Sermon: Epiphany 5.2011

Text: Matthew 5:13-20
Date: 2.6.2011
I have not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets,
but to fulfill them.

In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

And Jesus continues preaching to his disciples: “you all are the salt of the earth...You all are the light of the world.” You are these things because I am these things in and through you. A saying not unlike what preceded it in this sermon, Jesus just uses some illustrations now.

“You all are the salt of the earth, but if the salt might be made dull [or lose it's saltiness], with what will it be made salty? It is good for nothing more except being cast outside and trampled down under men.”

Salt, a preservative and a preventative, also adding flavor to common nourishment. A hard analogy, for salt is salty, that's just the way it is; it can't be anything else and if it is to remain salt, then it can't ever lose it's saltiness. On the other hand, if salt does somehow cease to be salty then surely it is no longer salt. It's completely improbable then, that there would be salt-less salt. And that's Jesus' point. I'll say it another way, to explain the illustration: A Christian has Christ, nothing else makes Him a Christian except Christ, and if he is to remain a Christian, he can't ever lose Christ. If a Christian does lose Christ, then surely he is no longer a Christian. It's completely improbable, no what's more it's completely impossible then, that there would be a Christ-less Christian.

But what is this “salt”? What does our Lord mean by calling us salt? / Jesus does not illustrate the presence of His chosen ones, first His holy Apostles and also the rest of us who believe, He doesn't speak about us without meaning. The images He uses is like a loving parent talking about his precious children, or a kind Son speaking about his beloved brothers. No, Jesus is intentional in His language.

And so we turn to the Old Testament, to the Scripture that Jesus used, which He studied and knew well.  Salt is used in the Old Testament as the incense which was poured upon the sacrifices on the altar in the temple.i The sacrifices weren't simply thrown up on the altar and burned at once. The goats and sheep and bulls and doves and grains that were used for the sin offerings were carefully and attentively prepared before being placed upon the altar. Then, once it was up there, the incense was drizzled over it and all together it was burned as sacrifice; all this in obedience to God's commands. And as it burned, the sacrifice with the incense was a sweet smell to God; in other words, the sacrifice was acceptable.ii

So it is with our Lord and our connection to Him in His sacrifice. He was carefully and quite attentively prepared by the Roman army for THE Sacrifice: stripped of all human dignity, massaged with coarse whips, moistened with spit, and crowned for good measure: properly prepared for The Sin Offering. He was then carefully raised up on the altar of the cross and there was joined with the incense, you, the salt and your sin. He took all your sin upon Himself. The Sacrifice was ready now, the hell-fires burned as Jesus' spirit, along with your sins, were offered to God in sacrificial obedience. The offering was acceptable, pleasing to God, thus making you acceptable, pleasing to God.

You, Jesus said, are now the salt of the earth. Improbable, no impossible; God seasons the world with you, the purified salt. But it is not you who made His sacrifice acceptable then and it is not you who make His sacrifices of love and mercy acceptable now. Christ is in you, Christian: you are salty. You were made salty in Baptism and you are flavored continually now as He runs through your veins and in your spirit as you eat and drink His Body and Blood. The Sacrifice-Jesus has become the Sacrament-Jesus, and He makes you who He is, acceptable before God (pure and holy) and a sacrifice in the world to those who need His acts of mercy from you.

But perhaps you have not been pure salt to the world. Perhaps you have been less than Christ would have you be. Repent. You are a sinner, and sin mixes with you and makes you a different substance. Going back to the illustration: even though salt cannot lose it's saltiness, otherwise it would cease to be salt, it can be mixed with other chemicals or other elements and be changed into something else. That something else is foreign to the salt and opposed to that which makes salt salty. Your sin changes you into the something else, something that is opposed to God, every one of your sins does this, especially the sins you continue to allow in your life. Repent and be who God has made you to be, pure and holyiii; receiving His gifts. Do you want to be cleansed? For unless you are cleansed and purified, unless Christ is in, then you are not part of His kingdom. Repent. Come. Be cleansed and purified from the toxins and foreign chemicals of sin and once again be like He is, pure salt, pure Divine substance. And when you sin again, come be purified again by His Word: hear His preaching and receive His Sacrament.

And what's more, “You all are the light of the world. A city situated upon a hill is not able to be hidden; neither do people burn a lamp and place it under the bushel basket, but [they place it] upon the lamp-stand and it shines to all in the house. In this way, shine your light in front of men, so that they might see your good works and glorify your Father who is in the heavens.”

Jesus is the glory, Jesus is the light. You don't add up? You don't think you have good works like Jesus to show the world, which glorify your heavenly Father? Repent, and believe. You are forgiven, and Jesus makes you a light. Sure, some Christians God places higher up on the hill, easier for the world to see, and so He gives them gifts accordingly, but you, dear Christian are no less beaming with the Divine Light. He is in you, He is working through you, even now, even in ways you have no idea. Sure, you have your bad works, your dark spots, there's no getting around it and they are not excusable, but that is not who God has made you to be in Him, in Jesus, the Light of the World.

In fact, you want to see the greatest of your good works that God so radiantly works in you, on your account. Look to the cross of Jesus. On that cross was perfect man in perfect sacrifice, performing the perfect and most glorious work of all time, an eternal work, and it is counted to you as your righteousness, a righteousness that far exceeds even that of the Pharisees and scribes. On account of that Divine Work, you do not have to fear the lack of your own righteousness, you do not have to fear saltlessness, you don't have to fear the darkness. Because on account of that Divine Work, which is connected now to all of your works (good and bad), on account of the crucifixion, you have the crucified One. You may, then, with great confidence stand in the place of Christ and His righteousness. Then, you will enter into the Kingdom of the heavens, pure and holy, and in Christ, just as things should be.

In Jesus' name. Amen.

[Artwork by Ed Riojas]
iLeviticus 2.3; Ezekiel 43.24; Ezra 6.9; Numbers 18.19; 2 Chronicles 13.5; Exodus 30.35
iiPhilippians 4.18
iiiExodus 30.35

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