This week’s readings are here.
When I was a kid, salt was salt. It came in a blue cylindrical container with a whimsical picture of a girl holding an umbrella in one hand and the motto, “When it rains, it pours. “Nowadays salt is a matter for connoisseurs. There’s sea salt, gray salt, pink salt. Salt from Brittany, the Himalayas, or Hawaii. But what Jesus says still rings true. If it’s lost its savor, it’s no good. Salt preserves; adds flavor and zest. It can make food tastier but it can also do damage.
In this passage from Mark’s gospel, we see one of the central dilemmas facing our communities of faith, our society, and the world. On the one hand, there are Jesus’ words that seem to downplay differences between communities, interest groups, even nation states: “Whoever is not against us is for us.” On the other hand, there is Jesus’ repeated condemnation of those who would mislead or cause harm. Those who are stumbling blocks (literally, scandal) are destined for hell and damnation.
Jesus invites us to see those outside our communities as fellow travelers and friends. He tells us we need not worry too much about them; their support and encouragement of us, that they offer us a cup of water when we are thirsty, is proof enough of their good intentions and ultimate reward.
But the warning to those who would be stumbling blocks, while clearly directed inwardly at relations within the community of Jesus’ followers, is also a caution to us today, not only to ponder our relationships within our closest communities, but in the larger one as well. When have our actions or statements marginalized others? When have we caused others to stumble? How can we be salt to the communities in which we live, deepening and preserving their flavor, helping disparate ingredients come together to make a marvelous stew?
(I wrote this reflection for a series put together by the Wisconsin Council of Churches that center around the “Seasons of Civility” campaign. More about that here).