O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Based on Isaiah 58:3-9 and Matthew 5:13-20
February 6, 2011
Fellow baptized saints, do you consider yourself a very salty person? No, you don't have to lick your skin to find out. In the Navy, when someone is considered 'salty' it means they are experienced, well-weathered, crusty with sea salt from their many voyages at sea. I used to shake the salt out my beard matey. At the gym, you know that place we all promise ourselves we'll go to one day, a 'salty' person would also be sweaty. They may have tasted the salt in their sweat after a jog or a jounce. However, today in our Gospel reading, in a very different way, Jesus tells His disciples, "You are the salt of the earth." You give God's creation flavor. You are proof to the world that God still cares for them. You do things that make people think, hey there might be a God who loves me. So I'll ask you again, do you consider yourself a very salty person?
In our Old Testament reading, we hear a strange discussion about fasting. But oddly enough, it is not really about fasting, it is about what God wants His people to do here on earth - the same as our 'salt' theme. In the reading, the people of God feel as though they have done enough and they question why God has not taken notice. They ask, "Why have we fasted, and you see it not?" Don't we often find ourselves expressing this very same attitude by the way we live our lives. What is the least I have to do for God? How much is "enough"? I mean being the salt of the earth sounds like what I want to be, what is the minimum I have to do to be considered salty?
God is deeply saddened by our halfhearted, tasteless question. He responds, "Is not this the fast that I choose: to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? For we Christians are hiding from the world, afraid and ashamed like Adam and Eve, embarrassed to reveal ourselves to those God has commanded us to reach. God is trying to teach us something very important here. Let's hear it again, "do not hide yourself from your own flesh." God is saying, 'what are you doing? You all share the same flesh.' When you fail to help someone, you fail to help your own flesh. It is like abandoning your own mother, or sister or brother, or even your own child. Who doesn't help their own child? And yet God takes it further than this. He says, when you do not help someone, you are hurting yourself. Instead, show mercy to others as if you are showing mercy to yourself - because you are - you share the same flesh.
We should be that "salt" Jesus is talking about - the kind that reveals God's mercy to all those who share our flesh. Instead, every action in our lives demonstrates that we have lost our saltiness. We choose what is popular over what is right when we are in conflict, because we care more about what people think of our actions, than what God thinks of our hearts. We rarely share our faith with neighbors, coworkers or friends because we don't want to be rejected or make people feel uncomfortable by talking about religion. We give money to charity and to the church, as long as it doesn't impinge on our standard of living. We don't genuinely hate sin, we just don't want to be punished for it. After all, this new life God offers cannot actually be better than the old sinful one can it? We feel like 'good' people because we compare ourselves to someone we think is more sinful - our reasoning says - well at least I'm not the devil. Our idea of love is to spend time with those who love us back and make us feel comfortable, there is little love left over for those who cannot give anything back, much less for those who treat us poorly or we are uncomfortable around. We think about life on earth, much more than we think about our eternity in heaven. We are not bringing the salty flavor of heaven to earth for God, we are tasteless, flavorless and as Jesus says, "no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet." Yes Lord, you bled your innocent blood for me, but this is all I have for you. (deep, long pause)
We have lost our saltiness. All of us. We do not even see our fellow man as being of our own flesh. And so we must humbly ask our Lord, the question He once asked His disciples, "If the salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? (pause)
Dear Lord, tell us there is a way.
My dear friends in Jesus, Your God has a way. He knows how to restore your saltiness. For Your God has done something outrageous. Your God has taken on your flesh. Your Almighty God has come as a man that He might share the same flesh as you. That He might see you as His mother, His sister, His brother. Jesus Christ, the God-man, shares your flesh, and He did not hide like Adam and Eve. He did not choose the popular choice. He did not let people get away from talks about religion. He did not have a 'standard of living'. He genuinely hated sin, and still received the punishment for it on the cross. He went out of His way to love the people that could give Him nothing. People like you and me. Tasteless, flavorless, hopeless people. He lived His entire life on Earth so that you and I could have the eternity of heaven, and after all of it, He was considered no good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.
Brothers and sisters in the very flesh of Christ, He is the salt. His flesh is the salt of the earth. A salt that can never lose its saltiness. A salt that makes everything it touches salty. And He makes us salty through His flesh in a most unique way.
I like to think that the heavenly doctor, that is Christ, tells us to do what every earthly doctor tells us not to do. The doctor who is concerned for your physical health says, "Stay away from salt. It's bad for your heart. That means no salty foods." Our Lord Jesus, the doctor who is concerned for your spiritual health says, "Eat as much salt as you can. It's good for your heart. That means eating my salty flesh." Now for all the children out there thinking that they are in for one really salty piece of bread, rest assured, you eat the true body of Christ, but the salt is only spiritual.
Christ has come to share our flesh, and now He shares His flesh with us. He shares His flesh with you that you may be like Him - sinless, perfect and worthy of heaven. He shares His flesh with you that you may have the power to be the salt of the earth - those who live differently than the tasteless souls of this world. He shares His flesh with you that may no longer hide - but show the world that He is in you - that you are salty. Let us eat His salty flesh and bask in the glory that He promises will be our rearguard. Let us eat His salty flesh and live confident that He's got our back. That we are His flesh and blood because of all that He has done for us - and with Almighty God as our flesh and blood, we have nothing to fear.
Well, I suppose you are not salty with sweat from a long jog or jounce, but you when you eat the body and blood of our Lord, you will be the salty that other people need to taste. Do you consider yourself a salty person? Take and eat the true body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the same flesh that was given into death for all of your sins. Eat His flesh and pray that the Lord will make you salty for His Name's sake. For may it all be in His Holy Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr