Our Heart's Meditation - Sam Buehrer - SylvaniaUCC - Sept302018
September 30, 2018
Sermon “Our Hearts Meditation” September 30, 2018
by Samuel Buehrer
1The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
2Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.
3There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard;
4yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,
5which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
6Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hid from its heat.
7The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple;
8the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes;
9the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.
11Moreover by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
12But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults.
13Keep back your servant also from the insolent; do not let them have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
33Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
38John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39But 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. 40Whoever is not against us is for us. 41For 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.
42“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. 43If 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. 45And 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. 47And 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, 48where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
49“For everyone will be salted with fire. 50Salt 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.”
Sermon “Our Hearts Meditation” September 30, 2018
by Samuel Buehrer
Today’s text from Mark has some very strong images…hanging millstones around ones neck (One would have drowned if this were the case)…Hands and feet being cut off, eyes torn out, all because of causing a little one to stumble. Jesus uses some pretty strong metaphors to drive home his point of how important he sees it that one does not place stumbling blocks that would keep someone from believing in God.
Several years ago when I first came to Sylvania UCC, Marcus Borg was here as part of the lecture series. During his lecture, he talked about folk that have left the faith saying that they no longer believed in God. Borg said that he learned to respond to those who said that by saying, “Tell me about the God you no longer believe in and I will tell you about the God that I no longer believe in.” More often than not the God that they could no longer believe in was the very same God that Borg had also given up. That is a God of wrath and judgement. Once they realized that Borg was with them in their disbelief, the door was opened to experiencing the God that Borg had come to know, a God of extravagant mercy and love.
Jesus was constantly struggling against those who had put stumbling blocks in front of people of faith as you can tell by the scripture test today. These stumbling blocks were keeping good people of faith from being at peace with themselves and with one another. These metaphors about millstones and body parts are pretty straight forward in meaning. But what does the metaphor of salt mean when he says, 49“For everyone will be salted with fire. 50Salt 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.” For most of us if not all of us, because we do not live in the time of Jesus, we have no idea what the metaphor of salt means. It turns out that a parallel meaning to “have salt” is to “be at peace.” In the Old Testament salt is a symbol of the covenant. One of the clearest texts about this is Leviticus 2:13b “Do not let the salt of the covenant of your God be lacking from your cereal offering.” In Numbers 18:19 the everlasting covenant is called a “covenant of salt” (see also 2 Chronicles 13:5). The background of this idea, likely lies in the sharing of salt in a meal (Ezra 4:14). To share salt with someone is to share fellowship with that person, to be in covenant with that person.1 To be the salt of the earth is to be a covenant person, one who embodies the peace and the mercy of God, the love of God in their life and in their interactions with one another. Thus, Mark uses the passage about salt to address the argument the disciples were having with one another at the beginning of this passage, an argument about who was greater than the other. The image of the salt was to remind them that the issue was not who was greater but the real issue was how to be at peace with one another.
Let me share a story that speaks of a time when a community of faith had lost its saltiness and then how it was transformed into a people who became the salt of the earth, a people known for peace.
Once there was a monastery in the woods that had fallen upon hard times. In the past, it had been a thriving community that was well known and respected throughout the region, but over the last generation the monks had died one by one and there were no new vocations to replace them. Besides this, the monks did not seem to be as friendly to each other. Something just was not right. The Father Abbot, the head of the monastery, was quite concerned about the future of the monastery, now consisting of himself and three brothers. Thus, he sought counsel from a local rabbi who was well known to be a great sage. The abbot went to the rabbi and asked him if he had any advice on what to do to save the monastery. The rabbi felt at a loss and said that he, too, worried about his own congregation; people were too busy and simply were not coming to the synagogue any longer. The two commiserated together and read the Torah. As the abbot was getting ready to return home the rabbi looked at him and said, “One in your home is the Messiah.” The abbot walked home puzzled as to what the rabbi’s words meant.
When he arrived at the monastery, the monks asked the abbot what he had learned. He responded that the rabbi had given him no concrete advice, but he had said in cryptic language, “One in your home is the Messiah.” Over the next days and weeks, the monks pondered what this might mean. Was it possible that one of them was the Messiah? If that was the case, then most certainly it was the Father Abbot. He had been the leader for more than a generation. On the other hand, it might be Brother Thomas, for he is a holy man and full of light. Certainly it could not be Brother Eldred. He is old, crotchety, and often mean-spirited, but he always seems to be right, no matter what the situation or question. The rabbi could not have meant Brother Philip. He is passive - a real nobody. But one has to admit that he is always there when someone needs assistance.
As they continued to contemplate this question, the old monks began to treat each other with great respect, on the off chance that the one with whom they were dealing really was the Messiah. They again began to live the gospel message. The monastery was a much more prayerful place once again.
Because the monastery was located in a beautiful portion of the forest, it was common during the spring, summer, and fall months for families to come and have picnics on the grounds. During this period, people who came seemed to sense the new spirit of respect and love that was present at the monastery. The people returned often and one day a young man came to the Father Abbot and asked if he could join the community. Soon others inquired and joined and after several years the vibrant community at the monastery was again restored because the wisdom of the rabbi had transformed hearts. The monks had once again started to live lives according to the golden rule, that is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” all because they were seeing the Messiah in the other.
The monks had become the salt of the earth, a community that embodied peace in all that they did. May it be so with us and may we become known far and wide for the way we live in peace with one another because we have learned to look for the Messiah that is in the other.
1The Bartimaeus Effect, Travis Meier, 2015