Everyone Will Be Salted

Agnus Day appears with the permission of www.agnusday.org
Agnus Day appears with the permission of www.agnusday.org

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22

Psalm 124

James 5:13-20

Mark 9:38-50

 

Xerxes, son of Darius, ruler of Persia and would be conqueror of Greece, was also saddled with the Israelites who had been dragged from their homeland first in 722 BC by the Assyrians, then in 586 BC by the Babylonians. Among that second group was young Mordecai who became God’s favorite prophet. When King Cyris of Persia defeated Babalyon in 539 BC, the king also took over rule of the captured people.

Some fifty years later when Xerxes needed a new queen, God arranged through Mordecai for Hadassah/Ester to be in the process and to be chosen. As queen, Ester was able to spoil a plot by Haman to kill all Israelites and thus save her people.

The importance of the story is that Xerxes, who was not an Israelite, was the man who issued the commands to save all of Israel. As Jesus said, Anyone who isn’t against us is for usTLB

This notion is a stumbling block for many Christians. We like to think that it is us against the world, that non-Christians are all evil and incapable of doing good. We easily forget that we are all sinners. The difference between us and them is the Grace we have decided to accept.

God wants all of us to do good deeds. If He chooses to reward someone I do not like, that is His business. Having God in charge of dispensing Grace has its problems; He lets too many people get into our exclusive club. Our sign at the door of Heaven would read: Sinners Do Not Enter, but God insists on putting up the Sinners Welcome sign.

Verse 49 seems an awkward statement sandwiched between 48 and 50. One of the problems is that the various Greek manuscripts have many different wordings. I have two interlinear New Testaments which print the Greek text on one line and the most likely English equivalent words just below. The United Bible Society version reads: For everyone with fire will be salted. But the Trinitarian Bible Society version reads: For everyone with fire will be salted, and every sacrifice with salt will be salted. Both are correct as far as anyone knows today.

Methodius, writing about 300 AD, described the Temple practice in Jesus’ day when every offering made before God had to have salt added, even the wine. Methodius wrote, Now the whole spiritual meditation of the scriptures is given to us as salt which stings in order to benefit. Without this disinfection, it is impossible for a soul, by means of reason, to be brought to the almightyACCS

I think that is getting close to what Jesus meant. Salt was used on all sacrifices to purify any remaining possibility of corruption. The salt in Jesus’ blood will do that for us before we stand before the Throne in the New Jerusalem.

Ephrem the Syrian wrote about 37 AD:

Glory be to God on high,

Who mixed his salt in our minds,

His leaven in our souls.

His body became bread,

To quicken our deadnessACCS

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

 

A Perfect Wife

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Proverbs 31:10-31

Psalm 1

James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a

Mark 9:30-37

 

A perfect wife—who can find her? She is far beyond the price of pearlsNJB Given no context, this passage suggests that wives can be all that is good, a useful quote for Mother’s Day or a wedding.

Nevertheless, the context is considerably more powerful. It is the opening of an alphabetic poem (21 Hebrew letters; Aleph to Shin) that concludes the book of Proverbs. In this poem, the perfect wife is the Messiah.

Notice that the wife always does what we know we should do. She is fair, does not complain, maintains a calm and peaceful attitude, and never puts herself first. She is much like the man of Psalm 1: Happy the man…who finds his pleasure in the Law of YahwehNJB

James stresses peace at the end of chapter 3. But the wisdom from above is, first of all, pure, then peaceful, kind, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. And peacemakers who sow seed in peace raise a harvest of righteousnessCJB It is good that he does because he opens the next chapter with war. Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? MSG They are the result of all our little sins of lust, envy, sense of superiority, dislike, unconcern, and general uncaring about the other person.

