Devotion for February 19, 2021 from Pastor Tim Huff of Holy Trinity:
Salted with Fire
“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.”
No matter our age, all of us like the reassuring glow of a night-light. When something goes bump in the night and awakens us, the small, steady illumination of a night light offers comfort and companionship amidst the darkness.
In the bathroom at a friend’s house, the night-light duty is taken up by an unusual source of illumination. For on the top of the toilet tank sits a foot-high chunk of some brownish-orange crystal. It’s a rough, unsculpted chunk of something mounted on a small base.
As darkness falls, the crystallized mineral begins to glow with the warm, steady, dull-orange light of a bright ember in a fireplace. It then becomes obvious: this hunk of night-light is actually salt. It’s one enormous salt crystal.
The warmth of its friendly, substantial glow makes any nighttime foray less frightening. This night-light combines two tremendous images of strength and steadfastness, of power and perpetuity.
Salt in ancient times symbolized staying-power. Salt was the great preservative, the only way to keep food from spoiling, the only way to lay up provision for harsh and hungry days ahead.
Because salt was identified with keeping things fresh and viable it also became linked to the eternal, unwavering steadiness of God’s covenant with Israel. The promises Yahweh had made with Israel was a covenant of salt — it would never spoil or grow old, it was always fresh, nourishing and life-sustaining.
In temple rituals of sacrifice, it was mandated that every burnt offering be salted — illustrating the eternal nature of the bond between God and the people each time an offering was made on the altar. The sacrificial practices and images of temple worship combined the persistence of salt with the power of fire.
The magic and wonder of something as simple, and as earth-shattering as fire, is sometimes overlooked by us in our high-tech world. Where flames used to bring us light and heat, cook our food and warm our homes, we now use the flicker of electric fire.
At the heart of Jesus’ lesson in our text is the message that discipleship means service to others and sacrifice for the sake of others. Privilege and power, rank and honor do not make up the resume of a true disciple of Christ. It’s only in service to others, Jesus insists. A task as simple and unassuming as giving a cup of water to one who is thirsty in the name of Christ is revealed as the kind of action of a servant-disciple. In order to be a genuine disciple Jesus warns, we must be willing to sacrifice our whole self to the task of mission.
The saying Mark quotes in verse 49 refers to the flames and sweet-smelling smoke of the temple sacrifices observant Jews offered up to Yahweh for divine approval. The unfamiliar phrase to be salted with fire makes perfect sense in the context of first-century temple life. In temple sacrifices, both fire and salt were used to present an acceptable sacrifice.
The salted fire is a sacrificial fire, a fire that burns for God’s sake.
Mark uses this saying in the context of discipleship to emphasize the sacrificial quality of a life lived in Jesus’ name. Faithful discipleship is the salt that gives meaning and purpose to the flames of the purifying fires of sacrifice.
Jesus proclaims that everyone will be salted with fire. Those who commit themselves to Jesus, those who bear the name of Christ, are promised that both the staying power of salt and the surviving power of fire will be theirs throughout their life.
So we don’t have to live life “as usual.”
We don’t have to live in a world “the way things are.”
We can live in a world of miracles — where peace can happen; where healing can take place; where truth and justice exists; where love can make a difference, where life is wonderful.
Let’s go into the world “salted with fire!”