. ‘Don’t stop him. No one can use my name to do something good and powerful, and in the next breath cut me down. If he’s not an enemy, he’s an ally. Why, anyone by just giving you a cup of water in my name is on our side. Count on it that God will notice.’” [Eugene Peterson, The Message]
I’m reminded of the reason Sarah and Aaron chose “Chaplains on the Harbor” for the name of the ministry they created. The intent was that folks from all walks of life could be chaplains furthering the interests of marginalized people in our communities. It doesn’t matter if you are Episcopalian, if you are another Christian denomination, Jewish, if you are agnostic, humanist, atheist or Wiccan or a follower of Asatru. If you have a sense of things not being right, things out of kilter, and a sense of injustice for those who are down and out; you can join us in this cause.
Chaplains does have boundaries, rules: Treating people with respect, an understanding that when you help another person there is a power differential and you can’t become romantically involved or treat someone with preference over others. We are also protective of our reputation so we are careful about affiliation with other groups but are quite willing to network with others to provide what people need.
When I look at our staff now, I see a broad range of beliefs and understanding of the divine. Yet all of the folks are quite willing to cast out the demons that try to make us fail. Folks are willing to learn new ways to interact with one another and with the people we try to serve. We try on a daily basis to maintain healthy interactions with one another and with our marginalized friends. None of our staff are working against what we want to accomplish. All are invested in what we do and the way we do it. This is one example of including those outside “our group” in the ministries we need to do.
I think of the Montesano Ministerial Association and all the people who receive help from the benevolence fund-how we work together to meet needs in our community. Each of the churches could try to do things on their own-some have more funding in place than others to accomplish this-but we choose to work together for the good of all in the community. None of us has bragging rights as “the church that helps the most”-we can point to the community and note that it is individual donations from ordinary folks in the community that provides for the individuals and families who need help out of a hard place in their lives.
I see our church as open to people who come in-welcoming AA groups for decades into our space. We don’t ask for credentials when someone comes in the door, we just welcome people and sit with them if they need help to navigate the service. And, we tell them about ourselves and listen to their stories.
And we haven’t held our money tight to our chests and worried what the future holds for us to the extent that we don’t help those in need. We know all that we do-especially the Varnesses-who work hard one week every month-buying, cooking, organizing and delivering food for Chaplains on the Harbor.
In the September/October Sojourners magazine, Pastor Isaac Villegas wrote: “Jesus confuses our thinking about God’s presence in the world. He shifts our attention away from competition and toward the work that needs to be done, work anyone can do. We need all the help we can get, because the demonic ravages our world-forces of evil that ransack the goodness of God, that wreck the wonders of creation.
To work against a society, and economy, a culture that produces such demons requires all the allies we can find. ‘Whoever is not against us is for us.’ Jesus calls us to resist the forces of destruction alongside anyone, regardless of who they claim to follow. No time for jealousy. No room for pride. This struggle for healing and justice requires solidarities that reach beyond our communities. To give ourselves to God’s movement involves the formation of coalitions across differences and identities.” End quote.
So, I guess Isaac’s takeaway from today’s gospel is similar to mine. Maybe my original question: “How do we bring about God’s kingdom on Earth?” is better stated as, “Who can we involve in healing the Earth and her people?”