Posts Tagged ‘Salt’

You Be You 2-5-17

In this sermon, taken from Matthew 5:13-20, I explore Jesus’ reminder that we are salt and light. This is followed up by Jesus’ reminder that he has come to fulfill the law. So what’s that mean for us?

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

If I was to ask you to name one story written by the famous author Edgar Allan Poe…I’m guessing most of you would offer up The Raven…perhaps even quoting the raven…Nevermore.

But there’s another story written by Poe, perhaps not quite as well known, but its stuck with me over the years…its called the Tell-Tale Heart…Within the story, we hear the narrator, offering up to us an account of how he committed murder…but was captured after the victims post-mordum hearbeat drove him temporarily crazy and he confessed to the crime.

Now that in itself is strange to be sure…but there’s a detail within the story itself that always bugged me. You see, the premise for this whole murder was weird to begin with…apparently the victim was an okay guy…but one of his eyes was weird…apparently wide and menacing like a vulture is how Poe describes it. And the man who committed the murder, well he couldn’t stand it…so he decided to kill the guy.

And so…for a period of time, he plotted the murder…planning to do it at night…creeping into the man’s home…into his bedroom, where he would commit the crime…and so for a long period…night after night…the murderer would bring a long a lamp, creep slowly into the house, and down the hall to the bedroom door. Once he got his and arm inside the door, he’d open a shutter on the covered lamp, casting a light on his victim’s eye…night after night its shut…and its not until a slip up makes a noise that wakes the man, that he finally commits the murder.

Now the rest of details aren’t really important…but here’s the thing that’s always bugged me. The guy lights a lantern…and closes it…taking a lot of time to creep into the room. And if I know anything about a lantern…I know that it’s basically a candle burning inside a frame…and if you completely close it…which you would have to in order to keep any light from coming out…well then that candle is quickly going to use up all the air available to it…and its gonna go out long before he makes it into the bedroom…I don’t mean to be nitpicky Mr Poe…but that’s how a candle works…put it under a cover after its lit…well that’s just stupid. (pause) I’m guessing you see where I’m going with this.

Today, we dive into the meat of the Sermon on the Mount…a long period of teaching by Jesus…both to his disciples as well as the crowds that have gathered around him…and through the written word of the gospel…teaching aimed at us today. That’s the setting of today’s gospel…Jesus has just finished up the beatitudes, which we heard in worship a week ago…telling his audience about the unexpected people who are blessed in the kingdom of heaven…including You…we hear that…blessed are you. (pause)

And that leads directly into where we pick up today. A passage that seems to have 2 main parts…You are the salt of the earth and you are the light of the world…and then Jesus switches gears and starts talking about the law.

Now admittedly, this first portion seems a little strange…all this talk about salt and light…and while Jesus’ statements about light might seem kinda obvious, the salt thing is perhaps, a little harder to understand.

I was thinking about salt this week…where it comes from, what we use it for…things like that…and I compared this to Jesus’ words. If salt looses its flavor its worthless, so throw it out in the road…but when we think of salt now…what do we use it for? For its taste, to season our food, and to keep the ice off the roads right? And now…think of where we get salt…typically at the grocery store…and its pure right…because we’ve refined it…and so, for the salt to loose its saltiness, means that there’s nothing left…Pure salt, if its lost its saltiness, is nothing right? So I guess there wouldn’t be much left to throw out on the roads in the first place.

But in Jesus’ day, salt was a little different. They couldn’t go to Hy-Vee or Fareway and pick up a batch. Rather, salt came from a mine where it was chipped out of the rock…or it was scooped up from the sea-shore at lowtide, along with whatever sand and sediment was mixed in with it.

So you’ve got this salt/sand mixture…which admittedly doesn’t sound all that appealing to put on some food…but if something happened, and the salt disappeared, what’s left? Just a bunch of sand…and you aren’t gonna season anything with that are you…so you might as well throw it out in the road where it can provide some traction. (pause)

So it would seem, as Jesus offers up these two brief comments, that salt without its salt-ness…and light that’s covered up are both pointless. Neither one is fulfilling its essence…neither one is doing what it is, quite literally…made to do.

