At the end of Star Wars: Episode III - The Revenge of the Sith, there’s a scene where Obi Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker are circling each other on a ship platform getting ready to fight. You know, one of those suspenseful build up moments.
**And Spoiler Alert if you haven’t seen Star Wars, Anakin Skywalker turns over to the dark side and becomes Darth Vader, a Sith lord, which is basically the Jedi of the dark side. Ok, that’s really all the background information you need.
So they are circling on this platform and Anakin says to Obi Wan, “If you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy.” And Obi Wan replies, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”
This absolute, that if you aren’t on my side then you are my enemy, is a dangerous slope. One could say it would lead you down the path to the dark side. Ok, maybe only in Star Wars.
See the disciples are teetering on that line in our Gospel lesson. They see someone healing in Jesus’ name but they aren’t with them! They must be an enemy!
It’s not about the goal. It’s not about the healing. It’s not about the mission…. It’s about the fact that they are not a part of the right club.
There’s a little more to the story, what we read here is just at face value if we do not understand what is going on in the context. See the author of Mark is writing for a specific community, particularly the new sect of Christianity in Galilee. And at this time there’s another Christian church in Jerusalem… and well, they are doing this same kind of ministry, this other church. And members of this church in Galilee are like, “well we are the REAL Christian church and these others are falsely doing this same ministry!”
So the author wants the community to know something in particular… do you see it yet?
It’s something the church still struggles with today…. Who is the “right” kind of Christian?
We run into these situations of absolutes, that if you don’t believe what we do then clearly you are not actually a Christian. We fight and squabble among ourselves projecting some Christians and good and some as bad.
I am certainly guilty of this. I believe very strongly in my own theology and think that many others who view the exact opposite from me out of the same Bible are straight up wrong.
Last week, I was at Stevens funeral home on Fort Ave for a funeral and I was talking to one of the funeral home owners, Anita, about the differences in religion. See at the funeral home, they see it all right? Like it’s not just a Catholic funeral home or an Episcopal one or a Lutheran one, it’s a community one.
And the community is made up of a diverse religious population. From Catholic to Jewish to protestants of all kinds to those that aren’t even sure if they do believe.
And she was talking about how there is room for everyone in Heaven, we just all have our own ways of expressing how we get there. I agreed, and said, “I actually think we are all probably a little wrong, but luckily God’s grace, mercy, and love is greater and stronger than any one way of expression.”
We are all probably a little wrong, including me, so when we deal in absolutes are we really just limiting the grace of God? Because guess what, God is not confined by our fear or anger. God is not confined by our divisions and sects of church. God works despite our differences.
So when we get caught up in our absolutes, yeah, it is a path to the dark side. A path to hate, a path to anger, a path to gate keeping of the riches and grace of God.
And that is where I do think Jesus draws the line, that it is ok to be different, but it’s not ok to exclude, to shame, to put barriers between God and God’s children based on your gender, your skin color, where you are born, and who you love.
Jesus offers another way. In the response to the disciples (or the church in Galilee) who are dismayed at this other church doing the same thing in Christ’s name, Jesus says, “whoever is not against us is for us.”
That is a radically different position than that of the Sith. That whoever is doing the works of God, is healing, serving the poor, the marginalized, and those in need in the name of Jesus, even if they are a different church, even if they believe and worship differently than we do, they are still doing the work of God.
So that’s the lesson that the author brings to the church in Galilee, and one I think we need to hear over and over again. As long as there has been a church, there have been divisions, but always the same God and the same love. So go and serve in the name of Christ, it’s all welcome. Amen.