saltshaker with you to use as a sermon prop)
I really like going
down town Des Moines. I especially like going down for lunch at
Wally’s Chowder House. I go for the fish sandwich and then they
have these big fries. I put a little salt on those French fries, and
then you dip them in some tartar sauce. It is really delicious.
My wife is really
good at preparing eggs in the morning. She puts the eggs into the
heated frying pan, and then she has a lid from a kettle and she puts
it over the frying pan, so the eggs become sunny side up. The eggs
are perfect. She serves hot toast, strawberry jam, and then you salt
those eggs just a bit, also some pepper. You dip the strawberry jam
toast into those eggs so that the egg yoke is dripping from the
bread. That is heavenly.
I like Christmas
because we go to church on Christmas but I really like the turkey
dinner that we serve on Christmas day. And better than that, a few
days later, I like the turkey soup that Jan makes from the turkey
carcass. She makes that turkey soup and she puts in a little extra
salt and you find out that the turkey soup is to die for.
It used to be when
Jimmie Brandt was alive, we would go out for steaks. Jimmie, as some
of you know, had a stroke many years ago when he was a music teacher
at Mount Rainier High School and was also the choir director here at
Grace. Every year, about his birthday time, the two of us would go
out for steaks. Jimmie loved steaks and the biggest we could find
were at the Black Angus Restaurant where they have twenty-four ounce
Porterhouse steaks. There
was so much meat on that steak, it was disgusting, disgustingly
wonderful. You could see Jimmie just start to salivate. They would
bring the big baked potato. Jimmie would grab that salt shaker and
start to salt that steak and then the potato. So much salt. Jimmie
loved salt, too much salt. But for him, it was just right.
And Jesus said,
“YOU, YOU, YOU.” And in Greek, the emphasis is on YOU. YOU are
the salt of the earth. The mood of Jesus’ teaching is not soft,
not meek and not timid. The mood of the words are not whispered
like, “you are the salt of the earth. If the salt has lost its
flavor, what good is the salt anyhow?” You can barely hear these
words when they are whispered. No, these words are strong. YOU. YOU.
YOU are the salt of the earth.
In Biblical times,
salt was very important. People back then did not have refrigerators
or ice cube makers and so salt was very important to preserve food.
They preserved vegetables. They would preserve fish for the winter
time; that is, they would salt it and dry it out. In Biblical times,
they said that a man’s life was as valuable as a bag of salt. And
when they offered their cereal offerings, the Jews always put salt
on the cereal offering so the cereal would not mold or rot. When
they had new babies, they would wash the new babies in salt water
for medicinal purposes. Salt water would help preserve the baby’s
The Jews of the
Bible would make a covenant with each other by using salt. Let’s
say that you, Jim (sitting in the front row) and I were going to
make a deal with each other, there was no written contract. You
would take some salt from your house; I would take some salt from my
house; and we would throw salt across each other’s shoulder. It
was called the covenant of salt. Salt was symbolic of the
preservation of a contract.
But salt was also a
symbol of the preservation of life. If you don’t have salt, all
you have is decay. It is very important to understand that. You have
to have salt to preserve life.
And Jesus said,
YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, you are the salt of the earth. You
personally are the salt of the earth. (The pastor can have a salt
shaken in his or her hand and spray salt and shake salt vigorously
as a symbol of the point.)
Salt was also
important in Biblical times because of war. Wars were fought with
essentially bows and arrow and spears and swords and so there was a
lot of cutting during warfare. So if you were a wounded soldier,
chances are it was a cut from a spear or a sword and so you had to
have salt. You would rub that salt into the wound and it was very
sharp and it hurt very much. But you needed it to experience
healing. That was part of the way that you treated the wounds.
Jesus said, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, you are sharp like the salt of
the earth. (salt from a saltshaker).
Biblical times but not mentioned in the Bible is the story of a
woman who went to the market one day to get her salt. The woman was
getting salt in order to preserve her fish. She was going to salt
her fish with the salt that she had purchased at the market, but lo
and behold, the salesman at the market had cheated her. The salesman
had mixed white sand into the salt. In those ancient days, You
cheated people by mixing white salt into the salt, and the woman
realized that she had purchased bad salt, diluted salt, weak salt.
You cannot separate the white sand from the salt, so all you could
do with bad salt was to throw it away, to throw it out in the
garbage dump with the camel dung.
Jesus said, YOU,
YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, you are the salt of the earth. (using salt from
a salt shaker) And if YOU have lost your saltiness and YOU have lost
your saltiness and YOU have lost your saltiness and YOU have lost
your saltiness and YOU have lost your saltiness, I might as throw
you out with the camel dung. You are absolutely worthless to me.
You are the salt of
It is with these
stories that we approach the gospel lesson for today. Today’s
gospel lesson focuses on light and salt. In today’s passage, it
describes how we as Christians are to live out lives out in the
world. Not the way we are gathered here in this moment as a
worshipping community. Not the way we gather together in the living
room or family room or around the kitchen table. In the text for
today, we are invited to live our discipleship out in the world. In
our schools. In our places of employment. In our neighborhoods. In
our circle of friends. Out there in the world which is often dark.
