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"Have Salt in Yourselves"

Mark 9:38-50

Rev. Alan Taylor

Pentecost 18, Proper 21, series B
St. John Lutheran Church  
Galveston, Texas

Sun, Sep 30, 2012 

+ In Nomine Jesu +

The message this morning, entitled "Have salt in yourselves" is based on the Gospel reading from Mark 9.

Jesus said, "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, [where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.] If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell.  If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, to be cast into hell where the fire is not quenched...Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another." 

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

I was just a little kid.  I recall the event with a clarity that makes it seem like yesterday.  We were on a Boy Scout camp out on the beach at Port Aransas.  Some of us boys had walked out on one of the jetties that juts way out into the Gulf.  The jetties on that part of the coast are much like ours here in Galveston but much longer. 

As we hiked on the rocks I became mesmerized by a shrimp boat that was passing in the distance.  Looking up and out, instead of down where I was supposed to be looking, I proceeded to step between two of the granite boulders that made up the jetty.  My bare leg down between two boulders ripping a long scar down the inside part of my left leg. 

Boy Scouts, they say, are always prepared.  Actually, that is somewhat of a myth.  All of us scouts were out on the jetty that day and none of us had anything with us to treat my wound.  We were sort of like the 5,000 out in the wilderness who didn't bring anything to eat. 

That being the case, one of my fellow scouts took his T-shirt, dipped it in the salt water and wrapped it around my leg.  I have to say, it wasn't a pleasant experience, but, in hindsight, I'm sure that salt water began the process of healing the wound since salt can be used for medicinal puposes.

Salt, as you know, is also used for seasoning.  As a seasoning its properties can be best understood by contrasting it with sugar.  Sugar is used to sweeten, or perhaps more accurately, to mask the flavors that are bitter, sour. In comparison, salt brings out the flavors of the food, not masking them as much as preserving them.  Consequently, you can put all the salt you want on rice cakes and they still won't taste very good.  On the other hand, you can roll them in powdered sugar and they aren't half bad.  Mary Poppins got it right.  "A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down." 

There is a stark contrast between the way our culture looks at sin and the way God looks at it.  Our culture sugar coats sin in such a way that the taste of hell becomes palatable.  God's Commandments are viewed really more as suggestions than as commands.  What the Bible calls fornication, or, sexual immorality, we call "sleeping together," "shacking up," or, "hooking up."  The sin birthed between the collusion of the eyes and the heart, what the Bible calls lust, we call being human.  What the Bible calls an "abomination to God," we call a "live-style" choice, and then we insist that governments, ordained and established by God, protect the sanctity of such unions.  What the Bible calls murder, we call "a choice." Yes, indeed, "a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down."

The question is, as individuals and as a Church, do we really see the impact that temptation and sin have on our lives?  Do we see sin as so serious that we would chop off part of our life, rather than let sin get a hold of us?  Do we see sin as dangerous as gangrene?  Or do we just accept it, as part of what living in this century means?  As the Church, the Una Sancta, the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Body of believers, do we mourn when a friend or family member is caught in sin's grip?  Or, do we passively allow them to stumble and fall into sin, swallowing hell with the sweetness of sugar?

William Willimon, author and pastor, once wrote,

"Sometime in my ministry, the church I served changed from being a church desiring to be salt to a church desiring to be honey to help the world's solutions go down a bit easier. At first (he says) I thought it was a problem of liberal vs. conservative, or peacemaking vs. war-making. But lately I've decided it reflects the more fundamental problem of the (conflict or tension between the) church and the world." (Will Willimon)

As you well know, the Scriptures often speak of the Church as the Body of Christ.  The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Christians at Corinth, wrote, "even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.  For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, "Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body."

As individuals and as the Church, we are the body of Christ in this world! We are also the salt of the earth!  As such, we are called to excentuate the seriousness of sin and the bitterness of hell, rather than to sweeten them.  If our brother or sister is caught in sin, be he the hand, or, the foot, or, the eye of the body, we are to love him enough to cut him off from his inheritance as a child of the King, lest he die in such a state of un-repentance and swallow the bitterness of hell.  Or, will We are, by the sternness of our actions, to call him to repentance that he might give all "praise, glory and honor on the last day, at the revelation of Jesus Christ?"

The bitterness of sin, though we tend to sweeten it with sugary platitudes, is best seen in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Bible says, "the wages of sin is death."  Thus, there hung the Son of the Living God upon a cross of torture, shame and death.  He was cut off from the mercy of His Father, such that He could only cry out and wonder why.  "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" No angel would attend Him, and no voice would assure Him of His Father's love and mercy, for, He had literally become the sin of the world, your sin and mine.

How beautifully the hymnist captured the moment of our Lord's suffering and passsion, and our part in it...

"Yet, O Lord, not thus alone

Make me see Your passion,

But its cause to me make known

And its termination.

Ah! I also and my sin

Wrought Your deep affliction;

This indeed the cause has been

Of Your crucifixion."

By His passion Jesus delivered you from the bitterness of hell!  The sweetness of the Gospel brings hope to your soul and joy to your life!  "I have loved you unto death (He says) even death on a cross."  "My body was broken for you!" "My blood was poured out for you!" "O taste and see that the Lord is good.  How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him."

Have salt in yourselves, my friends!  Call a thing what it is!  Sin is sin and sin ultimately leaves us to consume the bitterness of hell!  But, forgivness and grace?  Well, such things are the sweet fruit of Jesus' death and resurrection and they are yours through faith in Jesus.  "Jesus, so sweet.  Jesus, so mild.  By You us sinners are reconciled."  In Jesus' name.  Amen. 

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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