Sermon / Pr. Ted Giese / Sunday February 5th 2017 - / Matthew 5:13-20 / Light and Salt
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday February 5th 2017: Season of Epiphany/ Matthew 5:13-20 "Light and Salt"
“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.
“You are the light of the world. 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. 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.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. “Let your light [so] shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” This was our verse this morning before the Gospel, it was taken from the Gospel, and they are very familiar words. We hear them at the end of a baptism when we light a candle and hand it to the one being baptized or to the parent, or godparent, of the one being baptized. We hear these words but what do these words mean?
When we hear Jesus say “your light?” what do you think of first? Is this a light that you generate in your heart, by your will, by your own gumption, by your own power? No. When Jesus says “Let your light shine before others,” we must remember what Jesus says in the Gospel of John when He says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Who then is “your Light?” Jesus is. He is “your Light.” Jesus also says this about Himself, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in Me may not remain in darkness.” And in the verse before that Jesus says, “Whoever sees Me sees Him who sent Me.” And who is it that Jesus says has sent Him? Jesus says that it was His heavenly “Father who sent [Him].”
So again what does Jesus say to you today, “Let your light [so] shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” In faith, in your baptism, Jesus is not just the light of the world but He is your light, He belongs to you and now you belong to Him, and because of your adoption into the family of God your true Father is your heavenly Father, your Father in heaven, just as Christ Jesus is likewise now your older brother, the older brother who has paved the way ahead of you, making the path for you to walk in, giving you His footsteps to walk in.
Essentially Jesus is saying, “let [me] shine before others, so that when the people around you look at the things you do, they understand what they are seeing and know who to thank.” That would be, not you, but Christ Jesus and ultimately God the Father who sent Jesus out of love for all people, out of love for you. Good works then are not ours to do, so that we can be thanked. For example, awhile ago after a Service I remember complimenting one gentleman in our congregation who is a very good singer on how well he’d sung and he quickly evaded my compliment, redirecting it to the proper recipient saying, “to God be the glory.” … “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Last week we talked about the beatitudes and how they were perfectly, without fault, accomplished through, and by, Jesus. We talked about Jesus’ perfect completion of them being what makes us free to be gracious and meek and merciful towards others; His accomplishment of the law then makes us free not worrying if the World think we are poor in spirit because we look after those who the world look down upon, in Christ we become free not worrying if we are persecuted because of Him. Because Jesus made peace between us and His heavenly Father we then are free to work at being peacemakers, we are free to work at keeping a pure heart, we are free to embrace a thirst and hunger for God’s word, for a righteous life. And when we fail at living in this way, we then are free in Christ Jesus to return to the Father and ask for forgiveness. Trust me, people will take notice when someone takes responsibility for their sin and honestly desires to do better, people take notice when someone is able to forgive and is able to be forgiven. This too, along with good things like meekness and mercifulness in all that we think, do and say will be noticed and if anyone praises you for these things remember who your light is, Jesus, and remember who sent Jesus, the Father and then give the credit where the credit is due, point away from yourself and say, “to God be the glory.”
For the one who wonders at what they see in you, cross the T’s and dot the I’s, help them to see that you cling to Christ and this same Christ lifts you up, this is why you can say that Jesus is “yours,” remind them that the Light they see in you, “your Light,” is Him. At the beginning of the Gospel of John we hear that in His incarnation Jesus, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him.” Remember the theme of the season of Epiphany, this season is about the revealing of Jesus to the World, about the surprise that Jesus is to a World shroud in darkness. Jesus was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him: How does the World get to know Jesus today? The World gets to know Him through you, and the good works that you do, to the glory of your heavenly Father.
