19th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 21, Year B)
O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
“For everyone will be salted with fire. 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.”
It was early afternoon when I peeked through the doors leading to the church. The stained glass windows radiated soft colors onto the carpet and pews. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the afternoon’s lunch, this group had found a quiet place.
Alisha and John were sitting together on the floor, with John’s toddler son playing with some blocks and toys while his baby sister moved through time of sleepiness and fussiness. When I entered, it was fussiness. John’s friend, a sort of “baby-whisperer” stepped in to calm the infant, who was getting tired and inconsolable. It was both a peaceful and a restless scene…one that reminded me that this delicate balance act of love and care is both ages old and unique to this moment.
Let me be honest: I’m not going to post the interview for this week, because the time Alisha and John spent was more filled with human-kindness, gently received stories of life with infants: the relationship challenges, the economic struggles, the constant feeling that one just can’t always provide everything we would want to provide for one’s offspring. And yet, love. They were sharing, as people do, the depth of beauty and challenge of this life. Moments of doubt. Moments of hopefulness. Deep, abiding, and trust love in a providential God who is with us and sustains us.
It occurs to me this week as I reflect on this scene and this Gospel that it is the salt of this life that gives it flavor: the crying babies, the struggles to maintain one’s integrity when life is difficult, the beauty of discovering people who genuinely care about you and will align on your side, as John puts it, “without expecting one thing in return, which is how you know its real.”
It can be very easy to think only with a transactional sense of relationship in our society: you do this, I give you this. But that is not Jesus’ way. Jesus gives without expectation of return. When I look at this scene again through the lens of divine love and grace, it is filled with that selfless love: friends caring for friends, people being present for people, communities opening their doors to feed those who hunger, listening ears eager to hear whatever is spoken and not to force an agenda, honest words spoken and received in trust. So much love, so much salt; so much life, so much peace.
Discover the gift of salt in the world around you today, and may you be filled with God’s peace.