Join the Club

Yes, this is a real photo of an actual place in Wilton, NC.

I doubt if any of you know this, but my middle name is Annette.  I was named after my grandmother, Sarah Annette Whittaker Nash, known as ANN-ette, but when I was young, I preferred to tell people I was named after Annette Funicello.  You know, one of the original members of the Mickey Mouse Club.  After all, Annette was discovered by Walt Disney himself the year I was born.  Most of the people my age knew her not only as a Mouseketeer but also as the co-star with Frankie Avalon of all those Beach Party movies.  

Annette (notice the difference in pronunciation from my grandmother ANN-ette) was part of the most famous television club ever. And then she was part of the inn-est of the in-crowds, those cute girls and guys on those sunny California beaches.  My grandmother, not so much. 

Most of us want to belong somewhere. We want to be around those we feel are like us in some way. Maybe we even want to be around those we wish we were like, as I did in elementary school. Many of us wish we could be part of the in-crowd, the inner circle, the special ones who are known to be in the club to which we want to belong.

In Jesus day, there may not have been Mouseketeers, but there certainly were all kinds of clubs.  From ancient times (and I mean ancient to Jesus even!) disciples would flock around a special master, a philosopher and teacher. They might wear special clothes that distinguished them from the disciples of other philosophers or participate in certain special-to-them rituals. They ate and drank together, sometimes sharing a common cup. They followed their teacher around or sat at his feet, listening to and debating with one another about the fine points of his philosophy in an effort to stay true to the teacher in all parts of their lives. 

And so today we find the disciple John, one of Jesus’ inner circle, complaining to Jesus that somebody who’s not in their club is going around doing the kinds of things their club does without being a member.  Only the Jesus club is supposed to do things in Jesus’ name.  And to be in the club, well, you have to be in the club!  You have to have passed the test and learned the secret handshake or something. You can’t just put on the mouse ears and sing the song and expect to be a real Mouseketeer, can you?

Jesus, however, wasn’t all that interested in this complaint. "Whoever is not against us is for us," he said. Casting out demons is a good thing, no matter who does it. What’s wrong with someone wanting to be known as a follower of Jesus? So what if they haven’t learned the secret handshake? That’s not what Jesus is about.

In fact, Jesus gets pretty testy with his followers here.  Don’t put stumbling blocks in front of those who wish to be in the Jesus club. Don’t set yourselves up to approve or disapprove, to limit membership, to say you’re ok but you’re not, to decide who should be in and who should be out and what they can do and what they can’t.  

Because anyone who wants to will be transformed from within through the power of the Spirit of God when he or she does something powerful in the name of Jesus.  And it’s not our job to decide who can do it or what that deed might be. It’s not our job to define what’s powerful. It might be an act of healing. It might be an act of feeding or clothing or visiting or befriending or house-building or hand-holding or listening.  It might be a small gesture or it might be something much larger. Whatever it is, it is part of God’s transforming work within us and through us. 

So that’s some club, isn’t it, the Jesus club?  Anybody can be in it.  None of us can be in charge of it or make up the rules for it. People will be transformed by it, not because they receive some kind of status but because they will learn to give themselves away instead of keeping themselves to and for themselves.  Indeed not only we, but the world will be transformed when we can move from a stance of self-protection and limitation to a spirit of self-giving generosity.  

You have the power to change the world. Everybody has the power to change the world. 


Kay G. said…
Why does this remind me of this story: a pastor preaching to ducks that all of them can fly, but afterwards, they all just waddle home. I never get my stories quite right, but you get the gist of it, right?
Bill Bynum said…
Thanks for another of your meaningful sermons.
Kay, I don't recall that story, but I get you. Thanks!