Salt of the Earth

Here is the sermon I gave at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church Brownstown, IN for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany series A.

Have you ever had a baking mishap? Picture making chocolate chip cookies and using one cup of flour instead of two, the cookies are just not the same.  Or picture a pan that is too small so that as it bakes the dough rises out of the pan and spills out onto the oven rack.  The appearance is less than desired.  My personal favorite type of baking mishap story would be anytime salt in a cup on the kitchen counter is accidentally used instead of flour or sugar.

Myself I try to stay away from baking mishaps and baking altogether.  Baking is often compared to Chemistry- you need the right proportions and actions and you get the right result. I never liked chemistry,  I would rather saute, simmer, and slice and dice, and best of all to cook outdoors over an open wood flame or charcoal. No confining recipes or predictable cooking times.

But sometimes nothing warms up a home like baking.   Fresh baked bread, homemade apple pie, cookies and  spice cakes, all these things bring about an aroma that makes a home feel warm and hospitable.

In our gospel lesson Jesus gives a specific recipe for the world’s well being.  The key to this recipe is the insight that a little salt goes a long way.  So it is with Christians in the world. God leaves it up to us to show the light of Christ to the world.  Jesus leaves it to us to reflect and shine the light of Christ into the darkness of our world.  We are called to shine the light of Christ to the world for the purpose of making the world palatable to live in.

God does not appoint and deploy angels in specific geographical locations in the world to ensure that the light of Christ lightens the darkness of the world.  Instead God appears to leave this vital task of proclaiming the good news of the kingdom to chance. As in, God leaves it to us.  But this is not altogether chance, as Jesus has given us his Word and has carefully prepared the church to play this role of shining his light in the world.  Jesus knows just the right recipe of how much salt is needed to flavor the earth.

We are called to be salt and light to the world.  This is a favorite passage of scripture in the church. The imagery of salt flavoring the earth, and light lighting the darkness of the world is a grand broad sweeping imagery of how God works in the world through us.

As light set on a hill, we give hope to the world.  So often the world reflects hopelessness.  There is no awareness or acknowledgement of God being present.  Our task is simply to let those without hope know that God is there for them, in fact in Christ, God is always there for them.

As the body of Christ we, the church, shine the light of Christ through our love and care for others.   We have a freedom nobody else in the world has to do good works out of love for God and neighbor.  We don’t need to do these things to impress others or prove to others that we truly are spiritual and good people.

Our Old Testament reading gave an example of how people would do empty fasts and other sacrificial acts not out of love and thanksgiving for God, but out of self interest.

Sometimes we may become discouraged that the way we live our lives is nothing that unbelievers are going to notice or care about.  But the fact is people really do see the love of God in the world.  The role the church plays in being salt in the earth is so widespread and thorough, that people can only not see it if they choose not to see.

Often we think of the church’s calling to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth through community outreach activities. We might think of an activity like having a kid’s against hunger food packing day at church or any number of other activities designed to help people in their situations of need.  Such efforts are certainly worthy expressions of the gospel and valuable opportunities to be the light of the world.

Yet the most frequent opportunities we have to be salt and light to the world are within our own families and within our own daily life contexts of career and activities.

We have begun considering and exploring our Christian vocations in the world this Epiphany season.

Consider the ministry of Lutheran Central.  Through the long heritage of Lutheran education St. Peter’s has been blessed to offer schooling that provides to students values of forgiveness, service to others, and unconditional love in the name of Jesus.

When youth are shaped by these values they are put in position to be as the salt of the earth both during childhood and also during adulthood here in this this County and many other places.  The world is made a better place through the calling of youth to be salt and light to the world.

At first glance the task of a Lutheran school and raising children in the faith may seem like an ordinary predictable activity, nothing too earth shattering to our society.

But as Christians we do not approach these ordinary actions and roles with an ordinary is plenty good enough mindset.  Instead to be salt and light to the world involves living out our vocations with the extra ordinary excellence of God’s perfect love to us in Christ!

Through Christ we live out our vocations through the excellence of forgiveness, steadfast devotion, and unwavering hopefulness for God’s work of redemption in our lives and in the world.

Through this excellence in which we live out our vocations in love, we are able to be salt to the earth in a way that nonbelievers do not offer.

Parents as you teach your children about confessing sins and receiving forgiveness both in church and in daily life, you are providing your children with a life long example that will carry over into their adult lives.

Parents you have in your children the opportunity to bless the world with the salt and light of the gospel in places you never will go yourselves, in situations you can never foresee.  The investment we put into the faith development of our children is an investment that can pay off a hundred fold.

It’s not just in our family life where we see the church as salt and light to the world, it is also in the very currents of history. During the days of the early church the love and care of Christians changed the world as people knew it. – Where it was once common practice for children to be seen as expendable and to have no rights, the first Christians set a precedent of caring for the most defenseless of children.

The practice in the Roman empire was to leave unwanted babies outside to die of exposure.  Christians rescued these babies and taught them about Jesus as they grew up.  Even today it is the church that is at the foundation of efforts to care for the rights of those who are most vulnerable.

A few weeks ago the March for life in Washington D.C. had its highest ever attendance and with Vice President Pence speaking at the march, it marked the first time that a President or Vice President has appeared at the event. The church continues to be salt to the world, continues to preserve the world from getting lost in darkness.

This congregation continues to be called to be salt and light to the world.  We are called to do this not out of compulsion or self interest, not as an empty fast, as is described in our Old testament reading,  but out of what comes naturally to us from our living faith.

Jesus said you are the salt of the earth and you are the light of the world.  He did not say, you should be, or you will be if you do the right things in life. Because of our identity as disciples of Jesus we are the salt and light of the world.

We can understand this to be a challenge, we can understand this to be an expectation of our Lord, but above all we can understand this to be a blessed calling that was exactly what his recipe for spreading the light of Christ to the world called for. Amen.

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