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  • Writer's pictureSteven Marsh

Who’s In?: a Reflection on Psalm 39, Isaiah 44:24-45:7, Ephesians 5:1-14, and Mark 4:1-20

I am often appalled at my behavior. I can be judgmental, mean-spirited, arrogant, tough on others, and selfish. I can be demanding and controlling too.

I am grateful how those behaviors have been diminishing over the past four years as God continues God’s work of reclamation.

The psalmist convicts me to guard my ways. When I don’t, I sin with my tongue. Wow. My tongue has been a stumbling block lately.

I am thrilled with my call to serve at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California. What an amazingly gifted and loving congregation and staff. Like many congregations, hard times depict our recent history, but it is a new day and I am glad to be partnering with God and these folk to do what God is calling us to do…love God and love others.

Paul makes the case that no one who is a fornicator, impure, or greedy will have any inheritance in the kingdom. It is Paul’s shortest list of dis-qualifiers. There was one point in my life that I made it my highest priority to identify the people who were stumbling in Paul’s longest lists of “foul” and abhorrent behaviors. I took a sick joy in determining who was in and who was out based on “The List.” What’s with that as if I wasn’t on the list?

So many Christians succumb to this game of who’s in and who’s out. God forgive me, for when I do that I am not loving you or others. In fact, it is the most profound act of narcissism. Oops. Selfishness and self-centeredness are on one of Paul’s lists aren’t they?

I’ll never forget the voice of an elder who stood on the floor of the congregational meeting where the dissolution of my pastoral call was being discussed. I was asked to resign for committing plagiarism in three 650 word columns. I confessed my sin and asked for forgiveness, but that was not adequate to save me or my ministry. When the elder said, “We cannot have as our pastor a man who has violated the holiness of God,” I paused and was reminded of Paul’s words to guard my ways or I would sin with my tongue. His words hurt and I will never forget them. Was I damned?

I was definitely identified as one who was not “in” that day although the vote was 53% to 47% not to concur with my request to dissolve the pastoral relationship. But the good that came out of that situation is the journey of reclamation I mentioned earlier in this post.

I am becoming so focused on loving God and others and letting God sort out who’s in and out. I am no longer surprised, however, why so many Christians play that game. It’s easier to determine successful “followership” of Jesus that way. Think about it.

I am grateful that I have been set free in more ways than one. The seed Jesus sowed in my life is bearing fruit.

Scripture readings are taken from the two-year daily lectionary cycle which follows the liturgical calendar and begins on the First Sunday of Advent.

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