This probably won’t happen every morning, but something I am trying as a Lenten discipline is to take a little time each morning and write a brief reflection on the gospel text from the daily lectionary cycle. Today’s reflection is based on the reading from Mark 9:42-50.
Last summer I worked with a program at the Connecticut UCC’s Silver Lake Camp and Conference Center. The particular program I worked with was centered around Matthew’s version of some of the verses in this reading: “You are the salt of the earth, meant to bring out the God-flavors in the world, but if salt has lost its flavor, what good is it anymore? You are the light of the world, meant to show the God-colors of the world, but a light cannot be hidden,” etc.
Matthew’s version of these verses is a bit more happy. The church is supposed to be the spice of life, bringing a vibrant and interesting flavor to the world around us.
Mark puts the same idea in a much more stark context: it’s better to cut off your hand than be thrown into hell. Well, yes, I would say, if those are my only options, one does have a slightly less cosmic ring to it…
But neither sounds pleasant.
And then at the end there is this little aside that we can almost take as a retort: “Everyone will be salted with fire.”
I think its important to remember that this section begins with the admonition to not put a stumbling block in front of “these little ones who believe in me.” The references to hands and feet and eyes causing us to stumble are, I take it, all references to ways in which we get in the way of others connecting with God. It’s a reference to all the little quirks in our character which might interject themselves in the life of our communities.
But, we say, all those little character quirks, they are what make us interesting. I mean, really, what’s a church meeting without at least at least a few fireworks?
“Everyone will be salted with fire.” It’s the fire that keeps things interesting, that charcoal flavor that brings out the best of the barbeque.
To which Jesus responds: “But if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
I believe whole-heartedly that we are not meant to all be the same.
Jesus doesn’t call us to conform to some cookie-cutter model of “the perfect Christian.” We are all unique, we all have our own “flavor” to bring to the table.
And that is a good thing. “Have salt in yourselves.”
But apply too much heat and no amount of salt can bring back the flavor of whatever it is you’re cooking.
So “be at peace with one another,” lest all that flavor be for nothing.