Life is so full of change it's almost sickening. It seems as soon as we get use to one thing, to one policy, to one leader or one way of doing things, it changes on us! For example, it seems to me that as soon I get use to my banks policy on deposits or overdrafts, they change it. Or like with the pizza guy down the street from my house. When I first got here a year ago, when you ordered a pizza sub, you could have unlimited toppings, then he changed it to 4 toppings and now when you call to order, you don't even get to choose toppings!! The sub comes only with ham, cheese, pizza sauce and pepperoni's!
Ok, now those are silly and meaningless changes that don't really effect much in my life our in the lives of others, unless they are really serious pizza sub lovers. :) But there are changes that happen in our lives that are very serious and that really make a big difference, in fact such a big difference that when they happen nothing is ever the same again! Such changes are the loss of a spouse, a child, a parent or a sibling. Perhaps its the loss of a job, which in tun causes the loss of a home and which leads to an inevitable move either to a different community or state. The experience of war is one of those life changers, it's sort of a loss of innocence. Then there are those good changes that drastically change everything. Such as marriage, or the birth of a child, one might add graduation to that list as well. Truth is there are many "game changers" as Senator John McCain might put it, in our lives that when all is said and done, nothing ever seems the same again.
I think one of the most profound changes in a persons life that ought to change everything, but often only changes their use of language, is a conversion moment. That moment when a person choses to live for a greater purpose other than themselves. In the Christian church, we call that purpose CHRIST. I think to live for CHRIST is the most life altering change a person can experience, especially if they are living for Christ in a missional and prophetic way. A way that sees the needs of humanity and seeks to fill them, away that looks at the corruption and power brokers of this world and confronts them both with the truth of an almighty God who knows sorrow, knows poverty, knows death and has conquered them all. That ought to be the most profound change in a persons life!!! But is it?
In this passage John begins a conversation with Jesus about people that he sees are impostors. People who are not in league with the 12, but who are still claiming the power and authority to release the captives in the name of Jesus. You see John had believed that his "game changer" moment had come when he was called, when the Rabbi called him and the other 12. The very fact that the Rabbi sought disciples, instead of a following is contradictory to the 1st century rabbinical trditdion. It was "kosher" if I may, to have people apply to follow you when you were a Rabbi, not for you to go and call people. John believed that this very act was so significant that he and the other 12 where in and no one else really could be.
When I was young (er) I was a Pentecostal. I grew up in the Assemblies of God, a fundamentalist, conservative and evangelically minded denomination. One of the hallmarks of pentecostalism, perhaps the sole hallmark, is tongue speech. Thats the act of speaking in unknown tongues (speech) and it is believed by the adherents of Pentecostalism that this ability comes from the Holy Spirit of God. I don't mean to argue the validity of this doctrine, but I do mean to state that when I was part of that "expression of faith" I often felt and was encouraged to feel superior to other Christians. It was like, "we got the Holy Spirit and you guys don't!" After a few years of ministry as an adult with the A/G I moved on. I joined a progressive, one might call it liberal, denomination known as the Episcopal church. As a member of that church I often felt excluded by evangelicals and conservatives because we didn't read the bible with the same slant, neither did we worship with the same music (no rock band), and because of that, the same exclusion that I had been perpetuating on other evangelicals when I was a Pentecostal was being perpetuated on me.
Jesus' response to John is not a "hi 5" nor is it an affirmation of his exclusive attitude towards others trying to minister in Christ name. Instead it was a rebuke, a reminder that any and all who do work in Christ name is called of Christ...just like they were. I think one of the major issues that faces the church today is this "us" vs. "them" mentality. Conservative evangelicals, fundamentalist, and pentecostals believe that the progressives have no claim on Christ, nor does Christ have any claim on them and in the same way progressives often believe that conservative evangelical folks are missing the whole point and are miss representing Jesus, when in all truthfulness, if we take what the master says here to St. John, "even if you give a thirsty person a cup of water in my name, you are called by me."Truthfully it does not matter so much about your "orthodoxy", that is, what you believe or profess, as long as it is Christ, what matters is what you do in Christ name. Liberals and conservatives alike are all seeking to change the world and to change it in the Name of Jesus. If it's a soul winning tent crusade or a soup kitchen, clothing drive, food pantry outreach, it does not matter... as long as it is done in Jesus name it is good. Real change happens when we realize, we're all the same, those of us in Christ. Whether liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between, if it's done in Jesus name, it's done FOR Jesus. Now that is some profound change!