“Wait! What?” … “My good works?” “The good works I do?!” “Uhmmmn … I think we have a problem.” “If the world is depending on the good works I do in order for Jesus to be revealed then no one will ever get to know Jesus!” Take heart, be of good courage: No one said discipleship would be easy, no one said it wouldn’t be hard, or that it wouldn’t require sacrifices, or diligence. Should you fail at letting Jesus shine in your good works, remember that in this Christian Church, to which you have been called and gathered, in this Christian church where you are being enlightened week in and week out, the Holy Spirit daily and richly forgives all your sins and the sins of all believers. Remember the grace of God in which you have been saved, not by your own doing but by the doing of Christ, now as a result of Jesus “we are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
But I am miserable in walking in them! I think I’m less like the city on a hill shining in the dark with the light of Christ Jesus and a whole lot more like the salt that has lost its saltiness, the stuff that Jesus says “is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.” Ok then, let’s ask the question that Jesus asks and let’s see if Scripture has an answer for the question. Jesus starts by saying, “You are the salt of the earth,” then He continues to ask, “but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?” To answer this let’s look at another familiar passage, one from the Old Testament, from Ezekiel chapter 37.
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And He led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And [the LORD] said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.” Then He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then [the LORD] said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as [the LORD] commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
Then [the LORD] said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O My people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O My people. And I will put My Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.”
So, “if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?” The LORD will restore it. How will the LORD do this? The LORD will do this through the preaching of His Word; by the power of the Holy Spirit He will do this. He does this in Christ Jesus, in His life and death and resurrection from the dead. What did Saint Paul say in our Epistel leson this morning from 1 Corinthians? Paul said, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” A preacher worth his salt will preach to you Christ Jesus and Him crucified. From the crucifixion of Christ all forgiveness flows, it flows from Jesus’ pierced side: Yes, from His very side, as His Body hangs there dead for you, come the waters of Baptism and the Blood of Holy Communion. The Roman soldier runs Jesus through with the spear and from His dead body pours out Life. In the darkness of Golgotha, up on that hill, shines Jesus. He is the city set on a hill that cannot be hidden. You are citizens of that city, baptized into His death and His resurrection. It is of no benefit to the World to hide the Light of the World under a basket, with our preaching and teaching we are called and encouraged to always have this Light of the World set on a stand, trusting that Christ Jesus alone gives light to all in the house.
The preacher either succeeds in this or fails in it. He like you needs forgiveness when he wants to know something other than Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Martin Luther comments on this at the beginning of the Large Catechism when he says: The pastor, the preacher, who disregards God’s Word, “deserves not only to be given no food to eat, but also to have the dogs set upon [him] and to be pelted with horse manure." This is what Martin Luther says: If the preacher doesn't give you the Gospel, if he doesn't give you Jesus, sick the dogs on him, it's hard to find manure in the streets these days but you get the picture. "For not only do we [all] daily need God’s Word just as we do our daily bread; we also must have it every day in order to stand against the daily and incessant attacks and ambushes of the devil.” To so flippantly despise such might, benefits, power, and fruit which is found in the Word of God—especially we who are pastors—is a sin." We all therefore need to hear God’s Word and study in. In so doing our eyes are taken off of ourselves and they are placed back on Christ Jesus who is our Light and our Life. The thing to remember about this part of the Gospel of Matthew that we hear read to us today in our Gospel Reading is that it is Jesus preaching a sermon to you. This is the Sermon on the Mount. With these words Jesus breathes new life into you. By these words the Holy Spirit is at work in you, as Saint Paul says, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” And yet this brings us back to what I said earlier, Jesus is revealed today to the World, to your family, to your neighbours, to your friends through you, and Saint Paul also says in Romans 10, “How then will they call on [Jesus] in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” This week we have another beautiful pair of feet making the final steps to come to us here. Let us all keep Pastor Albrecht in our prayers as we together hear God’s Word, endeavour to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified, letting our Light, Christ Jesus, shine before others, so that they may see our good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven, always turning to our heavenly Father through Jesus for forgiveness when we’ve lost our saltiness trusting that it is God who will make us salty again as we live out our faith in the world. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 John 8:12
 John 12:46
 John 12:45
 John 8:16
 Psalm 63:8
 John 1:9-10
 Luther’s Small Catechism, Concordia Publishing House 2005, pg 17.
 Ephesians 2:10
 Ezekiel 37:1-14
 1 Corinthians 2:2
 Book of Concord Readers Edition, Large Catechism, Concordia Publishing House 2006, Pg 479.
 Romans 10:17
 Romans 10:14-15