Out there in the world which is often not so godly.
In the world,
Christians are to be the light of Christ. What does a light do? When
you see a light in the sky, it is a symbol of hope and renewable and
guidance in the world. You are to be the light of Christ in the
world. Our lives are to be an inspiration to the lives of others
around us. Our lives are to be like a beacon that shows people the
way. Our lives are to be like a lighthouse, guiding other people’
lives through nasty storms. We are to be a guide for people’s
lives. YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, you are to be the light of Christ in
And then, the
Scripture also says, out there in the world, YOU Christians are to
be like salt. And that is what I would like to focus on today. The
sermon for today has its roots in a sermon by Martin Luther in 1532.
He had been preaching for about fourteen years and he was ultimately
going to live and preach for another fourteen years. So right in the
middle of his ministry, he preached about salt and used the
following outline. The purpose of salt is to preserve. The purpose
of salt is to bite. The purpose of salt is to pleasure and tastiness
The purpose of salt
is to preserve the quality of life. (salt shaker) Salty Christians
are to preserve the moral, the spiritual and the political health of
a nation. Because there is always the possibility and the
probability that a nation can begin to decay.
Many times, when
you and I get depressed and discouraged, we often feel that our
country is going down the tubes, that it is disintegrating, that it
is deteriorating. Sometimes when we have those feelings, we are not
sure if it is because we are growing older and older people often
feel that way. We are not sure if the media is painting an even
darker picture of our nation so that they can sell more sex and
violence. The media needs to create dark and violent pictures in
order to sell their products, so we don’t know if the media is
exaggerating the decay of our nation.
In spite of aging
and in spite of the media’s glorification of our nation’s moral
decline, you sometimes get the feeling that our nation really is
declining. Symbols of this would be that an average teenager watches
200,000 scenes of violence by the time they have graduated from high
school. A Canadian broadcaster was complaining about the homicide
rates of American white males. That from 1970-2000,
the growth rate of homicides committed by white males in
America has grown from 366 homicides for every 100,000 people per
year, to 2800 per 100,000. From 366 to 2800 homicides per year in
America by white males. That homicides by American white males has
grown 800% in thirty years. And you ask yourself, “What is going
on here in America. There is so much violence here in America. There
is such a radical increase of violence here in America.”
And the 800% increase of homicides was reported even before
the mass school killings in several of our high schools. What is
going on that there is so much violence ripping across our society?
One out of five of our children live in poverty? And we know that
poverty is one of the causes of violence? What is going on here in
America. Our kids go to school in Federal Way, there is a shooting
near the school, and now we have cops patrolling the edges of one of
our high schools? What is going on?
Every once in a
while, we ask, “What is going on in our society? Is it me growing
older? Is it the media exaggerating the violence and selling the
violence?” And besides, we don’t know what to do.
And Jesus said,
YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, you are to be the moral preservative of our
world, of our society. You need to help make this society a better
place. We are to help preserve the moral values of our community.
Now, I was thinking
about ways we attempt to do that. Recently, there was a conference
of Lutheran churches held here at Grace Lutheran and Sharon Colello
from our church was a speaker. Are you are that our neighboring
school, Parkside Elementary School, 89% of the children are on
subsidized lunch programs. Are you aware of that? 89% right here in
our neighborhood. Are you aware that 50% of our children at our day
care are living below the poverty line? Are you aware that our day
care is the only day care in the area that will take children who
have learning disabilities? When you listen to Sharon Colello talk
about the ministry of that day care, you knew that Sharon and those
day care teachers were the salt of the earth in their day care. They
were the salt of the earth in the world. They are a moral
preservative in a world of high poverty and decay.
Right now, this
weekend, Pastor O’Neal has fifty of our kids up in the mountains
on a retreat and they are talking about Jesus, they are learning to
value and preserve the values of right and wrong and good and evil
that they have been taught. One of the best things that a church
like us does is to teach children to love Christ and walk in the
ways of Christ. That is a way of preserving our moral values and
foundation. And these kids will go back into their schools and be
re-energized for Jesus Christ. They are the salt of the earth in
their schools. (salt shaker).
But not only the
ministries of our congregation, but we as individuals are called to
be the salt in our society and within the jobs that we hold in our
society. Right now, I am thinking about Bert Welliver who was vice
president of all technology for the Boeing Company before he died
much too prematurely. Some say Bert was the father of the Boeing
777; certainly, he was the father of the technology behind the
Boeing 777. Sometimes, Bert and I would go out for coffee or a beer and
he would talk about being part of an inner core of seven people who
basically ran the Boeing Company. And I was keenly aware that Bert
had taken the Bethel Bible Series and that his wife, Nancy, had been
his Bible teacher for all those years. Bert really knew his Bible.
