An extemporaneous version of this sermon was preached on Sunday, September 30.
The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews
30 September 2018
St. Joseph-St. John Episcopal Church
Proper 21 / Pentecost +19
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today’s text is intense, isn’t it?
The disciples whine
about other people casting demons out in Jesus’ name
but he doesn’t play with them.
Jesus gives quite the dramatic lecture
about parts of our bodies causing us to sin
so that we don’t lead children or people new to the faith astray.
Then Jesus talks about us,
at least to an extent.
“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.”
Many of you know that I like cooking.
I like cooking,
but my first experiences of cooking
I’m familiar with leveling my measurements,
using the back side of a butter knife
up against the flat of my measuring cup or spoon.
Baking is chemistry,
and you don’t want the salt
to stop the yeast from working too soon.
Eyeballing seasoning and spices
is not something I’m great at.
No matter what I make,
Brandon almost always adds a little more salt
and a little more pepper.
No matter what I’m making,
I like to have a specific amount of salt and pepper in the recipe.
I am in awe of Charlotte, Teresa, and even Brandon
taking their ingredients and making a meal
not precisely measuring this or that.
Brandon is usually right.
The added salt doesn’t make the food salty
inasmuch as it brightens and brings out the flavors
of what’s already in the dish.
And Jesus today is calling the disciples,
calling us, to have salt, to be salt, to brighten what’s in us.
I’ve never held on to salt for so long
that it’s lost its saltiness.
But my biscuits have not risen
because my baking powder was older than I realized.
Whether it’s salt that’s lost its flavor
or baking powder that’s lost its oomf,
there’s only one thing to do when it goes.
Throw it out.
We’re at a place in our lives together
of asking what have we done in the past
that isn’t flavorful or effective anymore.
What do we need to throw out and get more of?
What do we need to replace?
At the last Bishop’s Committee meeting
someone talked about needing to find our heart.
They said something to the effect of we’ve lost our heart.
We’ve lost our saltiness,
we’ve lost the oompf that makes biscuits rise
and the salt that brightens the world around us.
We still do good work!
But the old ways of doing things
have gotten us to where we are.
If you find yourself saying,
“We’ve always done…” or
“We’ve never done….” try to say “Look where we are now.”
You can bet I will be!
Like with old salt or baking powder,
we're going to have to throw some of them out.
Last Sunday during coffee hour formation
we talked about two kinds of problems
and how different kinds of solutions have to match those.
Today we’ll be looking at problems we face
and asking whether they’re technical or adaptive problems
and how to generate technical or adaptive solutions
that match the problems.
Today we’ll be asking what’s lost its salt?
We’ll be asking what needs throwing out,
and what needs replacing with something new.
Simply cutting payroll expenditures,
starting with mine tomorrow,
isn’t a way of finding our heart or finding salt for our lives together.
It may get us through the short-term
but have salt in ourselves, and being at peace with one another
is going to take changing whole systems,
and that usually faces resistance.
That’s where our passage today starts:
the disciples resisting salt in the world around them
as someone who wasn’t part of their merry band
was casting out demons in Jesus’ name.
Jesus doesn’t want to hear those complaints though.
He’s not interested in winners and losers.
We heard last week that he’s not interested
in people fighting for power
or arguing over who is right.
This week we get more of that:
Casting out demons is a good thing.
Doing it in Jesus’ name is a good thing.
As Jesus says,
“Whoever is not against us is for us.”
As we go through the next few months
finding new ways of being together,
throwing out salt that’s lost its flavor
I hope we’ll remember Jesus saying that.
What we’re working to do is cast out demons, beloved:
demons of hunger and loneliness in our community
and demons of despair, anxiety, and scarcity in our congregation.
I pray that we’ll listen deeply
and hear that whoever is not against us is for us.
I pray that we’ll hear suggestions or decisions as looking for salt.
I pray that in doing that,
we not complain to Jesus about someone moving our cheese,
but that we might have salt in ourselves and be at peace with one another. Amen.
