Monday, October 1, 2012

Have Salt in Yourselves


September 30, 2012
Pentecost XVIII
Fr. Philip D. Eberhart

 
HAVE SALT IN YOURSELVES
click here for audio
 
Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29
Psalm 19:7-14
James 5:13-20
Mark 9:38-50

 

     “Grant us the fullness of Your Grace” was the petitionary portion of our opening collect, our opening prayer this morning…” that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure.”
     Lord, that is indeed our prayer – for the Fullness of Your Grace – in our lives, in our church and in our land, today and in the days that follow, as we LIVE from the place of GRACE, and we pray, so let us be Salt and Light to those around us, that we may be known to shine Your Light and to be a people who bring Your Presence wherever we go.
In Jesus Name we ask it.  Amen

 

 

Living from the place of grace

I’m not sure that I’ve ever connected Grace with “salt” before in my thinking, but as I studied the scriptures this week, a link became more and more clear. 

Salt is an ancient, ancient symbol.  It is, in the OT, a symbol for the covenant that God’s people have with the Living God. (Num 18:19; 2 Chron 13:5) It is used to seal the making of covenant and to symbolize the keeping of covenant, with each sacrifice, as salt is added to the sacrifice.  Salt is added to the grain of the offerings, not to preserve it, but to symbolize the ongoing nature of the relationship out of which the sacrifices come!

Salt is still today, an important part of the symbolic items that Near Eastern peoples use to signify commitment to one another and continuity of relationship.  It is an emblem of fidelity and friendship, when you “eat of a person’s salt.”

In the NT, Jesus takes up the symbolic meaning and fills it in a bit more.  He uses it in his teaching to refer to the believing community itself (Matt 5:13ff);  He uses it to refer, in our reading from Mark this morning, to the character and condition of our hearts.  In Jesus teaching, it is symbolic of the kind of spiritual health and vigor essential to real Christian virtue and its ability to counteract the corruption of the world.

So how can such attributes be seen as connected somehow to “grace?”

Paul actually makes the connection, in his letter to Colosse.  Verse 6 of chapter 4 says, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”

In our readings this morning, both from the OT and in the Gospel we see this grace on display in Moses and Jesus attitude toward those who were accused by, shall we say, the “insiders.”  Both Moses and Jesus set an example of “letting their speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt”

Moses answer was, Would that all the LORD's people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!"


Grace and mercy triumph over judgment in each of these examples, as the teacher in each case, draws a wider circle by Grace; one that includes those others who may not have come into the kingdom by our prescribed method or who are working in the kingdom, apart from our prescribed group!

Jesus, in fact, here gives us a stern warning against that kind of judgment – the kind that becomes a stumbling block for someone who is innocently following Jesus, doing His works, and believing in His Name.

This kind of thing is, in fact, one of the mainstays in the modern critique of the church – that we are judgmental and fake, having given up the necessary character and authenticity to speak with authority in our society and culture!  The Church has lost its voice!

Jesus asked the question of his followers, in fact, early on, in using the metaphor of salt!  In our reading, Jesus puts the question:  Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."

In the Matthew account of this same exchange, Jesus adds, “it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”

And that is exactly the experience of the modern Western church that has been enculturated and that seeks to be more and more accommodating to the whims and whispers of the culture, rather than to the Words and Ways of God.

 
So, where does salt come from?

Where does the kind of inner “salt” that Jesus speaks of in these accounts come from?  How does one get “salty?”  What does that even mean?

I was struck by that phrase when I first heard it – someone described as “salty”  -  a “salty Christian.”

I asked one time, when a friend used that turn of phrase – she said:  “Its when you’re around someone and you come away from them thirsty for Jesus!”

YEAH!  That’s what I want Lord!!

It became a kind of cry of my heart.  And I think that that is the kind of cry that God hears and answers!

Look back with me at our Psalm for today:

Verse 10 is the chorus of the song we sing from these verses:

            More to be desired are they than gold,

            Yea than much fine gold,

            Sweeter also than the honey,

            In the honeycomb!

 
Where does the salt come from?

From Here:  (The Bible)  From the Word of God

Listen again to what we just read:

7

The law of the LORD is perfect
and revives the soul; *
the testimony of the LORD is sure
and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8

The statutes of the LORD are just
and rejoice the heart; *
the commandment of the LORD is clear
and gives light to the eyes.

9

The fear of the LORD is clean
and endures for ever; *
the judgments of the LORD are true
and righteous altogether.

Listen to the descriptors David uses:

Perfect

            Sure

                        Just

                                    Clear

                                                Clean

                                                            True

And to the effects:

Revives the Soul

            Gives wisdom to the innocent

                        Rejoice the Heart

                                    Gives light to the eyes

                                                Endures forever

                                                            Righteous altogether.

Salt anyone?

“By keeping them is your servant enlightened (or warned)

  And in keeping them there is great reward.”

And so we pray with the psalmist:

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart

Be acceptable in your sight, O LORD,

My strength and my redeemer!”

So what exactly is the Salt that we are to get inside of us?

The Law of the Lord

            The Testimony of the Lord

                        The Statutes of the Lord

                                    The Commandment of the Lord

                                                The Fear of the Lord

                                                            The Judgments of the Lord
 
In Psalm 119:9, at the beginning of what is the greatest chapter in the Bible on the Bible itself, David asks a simple question:

 How can a young man (or woman) keep their way PURE?

And he answers:  “By keeping it (his way) according to Your Word.”

And in the two verses that follow:With all my heart I have sought You; do not let me wander from Your commandments.Your Word I have treasured (hidden) in my heart, That I may not sin against You.

That word “to treasure” means to hide or to store up.  Like “buried treasure.”

 
Have salt in yourselves!”

Where does the salt come from?   HERE, the Word of God

And how does it get inside us?   “Hear, Read, Mark, Learn, and Inwardly Digest” to use the phrases of the prayerbook.

Friends, if we are serious about our personal walk with God, about our corporate life as the People of God and about our National Life, as “One Nation, Under God”

Then this is where we must turn.

We live in the most biblically illiterate culture in the world.  How is that possible?

With the Bible being the best selling book of all time, so much so that they don’t even put it on the best seller lists, cause nothing else would ever even get a look in.

Every family and household in America has an average of 6 bibles.

And to quote a dear saint who will remain unnamed, “I have a stack of these things at home, but NO ONE ever told me I was supposed to read it!”

Read it friends!!

This Bible is the salt mine!!

Amen.

From the collect that I mentioned before, Let us pray:

 
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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