“Salt of the Earth, Light of the World”                                                February 9, 2014

Isaiah 58:1-9a & Matthew 5:13-20                                                    Stephens City UMC

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

I.                   There are two things that many of us value but that we tend to take for granted, however, they are actually vital to our survival.

A.    The first is salt and you have to have some in your body or you will die.

1.     The other is light.

2.     When you first get up in the morning you may call out “Turn it off” but if you’re driving on a curvy back road with which you are not familiar in the middle of the night you may feel that you are in danger and wish for a street light.

B.     Interestingly Jesus said you are salt and light.

1.     Now I have heard a person refer to another person’s dependability and usefulness by commenting “That person is the salt of the earth” and you know what they mean.

2.     But have you ever heard anyone called “the light of the world,” but that’s what Jesus says of those of us who belong to him and follow him.

3.     That is no small thing to be called “the light of the world” and it just shows how much our Lord values us and is counting on us.

II.                 In researching this passage I found an article by the Rev. Jose Marin entitled “Salt and Light Witnessing” as well as an article on the Lutheran website that was un-credited and both were packed with information that I want to share with you.

A.    For instance, in Jesus’ day salt could be used for money.

1.     The English word “salary” is derived from the Latin word salarium which refers to payments made with salt to Roman soldiers. (Marin, Salt and Light Witnessing, January, 2011)

2.     In Ezekiel 16:4 we learn that there was a ritual of rubbing new born children with salt which was related to the offerings and sacrifices we read about in Leviticus 2:13 and Ezekiel 43:24. (Marin)

3.     The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:1 that all who would present themselves “a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God must receive the saving salt, the righteousness of Christ.” (Marin)

B.     Jesus teaches about his saving salt in Sermon on the Mount.

1.     The first section of that sermon which we find in Matthew 5:1-12 is referred to as The Beatitudes.

2.     The “blessed are the meek,” “blessed are the merciful,” and “blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.”

3.     Rev. Marin has noted that the Beatitudes are about the elements of the Christian life, but the passage we read today deals with the matter of Christian influence.

4.     If you as Christ’s disciple are meek and merciful and work for peace then you will have a tremendous influence on the lives of those who observe you.

5.     Simply how you live will be an effective witness and will cause others to contemplate becoming Christ’s disciple.

6.     You see salt’s power lies in being different from its environment.

7.     Only those who are different from the world can transform it.

8.      But if we are to transform the world we cannot withdraw from it, so we must be in the world but not of it.  

C.     This brings us back to the matter of seasoning.

1.     We are to influence without being overpowering but we can’t influence without being involved.

2.     As someone has pointed out “The salt is no good if it never leaves the salt shaker, it is only a decoration on the kitchen table.”

3.     We fail to be Jesus’ salt unless we are out mingling with non-Christians and we fail to function as salt whenever we are unkind or withhold mercy or miss an opportunity to promote peace.

4.     Whenever we deny the salt function we are denying the very principles of the Kingdom of God and we are delaying the fulfillment of the Kingdom because Jesus is counting on us to be his salt.

5.     To function as salt requires self-sacrifice but many of us are more concerned about self-preservation.

6.     It’s like Jesus is asking us to jump into the soup but if we do that then we’ll disappear into the soup and become one with the soup.

7.     Yet, that may be the only way to save the soup.

8.     Have you ever tasted a bowl of soup and thought, “This soup  tastes awful. It’s inedible,” but then you season with some salt and it tastes wonderful which means you have saved the soup.

9.     Jesus gave his life on a cross to save the world and calls you and me to take up our cross and follow him into the soupy mess of saving the world.

10.             Can’t we at least be salt?

III.              The other thing Jesus calls us to be is light.

A.    Rev. Marin writes that light is a form of energy that is always moving.

1.     Notice how often in the Gospels Jesus is on the move.

2.     Mark’s favorite phrase is “And immediately… Jesus healed, Jesus fed, Jesus prayed, Jesus taught.”

3.     And this same Jesus who was on the move said “I am the light of the world.” “He who follows me (i.e. is on the move with me) shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

B.     In these sayings Jesus is referring to the functions of light.

1.     One function of light is to expel the darkness.

2.     When your very young child cries out in the middle of the night because they are having a nightmare you will run to their room to turn on the light which drives the darkness away and lets the child realize that they are safe.

3.     Jesus does that for us.

4.     Another function is that light acts as a guide.

5.     If you are on an airplane trying to land at night you are very grateful for the runway lights.

6.     Jesus guides us through our darkness to get us safely home.

7.     A third function of light is that light is to be seen which reminds us that there are no secret Christians.

8.     You and I are to shine our light in order to attract others to Jesus. (Marin)

9.     That’s why our Lord told us not to put our light under a bushel.

10.             The background for that statement is that Palestinian homes were generally dark with just one window so you’d fill a bowl with oil that had a wick and place it on a lamp stand.

11.             Since people didn’t have matches or modern day lighters lighting the wick was difficult, even dangerous.

12.             Therefore, once the wick was lit you wanted to leave it burning so whenever you left home for safety reasons you’d take the bowl off the lamp stand and place it under an earthen vessel.

13.             Once you got home you’d put it back on the lamp stand so the light could go everywhere. (Marin)

14.             Jesus’ point is that we are to let our light shine to the maximum. (Marin)

C.      Light cannot help but be noticed and when we shine with the light of Christ we cannot help but be noticed.

1.     What I’m talking about here is radiance and as a pastor there are several situations where I regularly observe radiance.

2.     The first is the radiance on the face of a bride as she stands in the back of the sanctuary to walk down the aisle to be married to the man she loves.

3.     The second is the radiance on the face of new parents, not just at the hospital, but when they bring their baby home or to church for the first time for all of us to meet.

4.     Christ would love for his followers to glow in a similar manner.

5.     Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen as frequently as it should.

6.     One of my favorite preachers is Maurice Boyd whose last pastorate was Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City.

7.     I can remember Dr. Boyd sharing when he came to preach at Annual Conference that he would from time to time say to his congregation, “You may think that you are among the redeemed, but if you were you would glow.”

8.     If we would glow more people would come to the light of Christ.

9.     If we radiated with the joy of our salvation than others would want that joy and would also come to experience the saving grace of Christ.

10.             Remember that the gift of our salvation is not just for our personal enjoyment. (Lutheran website)

11.             This is a gift we are to pass on to others and when we do so we are more valuable to Christ than we could ever imagine. (Lutheran website)

IV.              What would help Christ in fulfilling the Kingdom would be for us to be both salt and light.

A.    They have similarities but they also have their differences.

1.     Light you can’t avoid seeing but salt works silently yet you know salt is working because things are delicious without ever seeing the salt. (Marin)

2.     The effective influence of the salty Christian comes through being meek and merciful and peaceful. (Marin)

3.     It’s about the subtle characteristics of your life.

4.     On the other hand, light is out front and obviously visible which for the light filled Christian means being open in sharing your faith.

B.     So the challenge for you today is to be a salt and light witness.

1.     Allow your relationship with Jesus to so season your life that others begin to ask you questions about why you are the way you are and why you live life as you do.

2.     At the same time shine the light of Jesus so that when they observe your radiance there will be an opportunity for you to tell them that you are not the light but about Jesus who is the true light source.

3.     Just be Christ’s reflector and thus fulfill what the Apostle Paul wrote in II Corinthians 4:6 “For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

C.     Folks, the time has come for us to be the salt of the earth. The time has come for us to be the light of the world and to shine with the glory of God. (Marin)

1.     So be of great value to Jesus who appreciates your efforts to salt it up and light it up for him.