Now here’s the thing…Jesus says You ARE the salt of the earth…and then he says You ARE the light of the world. Jesus says this…Go in Human form…You ARE…not that you should be, or that you will be, or that you used to be…but you are. So be it…God told you that you are these things…so be salt…be light…be you…because you already are. (pause)

Now what’s that mean in the midst of our day to day life? Good question…and perhaps that’s why Jesus switches gears at this point…and we start hearing about the law. And he says some stuff about following the law…follow the commandments and teach others to do the same…don’t break them, because that won’t bode well for you in the kingdom of heaven. (pause) And I have to ask…what’s Jesus talk about here. Especially with his closing statement today…unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees you’ll never enter the kingdom. I can’t help but think that seems a little daunting…and perhaps a little odd at the same time.

Aren’t the scribes and the Pharisees always the ones that Jesus’ butts heads with? Aren’t they the ones that he call hypocrites? So why does it seem like he’s offering them up as the example today?

In order to answer that question, we need to remember what Jesus means by righteousness…and that word, one that we throw around a lot, simple means “being right with God.” And knowing that, we need to think about what the scribes and Pharisees do in order to “be right with God.” (pause) They follow the law, to the letter…and not just the 10 Commandments, but all the steps listed out to make up for their mistakes. The religious elite never claimed to be perfect, and we need to remember that…but they knew what do to make up for their sins…the right sacrifice to make…the right prayer to offer…in short…they followed the law, as they understood it, thinking that it made them righteous.

But the big question…how’d that work out for them? Not well…because we can’t do it. We can’t fulfill the law because the law is not just a list of things to do or not to do…and Jesus will spend a pretty big chunk of the sermon on the mount talking about this…that sin goes way deeper than our actions…it goes way deeper than our thoughts and words and intentions…it goes so deep into our broken human nature that we CAN NOT DO IT.

And so if Jesus is telling us to fulfill the law…to be righteous in a way that is greater than the religious elite…well how’s that going to happen? (pause) Well if we can’t do it…then I guess someone else is going to have to fulfill it for us…and maybe I’m crazy but didn’t Jesus tell us today that he has not come to do away with the law but to fulfill it? Pretty sure I heard that in there…
I have come, not to abolish, but to fulfill…To complete…to finish…and realizing that makes me think of a couple of words Jesus uttered on the cross right before he died. It…is…finished. (pause) As Jesus hung there…his body broken…his blood shed…it was fulfilled…and today…in just a few more minutes…we will each hear those same words spoken to us…The body of Christ, broken for you. The blood of Christ, shed for you.

This is the gospel…we can’t do it…so God does it for us…and the broken body and blood of Christ fulfills the law for us…the broken body and blood of Christ makes you righteous, whether you think you deserve it or not. (pause)

Now this is important…that we realize that our foolish attempts to justify ourselves…our efforts and our worrying about being good enough…being smart enough…or doing enough…are all just that…foolish waste of effort. Jesus assures us that its already done for you…now. And this frees us up to be what we are called to be…to be what we are made to be.

Salt is salty, otherwise its not salt. Light gives light, otherwise its darkness. You are you…made by God…bearing the divine image of the Lord…empowered with gifts and talents that are unique to you…so be you…quit worrying about being good enough for God and realize that there is nothing you need to do in order to be good enough for God.  He made us…and then he sat back and called humanity very good. And when humanity screwed it up…Christ redeemed it…and its already done. Period.

And now Christ is telling you…be YOU…be who you ARE. And you are a beloved child of God, claimed by our Lord and empowered to join together in reconciling the world back to the one who has redeemed it.

Salt makes a difference in food…and all you have to do it eat my wife’s cooking and then eat my cooking to taste the difference…because I always forget the salt.  Light illuminates…and all you have do it flip the switch in a dark room to see the difference. These things create a change simply by being what they are…and Christ says the same about you.

