5th Sunday after Epiphany—Year A—February 9, 2014
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Disclaimer: this sermon was not preached word for word and included props!
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight oh Lord, our strength, and our redeemer.
This week, and for the next couple of weeks, we will be hearing from Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. It shares some material with Luke’s Sermon on the Plain, but this section of Matthew goes on for three chapters filled with admonitions, instructions, promises, interpretations, and challenges.
Today’s verses come right after the famous Beatitudes.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Jesus up-ends societal standards and blesses some unlikely demographics, but just in case you feel left out of this list, Jesus moves on and says to the whole crowd: “you are the salt of the earth”. Jesus says to us: “you are the light of the world.” He does not clarify the you…
you who call yourselves Christian
you who are of a certain age
you who read the scriptures in a certain way
you who are male…
you who tithe
you who are straight
you who are smart enough
you who like chocolate better than vanilla;
he just says “you”!
YOU ARE THE SALT OF THE EARTH!
Jesus speaks, and it is so.
YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD!
There is so much power and promise in those words.
Jesus does not say…BE the salt of the earth or BE the light of the world. He says you are.
He does add the caveat…so why not act like it. But hear that for what it is…an invitation, not an “or-else” command.
You might be thinking…being thrown out and trampled under foot sounds like a pretty bad situation…a consequence if you will for not being salty enough. But remember, Jesus said “you are salt,” and a short chemistry lesson will prove…you cannot in fact lose your saltiness. Salt cannot be un-salty.
Usually when we talk about salt, we are referring to sodium chloride. It is the stuff that you cook with, not the stuff you put on your sidewalks to melt all this snow and ice. Sodium Chloride is an ionic compound, which means that their bond is formed by an attraction due to the two substances having opposite charges. Without going into much detail and really geeking out…think two magnets being stuck together. When combined, sodium becomes a cation (an ion with a positive charge—in this case +1) and chlorine becomes an anion (an ion with a negative chare—in this case -1). In their natural forms, sodium has a lone electron in its outermost valence shell, while chlorine is just one short of a full valence electron shell, so they are drawn together so that sodium’s extra electron can fill chlorine’s whole.
The bond between sodium and chlorine is not unbreakable. If you have made salt water at some point, then you have broken the bond, and are left with Na+ and Cl- ions floating around. But when the water is removed—evaporated away—the ions simply recombine back into salt. Water does not cause salt to lose its saltiness.
Some of you might have a salt grinder on your dinner tables instead of a simple shaker. If you do…you know, that you also cannot grind the saltiness out of salt. Sodium Chloride is very happy in its perfectly cubic structure. You can make it incredibly tiny, but all you are doing is breaking down the crystalline structure—the bonds between molecules of salt—you are not breaking the ionic bond, so the saltiness remains.
So what it comes down to is that salt cannot lose its saltiness completely—it cannot be crushed or washed away—it can only be diluted with impurities and rendered useless.
You are the salt of the earth. But sometimes we get mixed up with other things:
– We are busy with work and afterschool activities
– We focus on the newest video game system for iphone being released
– We judge others based on what they have instead of seeing them as children of Go
– We rely on drugs and alcohol, or food, or some other addiction
When we as salt get mixed up worldly things, we do not lose our saltiness, but we do lose our effectiveness as salt.
When our light gets covered by worry, sorrow, unhealthy crutches, and stuff, our light does not go out, but it cannot be seen; it does not illuminate anything around it.
I would not put that salt mixture on my French fries, and I would not use a covered lamp to read in bed. The salt and light remain, but their purpose is not being fulfilled.
That is what Jesus is talking about. Whether you follow all the commandments all the time or not…you are light and salt…you are a child of God…you are loved and forgiven…you are redeemed and ensured eternal life.
That part is written in stone. That promise remains forever. Of that I’m sure.
But what I’m not sure of is that you will never encounter any pain or hardship, injury or addiction. I cannot promise that you will never get mixed up in anything negative or get dissolved in a stumble of faith. But I can re-iterate God’s promise—you are salt—and I pray that in the midst of the valleys of your life God will continually remind you of that, and of the fact that God has the power to evaporate the waters you are being dissolved in and pick out each grain of dirt and debris from around you, and leave your saltiness to spice and preserve—to shine and illuminate—to serve and care for—to loose the bonds of injustice and undo the thongs of the yoke one more day!
God made you salty and bright—and there is nothing that can change that! You are. Amen.