The Pas Proper / Ordinary 26 – Pentecost + 19 – Trinity + 18
30 September 2018
Esther7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22
Psalm124 BCP pg 499
our guide and help in strange lands:
strengthen us by the faith and courage of Esther,
so that we may confront the oppressor
with the justice and unity of your reign,
freeing the oppressed
and proclaiming your glorious liberty;
in the name of Christ, our freedom. Amen.
Looking at what Jesus tells us today, this isn’t a comfortable message.
He tells us to be holy in ourselves, in our actions, in our intentions, and if we cannot do that as a whole body (lets look at individual instead of a corporate body) then amputation is recommended.
And this, from the Messiah who encourages us to love one another, to help one another, to consider ourselves to be the children of God.
Yet, here he is advocating that we need to be wholly committed, mind, body, and spirit, to the work that God puts before us and within us to accomplish.
Really, if we look at what we’re hearing, today, Jesus is giving us his version of an ‘zero tolerance anti-bullying speech’ because of the disciples bullying behaviour toward a man who was doing what they’re not comfortable doing, themselves.
Jesus tells us: “42 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.” (Mk 9:42)
And Jesus goes on from there. And Jesus knows that one person is an intelligent human being, capable of rational thought and great compassion, but a mob, a gang, a select group can be just the opposite of the potential of an individual.
But he doesn’t leave us contemplating self-mutilation in order to prevent bullying actions in our own life. He doesn’t leave us cutting off those in our lives who have chosen the gang filled, bullying, non-thinking route. After all, this is Jesus, he sees the best of what we’re capable of achieving even when we only see the worst.
So, he segues from this message to remind us that we are stronger together than we are alone. “49 Everyone will be salted with fire.
50 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”” (Mk 9:49-50)
Now, salt is vital to life. As interesting s this is, we need salt, in moderation, to help our bodies. It has the ability to help water to boil faster. It is able to provide an enhancement of flavour to foods.
On the other side, too much salt and all we taste is the salt. Too much salt can kill the soil. Too much salt can be so unhealthy that it causes us to dehydrate.
So, then, how can we contemplate being salt without being overbearing in our saltiness? At the same time, Jesus points out that some salt has lost its flavour.
And this, then is our conundrum.
If we are salt for the world, if we are the ones who are to bring life and flavour and enhancement to those around us, what do we do when we’ve lost our saltiness?
How are we able to revitalize a salt, a spice that has become less flavourful?
And this is where we find ourselves, where the disciples find themselves today.
Well, I have to admit I’m not much of a creative cook, so looking at what I do, when such depleted spices find themselves into my recipes, is sometimes I’ll add more of the spice to be able to effect the same level of flavour that my taste buds are looking for.
But as we’ve seen with salt, that can easily become overbearing in its application in our cooking.
So, perhaps we can combine it with fresh spices of the same variety. That will allow them to work hand in hand to become effective in our recipes, to bring their different flavours to our culinary creations.
Because the alternative is to clean out our spice cabinets, racks or drawers, and to begin again with the collection of fresh flavour filled spices.
So, if the disciples have looked at a man, filled with faith that he is called to cast out demons, to heal in Christ’s name, and they’ve felt threatened by his faith, by his saltiness, this is where we find ourselves, today.
What we see happening in the beginning of today’s passage is just this. The disciples are jealous of what he does, and they feel threatened because he’s not part of their inner circle, yet he’s there, doing what they struggle to accomplish, what they fail to have confidence that they can achieve.
So, they do what all threatened groups do – they found a way to stop him. They bullied him into quitting his actions, and after doing that successfully, they went to tell Jesus.
So, I’m just wondering, how many of us have been bullied in our lives? Or perhaps continue to be bullied in life? I would truly hope that we are not the bullies, but even that happens from time to time.
I remember as a child being bullied by classmates, by those who didn’t even know me. I was perceived as different because I was able to read before the age of 5, because I didn’t easily join into playground groups, because I, really, still don’t have the necessary hand eye coordination skills to be able to play team sports.
And the only thing I was told as I came home with a few new bruises, with clothes soaked from the neighborhood creek, with scarves and mitts stolen by my protagonists, was that they were jealous of me.
And really, I never could figure it out. To my mind, those doing the picking on had their lives together, and I struggled with social skills and math problems. Yet, I’m the one picked on.
And here we can see the same, thing.
The disciples have it all. They’re in on the teachings that Jesus dispenses. They get the inside knowledge, and this other guy, let’s call him Phil, discovers that he has the faith that perhaps the disciples lack.
So Phil uses the skills brought on by faith, he uses the confidence that has accompanied the skills and his faith, and he’s out there, healing in Jesus name. he acknowledges that he believes in Christ, because that’s the only way that such healing happens.
At the same time, he may not be at the clubhouse meetings, he may not be in on the secret handshakes, and so they see him as a threat, as an outsider, as an interloper to skills they’re struggling to master, and they do what gangs do, in such situations, they convince him to stop.
And this brings us back to our contemplation of salt.
How salty do we find Phil, versus the disciples? Are the disciples, perhaps, able to learn from Phil how to revitalize their saltiness? Something, really that only God can do in and for our lives, if we think about it.
Jesus knows we’re all at different levels of belief, of faith, of ability, of confidence in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He knows we work better together than on our own, but there are still those who are able tot be ‘lone wolves’ in society and able to carry such a burden without the help of another.
So, Jesus tells us: “Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” (Mk 9:50)
He tells us that we are better off as a corporate body, working together for the betterment of creation, of the improvement of all of our lives, and the lives of those who carry burdens we cannot even recognize, at this time.
We work better together rather than on our own, to make a dent in the way society attempts to divide and conquer. How society attempts to place unrealistic expectations on what it is we’re able to accomplish, on how we live our lives as followers of Christ, of the way of life that Christ encourages us to live, in service to each other and to God.
So, I wonder, today, what happened to all of those who have bullied each one of us in the past? Have we managed to overcome our differences and become friends? Have they learned from their childhood pranks and taught their own family’s better patterns of behaviour than to hit first and ask questions later?
Did the disciples return to Phil and apologize for what they said, or did to him earlier?
Did they, perhaps, recognize in him a kindred spirit who was perhaps doing things a little differently than we envisioned?
There was a great post on Facebook, just yesterday (or at least that’s when I saw it) that talks about how its not just one or two peoples job to do the ministry of the church; rather it’s everyone’s. Not just one or two, not just the gifts of the minister to maintain and grow a congregation, and its ministries to the community, but we are all gifted according to the holy spirit, according to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
The article, entitled, It’s Not Biblical to Do All the Ministry states: “It’s the principle of multiplication.
In fact, if you read Ephesians 4 carefully, you will see that Jesus multiplied his own ministry among believers in the Church. It says, “Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift… And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some shepherds, and some teachers.” (Eph. 4:7, 11)” (https://theunstuckgroup.com/2018/09/volunteer-empower-ministry/)
Today, we see Jesus pointing this out to his disciples who have decided to bully someone who is doing what they should be doing, as they get Jesus coffee and lunch, and make sure he’s got all he needs to do the ministry that surrounds them all.
And Jesus still tells us, still today: “, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.”
We are encouraged to be salt, to aid others to be salt without being too salty, ourselves. But not to lose that saltiness, that willingness to help others, to season others, to together provide peace and love that stems first from God for the whole of the world.