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Salt & Light

Lent '22  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  48:19
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Matthew 5:13–16 NRSV
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

SALTY

Salt is something that may be in almost everyone’s home. It was very true in the ancient world as well as today.
It’s interesting that Leviticus 2:13 and Ezekiel 43:24 note that salt was to be offered with sacrifices or applied by priests. Numbers 18:19 says Israel has a covenant salt with God.
We know that ancient people used salt to preserve meat much like today, also to purify things, even to help with fertilizer. Yet by far the most common usage then and now is to add flavor. Salt adds flavor to otherwise ordinary foods. Jesus says that his followers are to be salt of the earth people. When we first hear that phrase we may think of preserving qualities of salt or maybe even fertilizing. By the way probably don’t run out this spring and dump a bunch of salt on your lawn. It’s not a gardening tip. But it seems Christians are supposed to bring something to the world that makes it better.
Matthew for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1–15 Fulfilling the Law (Matthew 5:13–20)

God had called Israel to be the salt of the earth; but Israel was behaving like everyone else, with its power politics, its factional squabbles, its militant revolutions. How could God keep the world from going bad—the main function of salt in the ancient world—if Israel, his chosen ‘salt’, had lost its distinctive taste?

We can help make existing institutions better. That’s why my wife has always taught at public schools and we volunteered a lot when our kids were growing up. We wanted to invest in our schools and help them thrive.
It starts with knowing people and paying attention to them. You can’t help someone well until you know them a little better. Once you establish a pattern of being helpful people may be interested in more of what you have to say. If our schools are better because we invest, we are salt of the earth people.
Matthew 5:13 The Message
13 Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
But also in everyday conversations we can listen closely and pick up on what people want and enjoy. Through caring, comforting words, maybe even humor, we can help people feel more appreciated. I think that’s the salt side of things.
Jesus also says we are light to the world.
Matthew 5:14 The Message
14 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.
So we don’t have to cram our religion down someone else’s throat to share our faith with those who become interested to know more. We should first lean into adding flavor to the lives of others for no other reason because we love and care for them. As the relationship develops don’t hide your faith. Let it show: sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes loud and clear. If someone wants to do something Sunday morning you don’t have to brag about going to church every week for the last 50 years. You can quietly say, I have a regular Sunday morning commitment that’s important to me, can we try another time slot? If they seem curious and interested you could share more and maybe it even results in an invitation to join you at church and Sunday School and go out afterwards. If not, save it for another time. But don’t hide the light. Keep your faith special and important and let it be seen. But also please remember that all the glory goes to God. If the glory goes to you or your disappointed if it doesn’t, you’re doing it wrong. The glory is God’s alone.
Matthew 5:16 (The Message)
16 Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! ... By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
In the end your goal isn’t to make them endlessly fascinated with you. Your goal is to help others find the love of God for their own life. That makes it a little more simple to think about doesn’t it? Takes some of the pressure off. But there is still some urgency because so many are suffering alone or even families still feel isolated. The love of God could open up so much for them.

On saltiness and buckets

So as we take a look at our lives, where does this message land? There’s a bit of a difference with real salt and our lives. Our saltiness can ebb and flow, it can rise and fall. How are we responding to the changing circumstances of our lives?
I’ve seen Christians get hung up a bit on how we respond to suffering. We think we are being very Christian, when in fact sometimes we are latching on to different viewpoints. Every time you suffer you have not necessarily been targeted by the enemy. Sometimes people are just jerks. Sometimes we are a jerks and people respond accordingly. If you were a jerk to someone, say I’m sorry. Don’t double down and claim its an attack of the enemy. If your body lets you down and you discover you have a disease, seek treatment. Know that God will be with you through it. Accept the reality of it, but know that God’s grace will work in surprising ways to help you through it. If we deny the reality it won’t change anything. We can’t control outcomes with our minds. We can choose to focus on how God will help, that’s good. It keeps us looking for the positives and where God is working and usually there is a lot to notice. But to think we can make the illness go away because we deny it’s real we slip into something like scientology which teaches suffering is evil. Lazarus died before he was brought back to life. Then he died again later and awaits the resurrection. Everyone of us eventually will die, unless Jesus comes back first, wouldn’t that be great? I’m not saying everyone who suffers is gonna die right away. I’m just saying suffering and death are part of the human experience. Jesus came to help us overcome as we pass through them. All the Apostles suffered and died. So this is normal. It’s not an attack of the enemy in most situations. Even if it is, prayer, good habits and sound medical treatment are the best way to respond. Jesus wasn’t healed he died fully and was resurrected first as we all will be one day who die in the faith.
My larger point is this: many Christians have set themselves up for great disappointment with God by latching onto lesser ideas to try to avoid the pain of life. If you tell yourself it’s an attack or it’s not real and then God doesn’t heal it, did God fail? Did your faith fail? No, you just got sick and that isn’t something we are promised we can avoid. That’s Christian wisdom. That’s how you keep your saltiness in times of trial. Your testimony that God is with you and helping you overcome.
I’m not ruling out miracles. I’ve seen them happen. I’m not saying it’s never an attack. I’m talking to those of us who simply can’t accept the limitations of life and slip into fantasy instead of reality. Where I’ve seen healing and miracles has not mostly been where a bunch of people were denying things were real. It’s mostly been ordinary situations where people of ordinary faith were facing things head on and finding more than enough grace to make it through. And sometimes a complete healing doctors could not explain happened. I thank God for it! I just don’t think that’s the only time God answered prayer! We aren’t promised perfect health. We aren’t promised the avoidance of pain. We are promised that God’s grace will be sufficient for us.
2 Corinthians 12:9 NRSV
9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
That is an example of a powerful testimony. Just as beautiful as any complete healing. Both of great value, adding salt to those around us. When we live with authentic humility we add flavor to those who know suffering is real but wonder how to overcome.
Let us not become bitter and jaded as the years pass. Let us allow the joy of the Lord to be our strength. His mercies are new each morning. Part of how we have something to share with others is by staying in touch with the love of God each day. Let it form us and shape us. Then it can flow out of us and become light to others.
2 Corinthians 3:18 NRSV
18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.
The glory of God gradually comes to shine through our lives as we let it shine on us. God’s glory gives light and draws others to give glory to God.
Matthew 5:16 NRSV
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Followers of Jesus live down to earth lives that add flavor and give light to others. That’s what Jesus says. He doesn’t say we have to strain to make this happen. But it helps a lot if we understand what the Bible says about how it unfolds in and through us. It’s a divine process that flows through ordinary means: time spent in the Word and prayer. Being renewed daily in our faith. Looking for the ways God is at work instead of telling God what God must do for us. Quietly keeping our faith commitments and gladly sharing humbly with those who want to know more. These are things we can all do. They will help our lives improve but they will also help our lives to bless others more.
Salt. Light. Very good things. Things that flow from the lives of God’s faithful people. For the sake of those we love, let’s allow God to work freely. Let’s keep our focus. Let’s keep the joy of the Lord.
Let’s pray...
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