01 October 2015

Homily at Matins, Thursday of Pentecost 18 (Mark 9:38–50)

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Just when you think you might have some clue about what our Lord is talking about, He throws in a real zinger:

"For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if it has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."

What has fire to do with salt? Why will everyone be salted with fire? What does it mean to have salt in yourselves? And what does it have to do with peace with each other?

Remember these words from the Torah:

"With all your offerings you shall offer salt." Salt went with the incense that was burned on the fire as a sweet smelling aroma, pleasing to the Lord. Salt went with the grain offerings that Israel offered to thank God for His mercies. Salt went with every sacrifice that was laid on the Lord's altar.

Ah, does it begin to make sense, then? Everyone will be salted with fire. Everyone is to be an offering. Every life given back to the Lord. So in Luther's baptismal liturgy of 1523, the priest was instructed: He shall now take the child, put salt into his mouth, and say: N., receive the salt of wisdom. May it aid thee to eternal life. Amen. Peace be with thee. 

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

Salt goes with every sacrifice. And in Baptism, you have been given back to the Father as a sacrifice. But for that sacrifice to be pleasing, it needs the salt. What is that salt? Is it not the Lord Jesus Himself? Is HE not the salt that makes of your life an acceptable offering to the Lord? 

St. Ignatius thought so. When writing to the Magnesians he said: "Let us not therefore be insensible to His kindness, for if He were to reward us according to OUR works, we would be done for.... Lay aside therefore the old sour leaven and be changed into the new leaven which is Christ. Be salted in Him, lest any of you should be corrupted, since by your odor you will be recognized." 

As blind Isaac smelled the fragrance of His older son and so bestowed the blessing upon Jacob, clothed in his older brother's garments, so Your mother the Church has wrapped you up in the garments of Jesus in your baptism and presented you as an offering to the Father, salted with Christ, and He smells His Son's odor upon you, no scent of corruption, and blesses you with every blessing that is Christ's. 

As His baptized, Jesus summons you to see your whole life a sacrifice of thanksgiving to His Father, and that the sacrifice may be acceptable, He reaches you the salt, Himself! And it is only when your life is such a sacrifice, a gift received and then offered back to the Father, salted thoroughly with the Son of God and His own pure life of love, that we can then have the last bit of that reading: "be at peace with one another." 

Peace with one another comes not as something you chase after, but only as a by-product of lives offered to the Father in the Son and by the Spirit. Let me say that even more bluntly: Koinonia must first be koinonia with HIM and only then can there be koinonia and peace between brothers. Only as your life is offered in sacrifice to the Father and salted with Christ can you have peace with each other.

We used to confess our lives as offering all the time in the general prayer. I miss those prayers. A lot. Do you remember these words? Receive, O God, our bodies and souls, and all our talents, together with the offerings we bring before thee, for by His blood Thy Son hath purchased us to be thine own, that we might live under Him in His kingdom. Or this one: Accept, we beseech thee, O God, our bodies and souls, our hearts and minds, our talents and powers, together with the offerings we bring before thee as our humble service. 

We used to pray one or the other of those every single week, and so our liturgy reminded us constantly that our very lives were not our own. Rather, in Christ we have been offered, consecrated, made holy to the Father, acceptable by the blood. Salted with the fire of Calvary and so well-pleasing to our heavenly Father.

When your life is His, not yours, then peace is simply the gift in which you live. Peace with Him through Christ. By Thee are given the gifts of heaven! Peace with one another through the Spirit. The salt of Christ holding at bay the corruption of sin and making you fragrant with His love. 

You know, maybe its time to dust off those old prayers and put them to use again. 

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you.