Jesus states it plainly: Anyone wanting to be the greatest must be the least—the servant of all! TLB

As of this writing, the US has been involved in a two front war for 15 years, more than twice as long as any other major war. The question is often asked about most wars, could it have been prevented? The answer is Yes. But we are weak and foolish and we allow disagreements to blow up to full-fledged wars. And, I can only take care of my side of a conflict. If the other person wants to go to blows, there is little I can do to stop him. All I can do is defend myself.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

 

Wisdom Calls Aloud

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Proverbs 1:20-33

Psalm 19

James 3:1-12

Mark 8:27-38

 

What Proverbs calls Wisdom is generally called the Word of God. The Word is also known as Truth. As we circle through the various words, we always return to God. All that is good comes from God; that which is not good comes from humans.

James describes the power of words, human words. Sadly, we use words for both good and evil, sometimes in the same breath. We do it because we want to be in control; we want to play at being God. We use God’s Wisdom when it suits us and revert to our own wisdom when it does not.

While Truth comes from God, our understanding of Truth is shaky. One minute I understand, the next it slips away. David’s Psalm contains an important image of the Word of God.

God’s glory is on tour in the skies,
God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning,
Professor Night lectures each evening.

 Their words aren’t heard,
their voices aren’t recorded,
But their silence fills the earth:
unspoken truth is spoken everywhere
MSG

 

We can hear the voice of God from so many sources that it can confuse us. At best, I can understand a tiny portion of the Word. As always, when in doubt, I must return to the example of Jesus. He is the human form of God. He is the example we must follow.

Yet, following Jesus is not so easy. In our human way, we too often misunderstand him. We are reluctant to follow him because his life was so hard. If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps, he must give up all right to himselfPhillips

The life Jesus wants me to follow involves giving my hard earned wealth to people who are beneath me, inferior, un-washed, un-wanted. That life would make me unpopular. Being a Jesus freak would strip me of all the good things I have collected around me to insulate me from the very people Jesus wants me to help.

The Wisdom of God may demand more than I can give, but I can give some love and it should be enough to hurt a little. In the pain comes joy.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

 

The Lord is Maker of Them All

from Unsplash
from Unsplash

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23

Psalm 125

James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17

Mark 7:24-37

 

Jesus created an uproar when he fed thousands with a handful of food. He began to avoid the crowds by going to regions outside of Galilee such as Tyre in what is now Lebanon.

First, why did Jesus avoid the people who were clamoring to see and hear him? Because their motives were harmful. They were responding to the excitement of the show, not the truth of the Presence of God. In the words of James, they had neither faith nor deeds.

Second, Jesus wanted his Apostles to understand that their future missions would take them to the Gentile world. Likewise, he wants you and me to understand that we must reach every corner of the world with the Love of God.

Notice that Jesus entered a house hoping to be left alone, but even in the foreign land people knew of him. It is easy to forget that Jesus was a human in every respect. He needed rest just as we do. The crowds of people wore him down.

Jesus knew his mission because he was in constant communion with God. His mission was to the chosen people, but he also knew Peter and the others would eventually work with peoples of many nations. Jesus needed to give them a sense of the importance of that work.

The Greek woman approached Jesus bravely, but with humility. She knew he was a Jew and that Jewish men had nothing to do with non-Jewish women and little to do with Jewish women. Yet she fell at his feet and begged for his gift to save her daughter.

There is no way to soften Jesus’ words in response. The children should be fed first, because it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogsNJB Jesus called the woman a dog. In any culture, that is an insult. Why was he so harsh?

Jesus knew the woman’s heart. He knew that she believed he had the power of God to heal. She was not like the thousands who only glimpsed the flash and bang, who only saw magic without grasping the Truth.

He also knew this was a teaching moment for his stout-hearted Twelve. He wanted them to see their Teacher working wonders with the Greeks.

Who deserves my service? Who needs my help? Where do I draw the line? Who are the lepers I must not touch?

Don’t ever attempt, my brothers, to combine snobbery with faithPhillips There are no limits. Jesus was ready to serve every human in the world and he has given us the task of doing that on his behalf.

Every human on earth is my equal.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence