All Saints
Christ The King

Books of the Bible
Lenten Series
Christmas Dramas


Series A - Matthew
Series B - Mark
Series C - Luke
Series D - Other

To contact
Edward F. Markquart

Series A
Salty Christians

Epiphany 5A     Matthew 5:13-20

(Take a 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 life.

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.

 And Jesus said, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, you are sharp like the salt of the earth. (salt from a saltshaker).

Also during 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 the earth.

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 the world

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 to life.

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 Boeing Company.

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 each other.

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 when needed.

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.

CHILDREN’S 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. 

Back to Top