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Mark in the 9th Chapter Glory to you, O Lord
Mark 9:38-50 9:38 John said to him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us." 9:39 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. 9:40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 9:41 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. 9:42 "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. 9:43 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. 9:45 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.
9:47 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, 9:48 where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched. 9:49 "For everyone will be salted with fire. 9:50 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." The Gospel of the Lord Praise to you, O Christ Salty
We are on our way to Jerusalem with Jesus. Twice now, Jesus described for his disciples what is about to happen: that he will be arrested, killed, and after three days, rise again. He might as well be talking to the wall. The first time Jesus describes his fate, Peter gets angry and tells Jesus he is just plain wrong. Jesus tells him that whoever loses their life for his sake and for the sake of the Gospel will save it. The second time Jesus describes his fate, the disciples get in a fight about who is the greatest. Jesus explains to the disciples that whoever wants to be greatest in the Kingdom of God, must be least. Whoever wants to be in charge must be the servant of everyone else. Jesus takes a little child on his lap to illustrate the point. It is not about power and being in charge,
3 it is about welcoming the smallest and least among us. All this seems pretty clear, doesn’t it? Give your life to Jesus. Welcome all people in Jesus’ name. This is what the kingdom of God looks like. How hard is that! Well, rather hard, apparently. We come now to today’s Gospel story. Those disciples are at it again. Are they discussing the fate that awaits their Lord and Master? Are they concerned with how they will remain faithful? Are they desperate to show their love to their friend Jesus who is about to die? No! In today’s psychological terms, we would say they are in denial. Their friend has told them that he is about to die and what are they doing? They are pointing fingers, not at each other as they did in last week’s Gospel, but at an outsider. “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, but we told him to stop because he is not one of us.” Can you hear Jesus sigh? It is the same sigh you hear from a mother. It is the sigh you hear when, for the umpteenth time that day, one of the children has come running in the house to tattle on someone else. “Mom, he said, she said, he won’t, she didn’t, I did, he wouldn’t . . .”
4 We do not like this behavior in our children, do we? Jesus did not like that behavior among his friends. God does like that behavior among us. What is it that Jesus says to his friends, his whiny children? I know what mothers say. They deliver “the speech.” It is full of truth and instruction. The mother explains how important it is to get along with others. The speech is an effort to help her child be more self reliant, an effort to teach the child to care for his relationships himself. The mother wants the child to be patient and kind with others, putting aside his need to be in charge of other’s feelings and actions. Jesus tells his friends much the same things. Let others be themselves. You do not have to be responsible for the actions of this healer. Accept the kindness of others. Do not interfere with the growth of another person. If your response to someone else is damaging to him or to you, change your response. Now Jesus gets a little more colorful in his speech than most mothers. Most mothers do not threaten drowning, dismemberment, blindness, or hell fire, although they may be tempted at times. Jesus seems to get a little carried away here. The point, however, is well made.
5 If you want to live your life in the Kingdom of God, act like it. When Jesus speaks about the Kingdom of God, he is talking about the here and now, not some distant place where we go when we die. He is telling his friends that it is possible to live in the Kingdom right here and right now. It is possible to live in the Kingdom, but we all make choices. This summer, at an Aurora movie theater, some one made a very bad choice, an evil choice. And the question inevitably arises— Where was God? Was God present to some movie goers, but not to others? I don’t believe so, do you? I believe that God was fully present, is fully present to everyone involved, to us all. I believe that God is present with families who experienced overwhelming relief, and to families experiencing overwhelming grief. I believe that God holds close all those little ones— young people, parents, families, friends, children and infants, — all those who are sad and vulnerable, angry and afraid. God mourns with those who mourn. God weeps with those who weep. I cannot explain why bad things happen to good people, but they do. Why are there innocent victims of random evil acts? We do not understand, there is no hope of understanding. How are we to bring forth the Kingdom in the midst of such hopelessness?
6 How will we respond? How will we bring forth the Kingdom in our everyday lives? According to our Gospel, we bring forth the Kingdom in two ways. The first is by being salty. Jesus could mean several things. What does it mean to be salty? I think Jesus is talking about passion. Not only are we to be salty, we are to be salted with fire. What are you so passionate about, so salty about, so on fire about, that you would cut off your arm or pluck out you eye in order to preserve it? Jesus tells us that our passion, our salt needs to be about the little ones. Who are these little ones? Certainly they are children and teenagers and victims of violence, they are also those who live on the fringes of our society. They are those who live in poverty, those who live with loneliness, those who struggle with illness, physical illness or emotional illness. The little ones are those who are sad and in pain. And, yes, some days all of us take a turn at counting ourselves among the little ones. Jesus says that if we are salty, we will passionately defend and protect and support the little ones. When we do, the Kingdom will come to us where we live in the here and now. When we are truly able to look outside ourselves, to really see the people we encounter everyday, when we are passionate in how we share God’s love with others, the Kingdom comes.
7 Sometimes it is difficult to see the little ones. There are little ones in this room with us today. There are people in need of a friend. We may not know who they are. That is why we need to live our whole lives in salty ways, we need to everywhere and at all times, in all that we say and do everyday, we need to act and speak in ways that demonstrate God’s love. We never know when a little one will be touched by our passion. We never know when a little one’s life will be changed by our salt. Several years ago, I preached a Christmas Eve sermon. I preached about how all we need, all we hope for, all the love we could ever want, can be found in the manger. I called for us to look in the manger when we are scared or lonely or uncertain, to look in the manger when we are grieving or sad or in pain. There was a little girl in church that night. Her family had never worshipped together and that Christmas season was no different. She was in church that Christmas Eve with only her daddy. Her mother was not with them, was not waiting at home even. It became clear that she was and continued to be an unfaithful spouse. She began to neglect her responsibilities as a parent. She was no longer interested in her family. Her passion, her love for them was diverted elsewhere. The next day,
8 Christmas day, the mother planned to take the little girl across the country to the grandparents’ house. The dad went to the airport with them, trying to make the best of things for the little girl’s sake. He took her aside as they waited for the plane to board. He knew that the child was anxious and sad about leaving her daddy on Christmas day. He knew that he was the parent she had come to rely on to care for her. He told her that he would keep his cell phone with him all the time while she was gone, that she could call him and talk to him any time, day or night while she was away. He reminded her that if she was sad or lonely she must remember to call him. The little girl looked into her daddy’s eyes and said, “I’ll be ok daddy. If I get to feeling bad, I’ll just look in the manger.” If I never again say anything from the pulpit that makes a difference in peoples lives, and I hope that I will, but if I never do, having inspired this child’s faith and comforted her is enough for me. The point of this story? We never know when our saltiness, our passion, our loving act or kind words will make a difference in the life of a little one, a little one in need. We are called to live our lives, all the time, every day as though a little one’s life depends on our love. When we do,
9 the Kingdom of God comes among us. And the 2nd way Jesus tells us how to bring forth the Kingdom? Live in peace with one another. A sermon for another day, but that’s it, two ways to bring forth the Kingdom-be salty; live in peace with one another, and the Kingdom of God comes among us. Amen