Be Salty 9-27-15

In this sermon, based on Mark 9:38-50 I explore Jesus instruction that we be salty, and its importance as we celebrate the baptism of one of the “little ones.”

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

My wife is a cook…period. She just is. I like food…a lot…period…We are a good match. And because of this mutual interest in both the preparation as well as the consumption of food, we tend to have Food Network on tv quite a bit.

Now over the course of the past several years, I’ve noticed a change in the typical programming on Food Network…especially during primetime in the evenings…There used to be a lot of shows dedicated to some well-known chef preparing food on camera, simply for the enjoyment of the viewer. Perhaps the most famous one being the Italian Chef Emeril Lagasse…and his signature catch phrase of “BAM!” as he added some seasoning to whatever dish he was currently making.

But now…the trend has moved more towards various cooking competition shows where various chefs and cooks compete round by round, enduring strange challenges and celebrity judge critiques to emerge as the champion.

Perhaps the most well known of these newer shows is one called Chopped where the contestants have to utilize mystery ingredients found in their baskets to prepare a signature dish for each round. And then after each and every round, one of them hears the dreaded words “I’m sorry, you’ve been chopped.”

Its all very dramatic…and of course the editing of the show prior to its viewing certainly helps…but as the clock counts down, you better get your food on the plate…and it better include every one of those mystery ingredients…because if you miss one, you are almost certain to be the next victim on the chopping block.

But all that being said…I often find that it’s the critiques of the judges that lend to the most drama…and by far, there are two main criticisms that pop up the most often. The first is that the food is overcooked…and the second, is the dreaded critique that your food, is under seasoned…bland…blaw. (pause)

Now certainly there are many different kinds of seasonings…one trip down the spice aisle in the grocery store will show you that…but the most common spice…and what I’ve heard chef after chef say…is the most important spice is salt…because salt brings out the natural flavors found within the food itself. (pause) So all you aspiring chefs out there…remember…salt is your friend.

And salt…is of course, where I’m going to jump into today’s lesson…because at the end of quite a bit of random teaching from Jesus…we hear him say these words…For everyone will be salted with fire….and have salt in yourselves…in short…be salty. (pause)
Now to be sure…today’s lesson offers a pretty mixed bag of topics…which, if you’ve caught the past couple of weeks here in Mark chapter 9, has sorta been the theme…as Jesus and the disciples make their way around the area…and Jesus continues to teach them…we seem to hear a lot of random tidbits that really don’t seem to be connected all that well.

It all starts off with John tattling on some random exorcist…some random unnamed guy that has caught wind of Jesus’ ability to cast out demons and so he has started to captilize…casting out demons in the name of Jesus…and John tells on him.
JESUS!!!! WE SAW SOMEONE…AND HE SHOULDN’T BE DOING THIS…HE’S NOT ONE OF US…TELL HIM TO STOP. (pause) Gosh John…I’ve heard the same sort of thing out of my kids when they’re bickering…and Jesus reaction is probably about the same as mine. HEY…YOU WORRY ABOUT YOU…HE’S NOT HURTING ANYTHING.

It would seem in this first exchange, Jesus is reminding the disciples…and probably us as well…that no one has the sole authority in the kingdom. Probably a good reminder for us in those times when we like to point our fingers at different denominations. (pause)
But then Jesus switches gears…and he starts talking about the little ones again…and considering that they’re still sitting in the same house as they were a week ago when Jesus bear hugs a random child to prove a point…it would seem that now he’s jumping back into that discussion after John’s little nitpicky moment.

And Jesus tells us…that anyone who makes one of these little ones stumble might as well tie a giant stone around their neck and jump in the ocean…and he goes on from there…if your hand makes you stumble…cut it off…your foot? Same deal…your eye…yank that puppy out and get rid of it.

And why? Well, because it is apparently better that you are dead than to make someone else stumble…and better that you remove the temptation rather than making yourself stumble…and in the midst we hear about hell and some worm won’t die and unquenchable fire. (pause) Holy smokes Jesus…you are all over the map today.

