You Have Enough Salt
On a late Saturday morning several months ago I was enjoying a delicious brunch in a lovely downtown restaurant. I had just finished the last bite of some really good pancakes when a young man approached our table and said “excuse me?”
He was a bus boy – but he wasn’t a boy and I hadn’t asked him to come over nor had he been serving or clearing our table – and I said – Hi?
“I just came over because I wanted to thank you for your sweatshirt. I’ve been having a hard time lately and that says exactly what I needed to hear this morning. I just wanted to say thanks.”
And having completely forgotten the sweatshirt I was wearing replied – You are most welcome. And then I remembered.
I love this sweatshirt 1) its black – I like wearing all black 2) it’s the kind that’s really soft on the inside and 3) of course, I bought it for what it says on the outside. When I found it in the store I immediately thought to myself – “I want to buy every single one” and “Are you really such a dork that you are going to walk around wearing this?”
My sweatshirt reads – You are enough. Always have been. Always will be.
I know it’s a message I need to hear most mornings. I believe it’s a message most of us need to hear most mornings. And the joy of being an evangelist – because I believe those words are the good news of God and say everything about why I follow Jesus – without having to say any of that – for someone to say thank you is a gift for me, that feeling of “thanks God” for the small moments and small ways you bring people together.
I remembered this joyful moment of gratitude when I was feeling somewhat ungrateful for this morning’s gospel text. It’s one of those you read and think, ugh, this again. Harsh words for a hard teaching.
You have to chop away at literalness this text – to get to the good stuff – the salt – the love that grounds the teaching. Which I believe is a frustrated Jesus saying - You are enough, disciples. You already have what it takes. Don’t worry so much about everyone else. You do not need to be the gatekeepers for God’s work in the world.
The disciples worry so much about what other people think - and what other people will think of them in following Jesus. Part of discipleship is examining these motivations – again and again and again. What stumbling blocks get in the way of our integrating the good news of God – into our thinking, feeling and being.
Peter doesn’t want a king who is going to be sacrificed, who is going to lose in the eyes of the world. Jesus says – I am not losing – I am gaining everything for everyone. It’s a different mindset – a different way of seeing and being in the world.
The disciples want to know who will be the greatest. Jesus says – your definition of great is not God’s. God’s greatness is found in mercy, justice, forgiveness, and love. The last will be first and the first will be last.
And now the disciples think there is a competition.
The disciple sees someone casting out demons in God’s name – doing what they do – and start comparing themselves to him. Is he doing this right? Is he doing this better? What will people think if anyone can do this stuff?
And so they tell him to stop. Until Jesus stops them. Stops them from getting in the way of God at work in the world – because of the stumbling blocks that motivate cutting another person off.
I know, or I’m pretty sure, we all understand that Jesus is not telling us to cut off our limbs when we get in God’s way. But it sounds like we do have to lose somethings – let go of parts of ourselves that cause us to stumble – or cause us to speak, be, act in away that cuts off others – from knowing just how good enough they already are.
I can tell you the story of sweatshirt and I can also tell you the story of Starbucks. Years ago, back when I would never have worn a sweatshirt like that because I would be way to worried about what other people thought of my sweatshirt. And because no one needs to be told that – they are either enough or they’re not – and if they’re not – they should get there act together.
I was meeting some colleagues but wasn’t wearing my clericals. And I don’t remember the reason why, I was either given the wrong drink – or the right drink in the wrong amount of time – or both – I don’t know, it doesn’t matter.
I just remember getting in my car and voice inside, with clear conviction saying, “Wow. Bet you wouldn’t have done that if you were wearing your collar.”
That was true. It was a little epiphany about the ongoing work – work I had started but needed to keep doing. The work of reconciliation - cynicism and overly critical part of myself I wanted to get rid – I wish its as easy as chopping off.
All of us have our own parts that we want to – sometimes know – it’s time to let go of. Time to heal from, maybe. To live more fully as the good enough disciple God has salted us to be.
In Mark’s gospel alongside all the excising of demons - of taking out the bad stuff so that people can be reconciled to themselves and their community – alongside those actions Jesus is always teaching - look inside you.
It’s not what goes in to a person that defiles he says - it’s what comes out - everything that comes out of a person reveals the intentions of their heart.
When the disciples argue about who is the greatest - they share that because Jesus says - tell me what’s on your heart - I can tell something is bothering you.
And when he is in a sacred space teaching - he says - these people they’re listening - but their hearts are far from me.
Maybe that is why four centuries after Jesus - St. Augustine wrote a book that became a foundational text for understanding Christianity. His Confessions - I don’t know if it was the first - but certainly one of the earliest memoirs. A genre that will always be popular. Augustine confessed - discussed how hard it was to reconcile his heart with ways of God - famously saying - yes God use me - but not yet.
The stumbling blocks are within our heart. What are some of yours? What keeps you from the good stuff sometimes - the salt - the ways in which God has seasoned you to share God’s love in your world?
St. Paul also wrestled with his stumbling blocks - why God do I do what I know I ought not to do - and he was St. Paul. And so he also prays for people - prays for himself and the communities he loves with the words - I pray that you may see with the eyes of your heart, enlightened. And we hear Jesus this morning – good enough people that we are saying – reconcile your hearts – have salt in yourself – so that we can be at peace with ourselves and one another. Amen.