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Summary: The wrong type of criticism can lead to all sorts of problems. This we must be aware, so that we can handle those who would put us down; criticism to them being a weapon.

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This sermon was delivered to St Oswald’s, Maybole, Ayrshire, Scotland on the 30th September 2012; St Oswald’s is a Scottish Episcopal Church in the Dioceses of Glasgow and Dumfries.

The readings for today are:

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22 Psalm 12 James 5:13-20 Mark 9:38-50

Prayer: In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit let these words bring you honour, and prepare us to live in the world which you have given us. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Our text for today’s sermon is Mark 9, verses 38 to 50. “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.

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Introduction

Years ago I watched my wife’s routine at making breakfast. She made lots of trips to the fridge, cooker, table, and cabinets, often carrying just a single item at a time. ”Christine“ I suggested, “Why don’t you try carrying several things at once?” You may ask, “Did this save her time?” Yes, it used to take her 20 minutes to make breakfast; now I can in 10.

Criticism, if not handled sensitively, rarely works; even if it is sincere. Most people do not like it, as it usually comes across as being demeaned; and it tends to tear people down more than it builds them up.

Let us see how Jesus addressed that problem with his first disciples who themselves were becoming overly critical. You see, they had followed Jesus for three years, and they had learned from the best, yet when they saw somebody “driving out demons in people in Jesus name” they told him to stop as he was not “one of them”.

Well there is more to this story than you first realise, because these same disciples failed to cast a demon out of a small boy earlier in this very chapter; yet here was a man, not one of them who could cast out daemons, and on a regular basis.


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