But…what if he’s not…and what if this is all connected? (Pause) Let’s back up for a second here…because this all starts with a warning against causing a little one to stumble…now that word stumble is an interesting one…and we hear it quite a few times today…and it actually means a few different things…one is literally a stumbling block…another is to scandalize…or other times we hear it translated as cause to sin. (pause)

And that right there starts to shed some light…any of you who causes another to sin…especially one of these young impressionable children who are looking to you to set an example in life…in faith…in how to live….well if you cause them to sin…you might as well be dead…and why? Well, anyone remember what is the wage of sin? (pause) Paul tells us its death.

And that’s what Jesus is talking about…your hand make you sin? Cut it off…do you wanna be dead or do you want life…and not just life but eternal? (pause)
But here’s the thing…we hear this and maybe we start thinking Okay…so Jesus is telling us that we need to act a certain way…or talk a certain way or think a certain way…or maybe Jesus is telling us to grab a knife and start cutting…but we all know that there is nothing that we can actually do in order to make ourselves good enough…its not about presenting a pretty picture of who we are…and we know that we can’t do anything to change ourselves…we just can’t do it on our own.

But we don’t lose hope either…because there is more to the story…because there is something out there…a power…a force…whatever you want to call it…that can make a difference…that can make a change in our lives…but before I start talking about that…I want to back up to salt again.

Because Jesus tells us to be salty…to have salt amongst us…and think for a bit about just what salt does when you put it on food…because salt doesn’t actually change the food…you put some salt on a burger before you cook it…its still a burger…but when you take a bite of it…it tastes different…you perceive it differently…you encounter it differently…your experience of that burger is different with salt that it would be if there was no salt. (pause) So maybe it the salt doesn’t change the form of the food…but it changes the taste doesn’t it? (pause)

So maybe when Jesus is telling us to be salty he’s really saying that there needs to be something else there with you that changes how you are perceived…how you are experienced…how the world sees you…how the world experiences you.

And that, my friends…is the Holy Spirit…the presence of God in spiritual form…the presence of God within you that makes the gift of faith possible…that makes forgiveness of sins possible…that makes eternal life possible despite anything that we can say or think or do.

The Holy Spirit seasons us…changes us…and yes over time this will result in a change in how we act and how we talk and even how we think but its not anything we do…it’s the power of God within us…seasoning us…changing us. (pause)

Now all that is wonderful…but of course it raises the question of just where does the Spirit come from? How can I get me some of that Spirit stuff? (pause) And while I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit can and does come upon whoever God choses…I also believe the promise that is made that in the waters of our baptism, we receive the gift of the spirit…

That water, splashed on our heads…together with the promises of God spoken over us…received in faith…seasons us in way that simple salt never will…and this is not a one time thing…for each and every day, we remember our baptism…we cling to those promises made to us as individuals that God loves you and God claims you through the power of the Holy Spirit, overcoming the sinful nature that leads to death and grants us eternal life along with him in the age to come.

In just a few moments, Leah Grace Neumann will come to this font, brought by her parents who desire that she receive this promise as her own…that receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…and as the water splashes over her head, then we believe and we confess that this is true. (pause)

But now here’s the thing…I want to come back around to one more point that Jesus made…because I think its important that we remember it. “If any of you puts a stumbling block before one of these little ones, it would be better for you to tie a millstone around your neck and be thrown into the sea.” (pause)

If you’ve sat in these pews during a baptism before…you know that once its over, I take that child in my arms, just as Christ gathers us in his arms…and I walk down the aisle…and more often that not, that sweet little child is staring out at all of you…and you hear me say the words that they will be watching you…and that each and every one of you shares in the promises made for that child…and each and every one of you shares the responsibility of raising that child in faith…and that comes down to your example.

Be different because you have the presence of the Spirit within you…Be different because of what God has done in your life…be seasoned by God’s presence…be salty…not because I told you to or because you’ll earn cosmic brownie points…but because she needs you to be…Amen.

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