Monday, September 28, 2015

Salted With Fire

38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, [6] and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.
42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, [7] it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, [8] to the unquenchable fire. [9] 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ 49 For everyone will be salted with fire. [10] 50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” Mark 9:1-50 (ESV)
“For everyone must be salted with fire.”
“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it would already be kindled. I have a baptism with which to be baptized with and how great is my distress until it is accomplished.” Thus Jesus speaks of his death and resurrection in the 12th chapter of Luke. And event by which he would cast fire upon the earth, that in our baptisms in which we are joined to his death and resurrection, we would be salted with the fire of the Holy Spirit. That is we would be made to be living sacrifices holy and acceptable to God, as the salt of the Old Covenant made the sacrifices of temple to be consumed by the fire of God to be acceptable to him. We are salted with fire, and the salt is the forgiveness of sins by which we live that we may never lose our saltiness, but continually be at peace with one another.
Salted with fire that we would be living sacrifices before the Lord, willing to gouge out our eyes, chop off our feet, and hands and throw them into the fire that we ourselves would escape the fires of hell where the worm does not die, where the fires are never quenched. That we would not ourselves fall from the faith. This is what the temptation to sin is really about in this passage. It is the temptation to apostasy, or the temptation to give up the Christian faith. And it happens, often it happens as Christians are given to the temptation to indulge the hungers and desires of the flesh in manners not consistent with Christian morality, not consistent with the love of Christ for the world, for others for us. Not consistent with the love we have for God or the love we have for each other by which we live at peace with one another. Instead there is a life in which we give into the covetousness of our hearts, we take advantage of others, often when they themselves offer to be taken advantage of.
If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is one of the harder passages in scripture. How literally it is meant to be taken is perhaps up for debate. Church history has recorded those who have taken this passage rather seriously. The early church theologian Origen, the man was quite a genius even if perhaps a precursor to the heresy of Arianism, which first espoused the Mormon idea that as God once was we now are, as God is we can become. Much of Origen’s work was later condemned even as it remained influential for centuries, shaping Christian thought even today in some ways. He is best remembered for the comparisons of biblical texts. However, as great a scholar and genius he was, he was denied the priesthood after reading this text because his bishop had considered him to have lost his manhood. And it just goes to show, that following this text to literally would lead to another sin, that of self-mutilation. God created us with two eyes, two feet and two hands for a reason. But it was not so that we could sin, or tempt others to sin, but that we could serve the Lord with and in our bodies. And this we do not by tempting the little ones who believe in him to sin, but by raising them up in the faith, feeding them and clothing them physically with hotdogs and mac and cheese, but also spiritually with the love and righteousness of Christ, the robes of righteousness given in baptism. These little ones who believe in me, I love those words of Christ. There is here no question about the age of accountability. No question about them being able to make a decision for Christ. There is nothing but Jesus saying, don’t teach them to sin. They believe in me, don’t make them to despise my word. Raise them in the faith I have given them. And this is where a life of self-sacrifice hits home, because it is at home and work that we live as living sacrifices salted with fire. It is there that we have to bear with one another in love and forgiveness, even as we do so within the church, that the salt would not lose its saltiness.
No, it isn’t being overly strict with ourselves and those entrusted to our care that gives us our saltiness. This is actually a way to lose the saltiness, to foster dissent, to cause little one’s not to believe. To raise them up with resentment, perhaps because they can’t join the neighborhood kids in the upcoming parade of costumes. People, there are satanic ways to celebrate Halloween, and a parent is perhaps right to be concerned about the appropriateness of a particular costume. But trick or treating, and Halloween parties are not things that should be denied children in the name of Christ, any more than Christmas presents, or being able to play on Sunday, or even work if they are old enough, I have to shake my head at things sometimes, things parents do to their children in the name of Christ. Santa and all the fun surrounding him is not a misspelling of Satan. Neither does it take away from the true meaning of Christmas, but actually has a way of adding to everything, if the parents themselves would actually keep the true meaning of Christmas at the center. That isn’t the saltiness. No the salt, the living sacrifice is often rather than an embrace of love and forgiveness when it hurts to forgive, when that child perhaps has given into temptations they would have done better to avoid. Because the salt with which Christ salts us with is the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit, when he joins us to his death and resurrection and baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord Amen. 

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