So you be you…wonderful, incredible…unique you. Not perfect…flawed and broken…but still beloved in the eyes of the one who made you in his own divine image…gifted and empowered by the Holy Spirit to make a difference in the world. Be what God has made you to be…nothing more, nothing less…You ARE a beloved child of God. Amen.

Be Salty 9-27-15

In this sermon, based on Mark 9:38-50 I explore Jesus instruction that we be salty, and its importance as we celebrate the baptism of one of the “little ones.”

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

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

My wife is a cook…period. She just is. I like food…a lot…period…We are a good match. And because of this mutual interest in both the preparation as well as the consumption of food, we tend to have Food Network on tv quite a bit.

Now over the course of the past several years, I’ve noticed a change in the typical programming on Food Network…especially during primetime in the evenings…There used to be a lot of shows dedicated to some well-known chef preparing food on camera, simply for the enjoyment of the viewer. Perhaps the most famous one being the Italian Chef Emeril Lagasse…and his signature catch phrase of “BAM!” as he added some seasoning to whatever dish he was currently making.

But now…the trend has moved more towards various cooking competition shows where various chefs and cooks compete round by round, enduring strange challenges and celebrity judge critiques to emerge as the champion.

Perhaps the most well known of these newer shows is one called Chopped where the contestants have to utilize mystery ingredients found in their baskets to prepare a signature dish for each round. And then after each and every round, one of them hears the dreaded words “I’m sorry, you’ve been chopped.”

Its all very dramatic…and of course the editing of the show prior to its viewing certainly helps…but as the clock counts down, you better get your food on the plate…and it better include every one of those mystery ingredients…because if you miss one, you are almost certain to be the next victim on the chopping block.

But all that being said…I often find that it’s the critiques of the judges that lend to the most drama…and by far, there are two main criticisms that pop up the most often. The first is that the food is overcooked…and the second, is the dreaded critique that your food, is under seasoned…bland…blaw. (pause)

Now certainly there are many different kinds of seasonings…one trip down the spice aisle in the grocery store will show you that…but the most common spice…and what I’ve heard chef after chef say…is the most important spice is salt…because salt brings out the natural flavors found within the food itself. (pause) So all you aspiring chefs out there…remember…salt is your friend.

And salt…is of course, where I’m going to jump into today’s lesson…because at the end of quite a bit of random teaching from Jesus…we hear him say these words…For everyone will be salted with fire….and have salt in yourselves…in short…be salty. (pause)
Now to be sure…today’s lesson offers a pretty mixed bag of topics…which, if you’ve caught the past couple of weeks here in Mark chapter 9, has sorta been the theme…as Jesus and the disciples make their way around the area…and Jesus continues to teach them…we seem to hear a lot of random tidbits that really don’t seem to be connected all that well.

It all starts off with John tattling on some random exorcist…some random unnamed guy that has caught wind of Jesus’ ability to cast out demons and so he has started to captilize…casting out demons in the name of Jesus…and John tells on him.
JESUS!!!! WE SAW SOMEONE…AND HE SHOULDN’T BE DOING THIS…HE’S NOT ONE OF US…TELL HIM TO STOP. (pause) Gosh John…I’ve heard the same sort of thing out of my kids when they’re bickering…and Jesus reaction is probably about the same as mine. HEY…YOU WORRY ABOUT YOU…HE’S NOT HURTING ANYTHING.

It would seem in this first exchange, Jesus is reminding the disciples…and probably us as well…that no one has the sole authority in the kingdom. Probably a good reminder for us in those times when we like to point our fingers at different denominations. (pause)
But then Jesus switches gears…and he starts talking about the little ones again…and considering that they’re still sitting in the same house as they were a week ago when Jesus bear hugs a random child to prove a point…it would seem that now he’s jumping back into that discussion after John’s little nitpicky moment.

And Jesus tells us…that anyone who makes one of these little ones stumble might as well tie a giant stone around their neck and jump in the ocean…and he goes on from there…if your hand makes you stumble…cut it off…your foot? Same deal…your eye…yank that puppy out and get rid of it.

And why? Well, because it is apparently better that you are dead than to make someone else stumble…and better that you remove the temptation rather than making yourself stumble…and in the midst we hear about hell and some worm won’t die and unquenchable fire. (pause) Holy smokes Jesus…you are all over the map today.

