Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost September 30, 2018

Karin Liebster
Pastor for Faith Formation

Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29
Psalm 19:7-14
James 5:13-20
Mark 9:38-50

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

Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

Dear friends, we have come here to this place today trusting that it lets us find solace, hope, peace. Peace within us and peace among us.

Have salt in yourselves, disciples, and be at peace with one another.

After this week’s events in the nation’s capital, we find ourselves yearning for a secure pilot, something we can focus our attention on to understand what it is that is actually going on, and – something to pilot a way forward.Sisters and brothers, brothers and sisters, everyone who followed the Senate judiciary committee’s proceedings this week regarding the accusations of Dr. Blasey Ford against Judge Kavanaugh will be upset, left with deeply unsettling insecurity, and the question, whom and what can I still trust? It is too early to know the full scope and consequences for the nation, for the institutions of the nation, for our life together.

Unfailingly though the gospel, the Word of God that is Jesus Christ, as testified to in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments proves to be source of insight, source of guidance, pilot. We can throw our arms around it in complete trust like children throw themselves onto a loving parent. Our readings for this day, after this week, affirm the good old Lutheran trust in the Word of God: In his 95 theses Martin Luther says about the treasure of the church: “The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.” (Thesis 62)

This most holy Word of God assures us today of several gifts that are pertinent to our situation. First the gift of the spirit.

Moses in the desert is overburdened with the people whom he leads from Mt. Sinai on the long trek to the promised land. So God has Moses institute a circle of 72 leaders. Then they all receive a share of the spirit that God has given Moses. Not only does the sharing of the spirit not diminish Moses’ spirit, but is instead plentiful just like one candle spreads light to many and they fill the whole room with light. In addition, the spirit, the power to do God’s work jumps the fence and works through people outside the camp and even through people unknown.

Sisters and brothers, we may rest assured, the spirit of God is with us, it is not less, not thinner, less efficacious or more rare. It works within our circles and without.

Second is the gift of language and word, favorite vehicles by the way for God’s spirit to accomplish its work.

The epistle of James had warned us two weeks ago or so about the fire that is our tongue and of the evil that can come out of our mouths and hearts.

Now the same James presents the congregation with the power of word and language for the good. The same tongue promotes healing through various ways of speech: talking with each other, listening intently without judgment, confessing, praying, anointing, forgiving. All these are functions of language, speech and word. They bear the promise of healing and salvation by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Assured that there is plenty of spirit to go around to assist our discernment, assured of the healing quality of trusted talk, confession and forgiveness in the name of Christ, we thirdly are reminded by Christ of the treasure of peace. Just in time today, as we are so anxious and distracted and discouraged whether we will ever have peace with one another again.

“Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.” While Jesus says these words to the disciples, he still has a child in his arms, the same one he picked up last week, when he said, “whoever welcomes one such child in my name, welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me, welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” He never put it down, not even in the distraction caused by John’s concern that someone not a sanctioned disciple cast out demons in Jesus’ name.

Jesus’ word to us to be at peace with one another is qualified by the child in his arm, on his hip. He rocks the child and says, if any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones, it would be better for that one to have a millstone put around their neck and thrown into the sea and sleep with the fishes.

We have to ask ourselves, sisters and brothers, which type of peace is Jesus talking about? Which one will heal and reconcile us?

With the child in his arms Jesus says, this peace includes the vulnerable, the one without rights, the silenced, anyone ever stripped of their inalienable rights of dignity and humanity.

We shall not break the trust of any one such person, or else, the millstone.

Jesus knows how hard a time we have to be truly welcoming and to not put stumbling blocks in the path of those who are the no-ones and no-bodies in our society.

The cost for us, the cost for our humanity/society when we do not welcome the ones who represent the real presence of Christ’s suffering and rising in our midst, the cost is high: three times Jesus states that it is preferable to lose a scandalizing member than gaining a place in the eternal fire where the wicked languish. A strong warning, driven by the desire for peace and reflecting the degree of harm done to ourselves when we continue to care only for ourselves and do not break open the circle.

Peace, sisters and brothers, becomes the work of reconciliation and truth, the hard work of healing, that can only happen when we trust, in God, in God’s promises, in God’s presence in the sacrament of Christ’s real presence.

Be at peace with one another. It begins here with us and draws its wide circles, jumps the fence, beyond our boundaries. For that have salt in yourselves, meaning, be faithful, do not get distracted by self-serving motives; faithfulness is your seasoning, faithful to Christ who lost his life to give us new life for his sake.

Jesus’ reminder to collect ourselves, to have salt and be at peace, is a call to refocus, make use of the Holy Spirit’s power for discernment, and remember the simple yet unique healing power of speaking, hearing, confessing and forgiving. Be at peace, is our third treasure today.

So, let us give thanks. Thanks and grateful praise to God for the unfailing gift and treasure of the gospel. Solace, hope, refocus, and peace.