Bert really knew his liturgy. And there he was at the heart of
corporate America, making decisions that would affect us all. And
Bert was the salt of the earth; he was the moral preservative in his
job, wanting to make sure that Christian moral values permeated the
Or I think of the
all the school teachers here today. I think of how you intentionally
are a moral preservative. YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, you are the salt
of the earth. That is true of each one of us in our various roles
that we live out in our society.
But Martin Luther
also said that salt also bites. He says, that when the people in
your congregation sin, you are to rub the salt into the wounds of
their sins. That is not real friendly, is it? You are to rub the
salt into the wounds of their sins. I love the following quotation
of Luther in which he says, “Bishops and successful clergy are the
smartest of people, for they preach in a calculated manner in order
to keep themselves out of trouble by refusing to salt the sins of
their people and press for genuine repentance.”
If your pastor is not willing to be honest with you and the
sinfulness that is going on in your life, and presses you to make a
genuine change; if your pastor does not do that, he or she might as
well be thrown into a dung heap. If your pastor is not willing to be
honest with you in a personal conversation about your life, and
press for change, that pastor is not worth his or her salt.
You see, a lot of
pastors are ruled by friendship. They want every body to like them.
And because their needs to have others like them are so strong, we
are unwilling to be honest.
But it is not only
pastors. This same pattern is found among friends. Often friends are
not honest with each other, and we as friends need to be honest with
I am reminded of a
line from the novel, A Diary of a Country Priest. There is a
wonderful line in that book when the author describes pastors. He
says, “Pastors? They are the syrup of the earth.”
So when you see
somebody doing wrong, the tendency is to pour syrup on their
behavior, and sweeten up to them. But there are times when syrup is
not necessary. What is needed is salt. And if you have a good friend
or a parent who is willing to rub salt into your wound and press for
genuine change in your life, you are most fortunate.
The words of the
prophets in the Old Testament were tart, cutting and bitter, often
tasting sharp like salt. The prophets were acidic in their
condemnation of the sexual perversities and the economic injustices
found among the people of God. The morality of the Israelites was
not much different than the immorality of the Canaanites, and that
rightfully upset the prophets. The prophets didn’t mildly suggest
to the Israelites that they were sinning; the prophets blasted the
Israelites for their sexual perversity and economic injustices.
Jesus own words to
the Pharisees were lethal: “You bunch of hypocrites.” Jesus said
this none once but several times to them. “You hypocrites. You
phonies.” In other
words, Jesus’ tongue was salty. It was sharp, biting, and acidic
Salt. We are to
have salty tongues. When
appropriate, our speech is to be seasoned with salt. There are times
when words need to be sharply spoken.
The last thing that
Martin Luther said in his sermon in 1532 was this: “Salt is to
bring seasoning to life.” (salt again) When I think of those
French fries down at Wally’s Chowder House; when I think of my
wife’s eggs; when I think of that turkey soup at our house; when I
think of Jimmie Brandt eating that steak, I know that salt really
adds flavor to life. One of our roles in this life is to bring
flavor to life. If you are a person who loves God, who walks with
Jesus. If you are a person of forgiveness and kindness. If you are a
person who brings generosity to those who are hurting. If you are
that kind of person, there is a flavor that you bring to the
workplace. There is a flavor that you bring to your school. There is
a flavor that you bring to your neighborhood.
One day, I went
hiking with a dear friend. We hiked and talked for twelve hours that
day. What a friendship. Twelve hours of conversation without a
breath. We were talking about friendship. He said that basically,
friendship was a source of deep support between two humans. Yes, we
know that friendship brings and gives support. In that conversation,
I was emphasizing that friendship brings richness to one’s life.
My best friends make my life so much richer, exciting, vibrant and
full. My friends are like seasoning in life and they make life so
much richer. We finally concluded: friends bring both support and
enrichment to our lives.
And Jesus said,
YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, you are the salt of the earth. (salt
again.) If the salt has lost is flavor, what use is it to anyone.
You might as well throw in into the garbage can. But YOU, YOU, YOU,
YOU, YOU are the salt of the earth. Amen.
SERMON: Have some sugar cubes with you, and offer them to children.
The children love sugar cubes and will often make them hyper and
wired up. Then take a salt shaker and fill a spoon with salt and ask
a child to eat the whole spoonful of salt. Sensibly, no child will
do that. A person can swallow a cube of sugar but will consume only
a dab of salt. Salt is a more powerful spice than sugar. Jesus and
the Bible asks us to have salty tongues; that is, to have sharp
tongues. Let’s have as many children as possible put a dab of salt
on our tongues, so all of our tongues are a little salty and sharp.
Let’s pretend then
that you are out on the playground and someone is hitting another
kid on the playground. What do you do? The children will suggest,
shouting at the bully: “Stop that. No. Don’t do that.” These
words are said sharply, like the words have salt on them. We don’t
say these words sweetly or prettily. No, we say them sharply. The
same is true often in your home, your mother and or father will
speak sharp to you. What happens when you are about to tip over a
lantern? Your father or mother shout sharply, “Stop.” Their tone
of voice reveals that is a serious matter. That is what it means to
have salt on your tongue.