Sunday, November 13, 2016

Salty Peaceful People

John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.”  “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said.  “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me.  Anyone who is not against us is for us.  If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded.  “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck.  If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands.  If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off.  It’s better to enter eternal life with only one foot than to be thrown into hell with two feet.  And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out.  It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.’  “For everyone will be tested with fire.  Salt is good for seasoning.  But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again?  You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other.”  Mark 9:38-50(NLT)
In an interview with Time Magazine in 1963… [Karl Barth] recalls that 40 years ago he advised young theologians 'to take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both.  But interpret newspapers from your Bible.'"[ii]
With all due respect to those who have ever said you should never mix religion and politics…that may be the dumbest statement I wish I’d never said!  Of course politics and the faith we hold must do battle; how else can a Christian be salt and light to the generation in which we live?
Jesus tells his followers to have salt within them, and peace between them.  And this unusual combination follows Jesus warning the disciples about the kind of putrefied attitudes and actions that characterize the inhabitants of hell.  All that started when the disciples reported how they tried to close the club membership to one who wasn’t like them. 
We can understand the attitude of the disciples over the outsider doing mighty works in the name of Jesus; they were just trying to protect their turf.  They couldn’t do a good job of casting out demons, so they didn’t want to be shown-up by a maverick believer who wasn’t on their membership roll. 
We can also understand the warning about hell – any day in heaven with one arm, eye, or foot is better than a day in hell with two.  The warning is that hell is THAT BAD.  Jesus says:  Cut it out!  Get rid of your pride and stop making roadblocks for people who just want to serve me.  Boys, boys, not EVERYBODY needs to be just like you!
A Pastor shared how he …was in a small rural church one time that had a major dispute about where the pies should be placed in the kitchen prior to serving them for the annual turkey supper.  One woman actually left the church because several new-comers to the church had convinced the rest of the women working in the kitchen that it would be more efficient to put the pies on the counter beside the sink instead of the counter next to the refrigerator.
It's not the right way to do it, she said.  We've never done it that way before, and I am not going to be part of doing it that way now.  I won't have any part of that kind of thing.  Those new people are going to ruin this church.  They don't know anything.  They aren't even from around here.[1]  Both my newspaper and Bible tell me that’s like both Democrats and Republicans foaming at the mouth!
Jesus warned that kind of attitude just won’t cut it in the kingdom.  Rather he warned that we should cut ourselves loose from that kind of thinking like we would cut out a cancerous tumor.  An unholy attitude can kill a spirit faster than cancer can the body.
I read a story where a trap was set in the barn for a rat.   In the morning it was sprung, but only the leg of a rat was there.  The explanation was that the rat understood he would die if he couldn’t get free.  The rodent chewed off his own leg and left it behind. 
Jesus doesn’t advocate spiritual growth by hacking off your limbs; but he IS giving us a metaphor to demonstrate true spiritual growth by cutting-off and leaving-behind attitudes that can cripple ourselves, and in the process become a stumbling block to others. 
My newspaper and Bible both see Democratic and Republican legs caught in the presidential rat race traps.  And now that the ballots have been cast, the winners gloating and losers protesting are acting just like the disciples who were railing at the ones who were different.
Jesus said, have salt within and peace between.  That has been really hard in the last number of months, considering the anger and name-calling we’ve heard on the political trail – a daily dose of vitriol and bile!
It’s no secret that I have not been a fan of both candidate’s words, attitudes and tactics; their commercials have been more than off-putting.  It has all bordered on parallel with MMA (Mixed Martial Arts fighting), with eye-gouging, kidney shots and kicks to the groin and head.  This has been more than a competition; it’s been more like mutual assassination! 
And despite both persons claiming Christianity as their faith, they appeared to be constantly rubbing salt in the wounds of their opponents, rather than being salt to the system.
However, the morning after the election, in true duplicity of character, the tone changed.  I heard Mr. Trump offer his congratulations to Secretary Clinton for a hard-fought campaign, and his well-wishes for the future.  Then I watched Secretary Clinton offer President-Elect Trump her support in whatever ways she could help the country.  In her concluding remarks she said:
Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power and we don't just respect that, we cherish it. It also enshrines other things. The rule of law, the principle that we are all equal in rights and dignity, freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values, too, and we must defend them.[iii]
No matter how you are registered, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green Party or Independent, and no matter what you think of either of the candidates in the race now-ended, these words of the one who lost are the kind of salt and light Jesus said we should have. 
If the ones who were the biggest problem can change at least their actions, perhaps there is hope for the process.  The question is, can we who have watched, and despised the process, begin to regain our salt and light to have salt within and peace between?
When it comes to the kingdom of God, that Salt is available at one location only – the foot of the cross at Calvary.  When you come to Jesus in total surrender to his will and his way, the Lord sprinkles from his own personal shaker – and you’re covered with it!
With that salt you can change this generation for God. 
It will change everything it touches…the salt available from Jesus changes everything. 
Hunger is filled; want is satisfied; sorrow is exchanged for joy. 
This kind of salt even changes the attitude of war to peace. 
There is a monumental task ahead of us all as Americans in general, and as followers of Jesus Christ in particular.  That task is healing.  Some people will never accept how you think, but the words of Jesus must ever be on our minds and hearts:
Have salt within you; and be at peace between you!
May we go in peace, filled with the Spirit, ready to do God's will and by the power of Christ serve God's people, as well as those who are yet to become His people.  Go and be salty, peaceful people this week
1 Hand-PenIn the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen

[1] Richard J. Fairchild, Working Together

[i] Title image:  By ArnoldReinhold (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons
[ii] Mark Richardson, Assoc Pastor, St Paul Lutheran Church, Blog 1/21/2015

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