It seems to me that the stumbling block Jesus is talking about might well be the kind of “us versus them” mentality that has caused schism throughout church history and dissension in the ranks of many congregations. The disciples were concerned over someone who was “not following us.” Jesus was concerned about what was being done and in whose name.
A woman of my acquaintance grew up in a country where the predominant protestant church was Lutheran. When she came to Canada she was stunned and confused by the myriad of denominational choices, and sadly ended up attending none. The disunity of Christendom became a stumbling block for her.
One of the principles of the ELCIC is that we will not do alone anything that can better be done in partnership. It’s one way to break down the “us and them.” But this text also challenges me to let go of the “us and them” mentality that keeps me isolated from people who don’t look like me or think like me. Opening myself to whomever the “neighbour” is seems a little dangerous and a lot scary, but it is precisely in those encounters that we become agents of God’s mission in the world.
Lord, lead me into ways of meeting the neighbour that share your grace and love. Amen. — CN