As Orthodox Christians living in America, we are faced daily with the reality that the average Christian doesn’t distinguish between denominations other than by name and location, except in the way they worship on Sunday morning. It seems to me, the average American Christian is just looking for a Sunday experience they enjoy, one that makes them feel good about themselves, and one that lifts them up. However, if you take the time to look deeply, we are all quite different, and the way we worship on Sundays is a reflection of what we believe.
In today’s Gospel (you can read the entire passage below) we hear about a man who was casting out demons in the Name of Jesus, but the Disciples forbid him because he wasn’t part of the group. By today’s standards, you might say we attended a different Church. Christ’s reply is both comforting and challenging to us. It normally is. “Do not forbid him; for no one who does a might work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me.”
On the surface, it seems to me, we are to accept the work for what it is, namely, someone giving glory to God. Anytime someone glorifies God, it is good, and we should be thankful. But here is where it might be a bit of a challenge. Christ then says, “For he that is not against us is for us.” If we consider the first verse as evidence that there is no difference between denominations, which is what I often hear, then what about those who say Orthodox Christians are not real Christians? What about those who say our, YOUR, baptism was not proper? What about those who say we Orthodox are idol worshipers? Would that qualify as a group who “is not against us” as the verse suggests?
My blog today isn’t to cast a poor light upon many faithful western Christians, but to call us Orthodox Christians to a better understanding about who we are, and why we do what we do. Our Sunday worship ISN’T about feeling good about ourselves. It ISN’T about whether we feel lifted up, or whether it is fun and upbeat. Our Sunday worship is about being in physical communion with God. In fact our entire life is about living in union with God.
That my dear friends is where there is a GREAT difference between, what is now estimated by Gordon Conwell Seminary to be more than 43,000 denominations. Each one is different not just in location and Sunday worship style, but in what each believes to be true about God. As Americans, we may all pray to the same God, but we don’t all believe the same thing to be true about God. Simply put, we’re not all the same, and it is about time, we Orthodox Christians, without speaking poorly about others, accept that we are different, and start living that way.
At that time, Jesus and his disciples came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, "What were you discussing on the way?" But they were silent; for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve; and he said to them, "If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all." And he took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me." John said to him, "Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us." 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. For he that is not against us is for us. 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." – Mark 9.33-41