5th Sunday after Epiphany (A)
February 5, 2017
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Gospel, which was read a few minutes ago.
In our Gospel for this morning, Jesus mentions two things that don’t really seem to go together; salt and light. On first glance, these two things don’t seem to have much in common, but they do. Can you imagine living in a world that doesn’t have salt or light? I can’t imagine French fries without salt and I would never live in Barrow, Alaska where the sun doesn’t shine for six months in the winter. Salt and light are natural in life; they’re needed and welcomed. But just like popcorn isn’t good with salt, and just like a parking lot is dangerous without lights, our society isn’t any good without salt or light. It is a dark, drab world obsessed with and immersed in sin, and it desperately needs the salt and light that is Christ Jesus. And fortunately, it can have both because you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Like today’s Gospel, last week’s Gospel, came from the Sermon on the Mount. Last week we heard the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are the blessings that Jesus bestows upon us because we’re His disciples. We’re blessed because we come before God humbly confessing our sins. We’re blessed with the righteousness of Christ because through faith we hunger and thirst for it. We’re blessed because Christ enables us to forgive those who have hurt us. We’re blessed because we’re God’s chosen people, and as those who have been blessed by God we can’t help but be salt and light.
Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world.” He doesn’t say that you will be the salt or that you were the light, He says that you are the salt and you are the light. As those blessed by Jesus, we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We are salt and light by virtue of being disciples of Jesus. Just as salt is salty and just as a light bulb gives off light, we naturally exhibit the characteristics of being a Christian. It’s not because we are holier or better than everyone else, it’s just because we’ve been changed through faith in Christ. It transports us from the darkness of this world into the light that is Jesus Christ.
And make no mistake, the world needs to be salted and have the light of Christ shined on it. In a manner of speaking, this world is unseasoned and dark. Just think for a moment about the sin that you see around you daily. The world is a dark and fallen place that desperately needs to be changed. It desperately needs to be seasoned by Christ if it is to emerge from shadow of sin and death. And that’s where we come in. As the salt and light of Christ our task is to call people to repentance for this sin and unbelief. This isn’t easy, not at all, in fact it can feel impossible, but it’s what we do. We tell people of their sin and we share with them the forgiveness that is theirs through the crucified Christ.
Now keep in mind that just like you can overdo the salt, you can be too hard on people. We don’t beat them up with their sin, we don’t thump with our Bibles, and we don’t shame them, rather we share the message of Christ with love. We love our family and friends and that’s why we share the Gospel with them. We want them to know the joy that comes from being the salt of Christ, we want them to experience the power of forgiveness that makes them shine. Jesus says, “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.” Like a city set on a hill, we want the people of this world to focus on us as members of a place of refuge. We want to be the beacon of hope to a lost and fallen world. We want them to see the Church as a place where their deepest needs are met and satisfied by God Himself. The Church stands alone from everything else in the world offering true hope and true peace to a world that knows neither hope nor peace.
And this is a high calling for you and me, it is one that our Lord takes most seriously and it’s one that we should take seriously as well. Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” We salt and light the world because we’re His disciples, so what does it mean if we don’t salt the earth or shine our light? It means we’ve neglecting our God given duties as Christians. Instead, we’re to do what God has sent us to do. What this means is what we’ve already talked about; we naturally salt the earth and light the world. We can’t help it, we just do it. It makes absolutely no sense to light a lamp and then hide it under a bucket because the lamp is supposed to bring light to the whole house. In the same way, we don’t hide the light that is in us. We let it shine so that it brings others to God.
And this is why we do what we do, that Christ would be the focus of those on whom we shine our light and sprinkle our salt. Jesus says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” We salt the earth not that we would be praised, but that God would be praised. We do good works, we help those around us, we share the love of Christ not so others say what good people we are, but so that they would say how good God is. Nor do we salt the earth and shine our light that we somehow obtain God’s favor and forgiveness. We don’t need to earn those because Christ has done all that is necessary that we would be forgiven. We don’t shine our light to be saved, rather we shine our lights because we are saved.
Because we’re saved, we shine our light and we salt the earth as we live out our daily vocations. A vocation is where God has put you in this world. You might have the vocation of spouse, child, employee, and friend, you are probably a mixture of many of these. And as Christians we’re different than others. I know this sounds obvious, but what I mean is that we are not just parents, we’re faithful and God pleasing parents. We’re not just children, we’re faithful and God pleasing children, we are not just employees or students, we’re faithful and God pleasing employees and students. No matter what our station in life, no matter our age, our gender, or our vocation, we do all that we do so that others will glorify God and come to faith in Christ who saves them from sin and eternal death.
And this is really what it is all about, isn’t it? We do all that we do, we shine our lights and we season the world with our salt because we know that it is all about what Christ has done for this fallen world – starting with us! We sin, we fail to shine our lights, and we don’t sprinkle our salt, so every day we need to remember that Christ is for us too. Because He faithfully served as the Light of the World, even though it would lead to His death, He has given us what we don’t have; a new relationship with God. You are forgiven. You are forgiven for failing to be faithful in your vocations. You are forgiven for hiding your lamp. You are faithful for hoarding your salt. Because you then have a new and loving relationship with God, you have a new relationship with those around you. You aren’t just family, friends, or neighbors, you are saints, children of God, to whom He has entrusted the Salt and the Light of Christ Jesus.
Common table salt is in abundance in this world and is readily available for us to use to our heart’s content. Light shines for hours every day and when the sun goes down, we simply flip a switch to light our homes. But the salt that we season the world with and the light that we shine in the darkness is more important and more powerful. The salt and light of we who are disciples of Christ bring hope to the hopeless, forgiveness to the sinners, and life to the spiritually dead. We shine our light in a darkened world so that others will know the salvation that we know, that they will also know that love of God. So salt the earth and let your light shine because you are God’s instruments to bring Christ to this world, and that is an awesome and wonderful calling for you and me.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen