Sermon for 2/9/2014 from Pr. Mark T. Peterson at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Holliston, MA.
Gospel: Matthew 5:13–20
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. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In 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.
17"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ,
You are the salt of the earth.
That’s what Jesus tells us as we continue reading from his Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew’s Gospel. You are the salt of the earth.
As I hear this, I’m reminded of the wisdom of a young boy that we often heard about from our Campus Pastor at Augsburg College, Dave Wold. Pastor Dave would tell us about this boy, who said that “Salt, is what ruins the potatoes…when you leave it out.” These words, are most certainly true.
Much in the same way, Jesus is telling us today that we are like this salty, seasoning for the earth.
This is a good thing, and kind of easy to imagine. We followers of Jesus, have been given to the earth to bring out its natural goodness and flavor. We have been made by God to love and to value those things and people that are unfortunately thought of in the same way that the boy thought of unsalted potatoes. We have been given to continue to show through our lives the magnificence that God has brought all things into being with.
So, now our charge is to go out and salt those potatoes, and this sounds great…at least in theory.
You see, the problem with a metaphor, is that we really aren’t salt. So, what does being the “salt of the earth” look like?
This past week I was given just one of many examples of what being “salt of the earth” looks like, when I had the opportunity to have lunch with a couple of local principals,. In conversation with these principals, I didn’t hear about the “Kid’s these days” and how rock and roll was ruining everything. (And we know that’s not true!) What I heard was passion for the well-being of the students and for creating the best possible situation for them to grow and learn in. The light of these educators was shining, and it was their love of “their students”.
Or, another example came when seeing the many trucks, literally out salting the roadways, so that all of us can drive safely on them. What a service these drivers provide, for us.
I have my world seasoned by salty people everywhere I look, and it’s rarely from people accomplishing great things. I am seasoned by the people who venture in this world; in their jobs, in their errands, in their families, in their internet postings, with the light of love, and care, and compassion for others going before them.
Yet, when we hear this passage today, when we hear Jesus say “You are the salt of the earth” we also hear him say, “But if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It’s no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.” It seems, as we hear this passage, that being the salt of the earth comes with a caveat, which is; don’t stop being salt of the earth, or you’re going to get it….”
Combine this, with Jesus talking about anyone who breaks a commandment being the “least in the Kingdom of Heaven”, and our seemingly sweet Gospel lesson becomes quite burdensome, and foreboding. It could seem that if for some reason we stop being the salt of the earth, or don’t do it as well as we should, that heavenly trouble awaits. Truly, this is a message that I’ve heard far too often, and if this is truly what our faith, and this passage is about, then I’m in some serious, heavenly trouble.
When our faith is presented like this. A sort of you are the salt of the earth, go and prove it, and if not you’re in trouble proposition, I neither know how to “not lose my salty taste”, nor do I know if I’d want to be considered “the salt of the earth” in the first place.
Thankfully, being the salt of the earth, and keeping my salty taste isn’t up to me. It is God who has made me the salt of the earth, and it is God who keeps me salty, and God has done this through Jesus.
When Jesus died on a cross, all of the earth was salted with his life. Out of his unending love for all things, we were turned from potatoes that weren’t just bland but rotting, to glorious, tasty, salty potatoes, that are loved and enjoyed by God, and which also happen to be, miraculously are low in sodium.
Furthermore, through the waters of baptism, Jesus has given us his salty life, so that he can be the salt of the earth through each of us, and the lives that we share and give to each other and to the world. Not only this, but Jesus comes to us again and again in the Eucharist, our meal of Holy Communion to feed us with his salty life, which continues to make our lives salty. The Good News is that when Jesus says to us “you are the salt of the earth” we know that it is his work that has made us this.
This morning, I tell you, and I know because you have seasoned my life, that you are the salt of the earth. May we all go out into the world, to season it with the salt we’ve been given, to share with it the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of Jesus’ love that we have been given right here and right now, with it. And may we also go out to enjoy all of creation, all of it; which has been made tasty, made salty, indeed declared good, by the unending love of Jesus Christ.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,