Ordinary Time (Proper 21)
Mark 9:38–50/9:36–50 IV
Be Peace to One Another
Numbers 11:4–6, 10–16, 24–29; Psalm 19:7–14; James 5:13–20; Mosiah 2:32; Doctrine and Covenants 165:3e
As a way to include the children in your midst, place a large, plain table as a central visual focus for the congregation. As the prelude is offered, have the children bring up various boxes commonly found at a grocery store in your area. Include a box of salt and other items, such as cereal, dishwashing detergent, etc. Arrange the boxes so everything can be seen, and add a peace candle.
All Are Called
“Peace Salaam Shalom” CCS 310
OR “Year by Year” CCS 345
OR “Kanisa Litajengwa/Oh, Who Will Build the Church Now?” CCS 338
Call to Worship
Left Side: The law of the Lord is perfect,
Right Side: reviving the soul;
Left Side: the decrees of the Lord are sure,
Right Side: making wise the simple;
Left Side: the precepts of the Lord are right,
Right Side: rejoicing the heart;
Left Side: the commandment of the Lord is clear,
Right Side: enlightening the eyes;
Left Side: the fear of the Lord is pure,
Right Side: enduring forever;
Left Side: the ordinances of the Lord are true
Right Side: and righteous altogether.…
All: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
—Psalm 19:7–9, 14
Consider asking a child or youth to offer this prayer or lead the congregation in reading it aloud, together.
God, where will your Spirit lead today?
Help me be fully awake and ready to respond.
Grant me courage to risk something new and
become a blessing of your love and peace. Amen.
Unity in Diversity
Sharing Joys and Concerns
Note to presider: Use active listening skills to repeat back the joy or prayer concern of the one who shares. After each joy, say to the congregation: “Let us lift up our hands and say…”: “Thanks be to God!” or “Praise be to God!” After each prayer concern, “Let us lift up our hands and pray…”: “Lord, hear our prayer!” or “God have mercy, Christ have mercy.”
Pastoral Prayer for Joys and Concerns
Pursue Peace on Earth
Prayer for Peace
Hymn of Confession and Enlightenment
“Ososŏ/Come Now, O Prince of Peace” CCS 225
OR “Peace of Jesus” CCS 318
OR “Put Peace into Each Other’s Hands” CCS 309
Scripture of Renewal
Reader 1: Are any among you suffering?
Reader 2: They should pray.
Reader 1: Are any cheerful?
Reader 2: They should sing songs of praise.
Reader 1: Are any among you sick?
Reader 2: They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.
Reader 1: The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.
Reader 2: Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.
Reader 1: The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.
Light the peace candle.
Prayer for Peace
Dear Lord God,
As we gather together this morning, meditate, and sing the songs of praise, we appreciate the beauty of your creation and your presence among things and people around us. The winds brushing our cheeks already bring the news of the autumn and the hues of the leaves are turning yellow, red, and orange. The field is white and ready for harvest.
Yet how often do our natural eyes blind us as we place ourselves in the center of the world? They lure us to be greedy for wealth, which never overflows our cups. Our natural eyes drive us to compete, envy, hate, which cause us to blur our views and bruise the human souls. We are at war with the world and with one another. It is for such arrogance and self-centeredness in us that you sent us your son to redeem and save us, not to perish.
Grant us spiritual eyes to see and appreciate your loving heart which has been extended to us through your creation, so we can serve you and the world to bring peace and justice, harmony and joy.
We pray these things in the holy name of your son, Jesus Christ. Amen
For more ideas: The Daily Prayer for Peace services offered at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, can be found on the church’s website as Calendar Events at www.CofChrist.org /daily-prayer-for-peace.
Share the Peace of Jesus Christ
Mark 9:38–50/9:36–50 IV
“O Young and Fearless Prophet” CCS 36
OR “You Are Called to Tell the Story” CCS 625
Based on Mark 9:38–50/9:36–50 IV
OR Testimonies/Directed Congregational Conversations
- When have you experienced being “peace to one another”?
- What stumbling blocks have you put up that inhibited the cause of the gospel in the world?
- What are some of the stumbling blocks you can identify in yourselves?
Respond with a Generous Heart
Disciples’ Generous Response
Focus Moment: God in a Box
As you speak, hold up the boxes used to create the worship center to help illustrate the ideas.
Do you see all these boxes? Are they all the same? What differences do you see? I wanted you to see these different boxes because sometimes we try to put God in a box.
Do you think God could fit in any of these boxes? You know there are many different religions in the world—Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, and many, many more. In some ways, these religions are like all these boxes.
What do advertisers always tell us? New and improved! Do religions sometimes claim to be new and improved? Original! Do religions sometimes claim to be the original one? All-natural! Do religions sometimes claim to be all natural? Quick and easy! Do religions sometimes claim to be quick and easy? Well, maybe not those exact words. But sometimes it’s pretty close.