But…what if he’s not…and what if this is all connected? (Pause) Let’s back up for a second here…because this all starts with a warning against causing a little one to stumble…now that word stumble is an interesting one…and we hear it quite a few times today…and it actually means a few different things…one is literally a stumbling block…another is to scandalize…or other times we hear it translated as cause to sin. (pause)

And that right there starts to shed some light…any of you who causes another to sin…especially one of these young impressionable children who are looking to you to set an example in life…in faith…in how to live….well if you cause them to sin…you might as well be dead…and why? Well, anyone remember what is the wage of sin? (pause) Paul tells us its death.

And that’s what Jesus is talking about…your hand make you sin? Cut it off…do you wanna be dead or do you want life…and not just life but eternal? (pause)
But here’s the thing…we hear this and maybe we start thinking Okay…so Jesus is telling us that we need to act a certain way…or talk a certain way or think a certain way…or maybe Jesus is telling us to grab a knife and start cutting…but we all know that there is nothing that we can actually do in order to make ourselves good enough…its not about presenting a pretty picture of who we are…and we know that we can’t do anything to change ourselves…we just can’t do it on our own.

But we don’t lose hope either…because there is more to the story…because there is something out there…a power…a force…whatever you want to call it…that can make a difference…that can make a change in our lives…but before I start talking about that…I want to back up to salt again.

Because Jesus tells us to be salty…to have salt amongst us…and think for a bit about just what salt does when you put it on food…because salt doesn’t actually change the food…you put some salt on a burger before you cook it…its still a burger…but when you take a bite of it…it tastes different…you perceive it differently…you encounter it differently…your experience of that burger is different with salt that it would be if there was no salt. (pause) So maybe it the salt doesn’t change the form of the food…but it changes the taste doesn’t it? (pause)

So maybe when Jesus is telling us to be salty he’s really saying that there needs to be something else there with you that changes how you are perceived…how you are experienced…how the world sees you…how the world experiences you.

And that, my friends…is the Holy Spirit…the presence of God in spiritual form…the presence of God within you that makes the gift of faith possible…that makes forgiveness of sins possible…that makes eternal life possible despite anything that we can say or think or do.

The Holy Spirit seasons us…changes us…and yes over time this will result in a change in how we act and how we talk and even how we think but its not anything we do…it’s the power of God within us…seasoning us…changing us. (pause)

Now all that is wonderful…but of course it raises the question of just where does the Spirit come from? How can I get me some of that Spirit stuff? (pause) And while I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit can and does come upon whoever God choses…I also believe the promise that is made that in the waters of our baptism, we receive the gift of the spirit…

That water, splashed on our heads…together with the promises of God spoken over us…received in faith…seasons us in way that simple salt never will…and this is not a one time thing…for each and every day, we remember our baptism…we cling to those promises made to us as individuals that God loves you and God claims you through the power of the Holy Spirit, overcoming the sinful nature that leads to death and grants us eternal life along with him in the age to come.

In just a few moments, Leah Grace Neumann will come to this font, brought by her parents who desire that she receive this promise as her own…that receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…and as the water splashes over her head, then we believe and we confess that this is true. (pause)

But now here’s the thing…I want to come back around to one more point that Jesus made…because I think its important that we remember it. “If any of you puts a stumbling block before one of these little ones, it would be better for you to tie a millstone around your neck and be thrown into the sea.” (pause)

If you’ve sat in these pews during a baptism before…you know that once its over, I take that child in my arms, just as Christ gathers us in his arms…and I walk down the aisle…and more often that not, that sweet little child is staring out at all of you…and you hear me say the words that they will be watching you…and that each and every one of you shares in the promises made for that child…and each and every one of you shares the responsibility of raising that child in faith…and that comes down to your example.

Be different because you have the presence of the Spirit within you…Be different because of what God has done in your life…be seasoned by God’s presence…be salty…not because I told you to or because you’ll earn cosmic brownie points…but because she needs you to be…Amen.