John said to Jesus, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us." But Jesus said, "Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
The Gospel plays tag-team with this reading from the Book of Numbers and this story:
Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp." And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, "My lord Moses, stop them!" But Moses said to him, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD's people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!"
You gotta love the lectionary. In Numbers, Eldad and Medad have the audacity to prophesy "outside the tent" and Joshua (son of Nun) is ticked. Meanwhile in the Gospel, John is livid: demons were being cast out in Jesus name -- by someone NOT "following us."
And we'll hear these lessons on Sunday.
And someone will say, "The Word of the Lord" (or "Hear what the Spirit is saying to God's people.")
And we'll say, "Thanks be to God."
But do we get it? Do we get that those arguments that took place among the people of Israel on their journey through the wilderness and between the disciples on their journey to Jerusalem are the same ones going on in our churches and in our communion today?
Don't think for a minute if John could have mustered the support for an ancient version of B033 to keep those unnamed demon caster-outers at arms length he wouldn't have pushed it right through.
And if Joshua (son of Nun) could have pulled off he getting himself some Alternative Oversight that would have kept him away from the likes of Eldad and Medad he'd have been all over it. Who gets to prophesy -- to preach -- to lead? And who gets to DECIDE who get to prophesy -- to preach -- to lead? THAT -- as they say -- is (and was) the question.
Do we get it? Does the church get it? Does the "communion" get it?
Moses: "Are you jealous for my sake? [AKA "get over yourselves!"] Would that all the LORD's people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!"
Jesus: "Do not stop him ... Whoever is not against us is for us."
Really? No Covenant to sign? No doctrines to come to consensus on? No purity codes to enforce? No Windsor Report to "comply" with? What kind of leadership is this? Who do these guys think they are?
Do we get it? Do we get that the answers to the arguments that consume so many in the church and distract so many more from the mission and ministry we have been called to do in Jesus name are RIGHT HERE. In the lessons appointed for Proper 21B? Out of the mouths of Moses and Jesus -- and you don't get much more credentialed than those two! (At least not in "The Word of the Lord" Land!)
I'm particularly fond of the Numbers text -- it was preached at my ordination to the diaconate, much to the amusement of a number of those in attendance who recognized that my ordination process bore more resemblance to Eldad and/or Medad than it did to -- oh, let's just say Joshua (son on Nun.)
And tonight it is the source of some amusement to ME that these texts show up in the lectionary cycle for the morning of the day they're making me an honorary canon of the Diocese of Los Angeles. Me. The parish secretary/soccer mom from Ventura who didn't go to the right seminary and didn't keep her mouth shut in Major Christian Doctrines and had to wait for a bit -- outside the tent -- while "The Diocese" took a great big gulp before they finally said, "Oh, OK" ... and ordained her in 1996.
What does it mean to be a canon of the diocese? I'm not exactly sure. I'll keep you posted. But here's what I said "on the record" earlier this week:
"As a native of Los Angeles and a daughter of this diocese it is a high honor to be recognized in this way by the church of my birth and baptism. But more than just a recognition of my ministry, I hope that Sunday's service will be be a beacon of hope to all LGBT people who wonder if that sign outside saying "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You" really means it. Because in the Diocese of Los Angeles, we do."
"I am deeply grateful to be part of a diocese that sees activism as an asset and does not shy away from being a prophetic voice on behalf of "the least of these" who Our Lord calls us to serve in His name. We have come very far indeed from the church I grew up in -- where girls couldn't be acolytes, much less priests or honorary canons! But there is still much work to do -- and I look forward to all that we will do together here in the Diocese of Los Angeles as we move forward together into God's future."
I do look forward to the "what nexts" -- to what Bishop Barbara Harris referred (in a recent email) to as "... much more mischief to delve into in the months and years ahead." For there are plenty of other Eldads and Medads out there wondering if there's a place for them in this tent we call God's Big Fat Human Family. And you've gotta love a lectionary that gives us the stories of our spiritual ancestors that call us to join with them in drawing the circle ever wider.