Our theology—the study of God and God’s relation to the world—are just words. And like these boxes they cannot really contain all of what God is or means, can they?
In our Gospel story today, Jesus’ disciples tried to stop someone from doing good deeds because he was not one of them. But Jesus responded that “whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40). Did you know that when Christian churches of all the many different Christian groups work together that’s called “ecumenical understanding” and when different religions like Christian, Sikh, Baha’I, and Taoist get together that’s called “interfaith understanding.” Jesus taught that “whoever is not against us is for us.” Perhaps the paradox is that God can be new and improved—and original. God can be quick and easy—and all-natural.
The mystery may be that God is greater than one box and greater than all the boxes. But if I am a box of salt, I want to be as salty as I can be without opposing all the other boxes. Jesus said: “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 9:50).
Let’s sing a song from Community of Christ Sings that is in the “Interfaith Respect” topic.
Song of Interfaith Respect
“Creator of the Intertwined” CCS 344
OR “Arabs, Romans, Jews, and Gentiles” CCS 341
We can all give and respond generously to God. It was once written: “For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same being, even God, for all the substance which we have?” (Mosiah 2:32, adapted).
As you share financially through Mission Tithes, or if you give regularly through eTithing, please use this time to consider your commitment and how you will tithe to your true capacity of time, talent, and testimony.
Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes
For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples -generous-response-tools.
Hymn of Commitment
“Bring Forth the Kingdom” CCS 387
OR “My Peace” CCS 149
Ordinary Time (Proper 21)
Exploring the Scripture
The Gospel of Mark was likely written before the other Gospels—four collections of sayings grouped together because they share common words and ideas. The author is unknown but the Gospel of Mark was written around 64 CE. The Gospels contain a series of teachings about discipleship and the importance of humility and harmony. At first glance the sayings seem to be unrelated, even disjointed, but with careful study we discover they have a common theme: Harmonious, peaceful relationships are central to authentic discipleship. This section of Mark’s Gospel stresses the importance of relationship (covenant) and denounces vying for power, status, or importance.
This passage is arranged in three sections. The first four verses (vv. 38–41) directly follow the discussion among the disciples about who is the greatest. Previously, the disciples had been arguing among themselves and were reprimanded by Jesus.
In verses 38–41, the concern is not who among them is the most important but rather are the disciples more important or more “authorized” than others? They complain that someone who is not one of them has been performing exorcisms in the name of Jesus. Jesus replied that just as they are not to vie for status or place among themselves, they also should not draw boundaries around who can use Jesus’ name and who cannot; who is considered in and who is out. All who act for good in the name of Jesus are worthy.
In the next section, verses 42–48, Jesus cautioned against causing others to stumble in faith. The “little ones” referred to are not children but new or not yet mature disciples. The disciples must take care to set examples of peaceful relationships. The original recipients of the gospel would have understood severing-limbs and plucking-out-eyes language as metaphorical. These references reinforce a cultural understanding that self-sacrifice is preferable over injuring another.
Early Christians would have also known that “hell” or “Gehenna” was a valley just outside the southwest wall of Jerusalem. Centuries before it had been a place pagans used for rituals including child-sacrifice. At different times in the history of Israel, Jewish kings had both outlawed and tolerated these rituals. In Jewish writings, the valley was a place of punishment and death for the unrighteous. During the time Mark’s Gospel was written, the valley was the city dump. It was a place of maggots (worms) and unending fires and smoke and had a horrid reputation with both Jewish and Gentile Christians. This graphic passage is not meant to be taken literally but it does cause the reader to understand the importance of the message. It is better to live harmoniously with others than risk broken relationships that injure the body of believers.
This passage concludes with two verses about salt (vv. 49–50). Salt was a precious commodity used to season and preserve food. Israelites were commanded to include salt with all their religious offerings. The offering of salt represented the essence of the covenant relationship between God and Israel. Salt had additional cultural meanings as well. There are several Greek writings that compare salt to the taste of hospitality and friendship. Christians are to keep their saltiness, to practice relationships of hospitality, friendship, harmony, and peace.
- There should be no divisions among those who serve in the name of Jesus. Faith in Christ is what is most important.
- Disciples of Jesus do not vie for status. All are of value and worthy.
- Hospitality, friendship, and harmonious relationships among disciples are essential to following Jesus.
Questions to Consider
- Have you ever argued with another Christian over who was right and who was wrong?
- How might that conversation be directed to build faith rather than injure relationships?
- Has there been a time when your actions may have weakened someone else’s faith? How did you bring that relationship back to wholeness?
- Can you remember an experience when you got caught up in status seeking? What was the impact on your discipleship and ministry?
- How can your congregation share its “saltiness” (hospitality, friendship, building community relationships) in ways that bring about justice-making and peace?