The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews
Proper 19, B
St. Joseph-St. John, Lakewood
16 September 2018
In the name of the Crucified and Resurrected Christ. Amen.
This is a great text!
It has so much!
Jesus asks the disciples,
“Who do people say that I am?”
They give a host of answers,
Peter gets it right
but Jesus says “Don’t talk about me.”
Then Jesus predicts his own death for the first time
and Peter says that it can’t happen.
Then Jesus tells the crowd
that following him means taking up a cross,
dying to the way life has existed.
There’s a lot going on this week!
I tend to not have three point sermons,
but I think today lends itself to one,
particularly as we find ourselves in financial crisis
asking ourselves what following Jesus looks like.
Our passage starts today
with just Jesus and the disciples.
Jesus asks “Who do people say that I am?”
The disciples have heard people talking about Jesus.
Some say that he’s John the Baptizer,
a rowdy prophet who got attention
said that religious leaders were a brood of vipers
and told crowds of strangers that they needed to repent.
Others say that Jesus is Elijah,
a prophet and miracle worker who didn’t die
and who insisted on worshipping the God
of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Others say some other prophet.
Jesus asks who the disciples say he is,
and Peter says the Messiah,
the anointed one,
the one come to free Israel and humanity.
In following Jesus our savior
it's important for us to remember
that Jesus is the savior.
If we are to have revival and revitalization
like those led by John the Baptizer and Elijah,
we will need to ask
“Who do people say that we are?”
And we’ll have to ask “Who do we say that we are?”
The crowds didn’t know who Jesus was,
but he did —
and Peter understood it too…
at least to a point.
Because that’s where things take a turn.
This is the first time in Mark’s gospel
that Jesus tells the disciples he’s going to die
and that after he dies he’ll be raised from the dead.
“He said all this quite openly,”
as the text says.
When Peter said that Jesus was the Messiah,
he wasn’t looking for someone to die
and maybe come back to life.
He was looking for someone to stir things up
maybe get rid of the Roman oppressors.
Peter can’t imagine a savior
who is going to die.
Jesus rebukes Peter
for his lack of imagination.
This is one of the most well-known passages
in the New Testament.
Jesus calls Peter Satan,
Jesus rebukes Peter for
“Setting his mind not on divine things
but on earthly things.”
Peter is so focused on his friend,
one the person he’s gotten to be familiar with,
on his comfort in how things are
that he challenges the person he just called Messiah.
Jesus is having none of it,
knowing why he’d come to earth
and knowing that his mission included death --
For us following Jesus in Lakewood in the 21stCentury
we need to wonder how much our minds
are focused on earthly or heavenly things.
Following Jesus in 2018
means asking what’s best not only for us
but for the whole of the church
and for the whole of the community.
It’s asking if we’re sticking to what we know as familiar
or willing to go new places.
That’s where the third part of our text
overlaps with a third piece of work we have.
After telling just his closest followers
that he will die and be raised in three days
Jesus tells everyone that if they want to follow him
they will have to die to the ways they live.
“If any want to become my followers,
let them deny themselves
and take up their cross and follow me.
For those who want to save their life will lose it,
and those who lose their life for my sake,
and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”
At Mass in the Grass I preached
that following Jesus leads one place.
Jesus tells us where that is today:
taking up a cross,
like he did on the road to Calvary,
Following Jesus right now for us
will mean dying to something,
one way or another.
It will definitely mean dying
to barely making payroll and paying bills.
It may mean dying to not pledging
It must mean dying to
not inviting those we know and encounter to join us at church.
Having experienced the resurrected Christ,
finding new life in this body and at this table,
feasting on Christ’s body
we will have to share that Good News with others.
“For those who want to save their life will lose it,
and those who lose their life for my sake,
and for the sake of the gospel,
will save it.”
How do we need to die,
so that we might find resurrection life? Amen.