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The Salt Of The Earth

February 4, 2023 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

salt of the earth

Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
February 5, 2023
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Epiphany 5
The Salt Of The Earth

You are the salt of the earth! But if the salt should lose its taste by what possible means could it become salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under foot! (Matthew 5:13)

Today Jesus reminds his church that she is “the salt of the earth;” and with that reminder also provides her anew with all the resources she needs to accomplish the “high calling” to which he has called her in the earth.

Now people are often stumped at the Lord’s saying, “You are the salt of the earth.” They wonder what it means. Let’s find out.

Salt had several uses in the ancient near-east. One was preservation. Salt was used to cure meat, to extend its shelf life in a world that had no refrigeration. The salt made the meat inhospitable to microbes and is still used today. And so the church, like salt, preserves the world. For the sake of the Elect the Lord still allows the world to spin, giving every person a chance to repent and believe the gospel, so that they might avoid eternal punishment for their sins, and live forever in gladness, with God in heaven.

Salt is used to enhance flavor. In like manner we are not only the “salt of the earth” but also the “spice of life.” How bland would the world be without a vibrant people of eternal faith? Whose eagle eye peers into the deepest mystery of all: the knowledge of our God; and who descrie our God in every creature.

There is a poem by the German mystic: Meister Eckhart that says this:

“Apprehend God in all things;
for God is in all things.
Every single creature is full of God
and is a book about God …
If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature
– even a caterpillar –
I would never have to prepare a sermon.
So full of God is every creature.”

Salt also served as currency because everyone needed it. So that when Jesus says that the church is “the salt of the earth" he was establishing her great worth – something that people don’t think about anymore. But consider how much more painful and deadly the world would be if no Word of God were ever spoken again in the earth. If the commandments were not taught. If no prayers were offered for “all sorts and conditions of men.” If the cross of Christ were no longer to be preached for the salvation of sinners.

For all of us, that is.

This is why St. Paul says some 30 years AFTER the Lord’s death on the cross, “We preach Christ crucified.”

While the historical reality of the cross is long past, the bountiful benefits of his “holy, innocent, bitter suffering and death,” are still in effect. Hear St. Paul’s words again from today’s epistle to the Corinthians, “When I came to you I made up my mind to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” The same gospel that we preach and teach and sing and eat and drink today.

And so the church is the world’s preservative; its seasoning and its priceless treasure living in its very midst, offering prayers without ceasing for earth’s health and salvation – though the people of the earth, blinded by the “god” of this world, are utterly unaware of it.

But there is yet another way that we are the “salt of the earth.” One that is not so easy except that the Comforter is with us all the way. In Leviticus 2:13 Moses gives the church this divine command: “with all your sacrifices you shall offer salt.”

We learn here that salt is inextricably bound up with the Old Testament sacrificial system. And now with the New Testament as well. Jesus is the “once and for all” sacrifice; and his church the salt that is mixed with it. As Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth.”

In the Old Testament Israel is called “the Suffering Servant.” Now we know that most of Israel’s problems were of their own making. They were constantly fighting against their God; quarrelling with their Holy Bridegroom, and slipping in and out of the beds of strange gods every night: even as we do whenever we choose sin over our love for God and for one another. And the LORD severely disciplined them for this, but he did not divorce them. Because their suffering had a larger purpose: to bring Jesus, the True Suffering Servant (Israel reduced to One) into the world through this particular people.

But there is a problem. The world does not want a Savior. Human pride assures us that there is nothing wrong with us that can’t be fixed with a little more “critical thinking.”

But O how wrong this opinion is! And O how the world hates it. And burns white hot as often as the church says it! The case is just as we sing in the hymn “What Is The World To Me” (TLH #430 v.5)

The world is sorely grieved
Whenever it is slighted.
Or when its hollow fame
And honor have been blighted.
Christ, Thy reproach I bear
Long as it pleaseth Thee;
I'm honored by my Lord--
What is the world to me!

All this to say that as “the salt of the earth” we must be prepared to be sacrificed by a “sorely grieved and slighted” world for the sake of the gospel that is earth’s only salvation. This is what Holy Paul says in Romans 8:36 "For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." And so do not expect the world to love you if you publicly profess the Holy Christian Religion in this House of God today.

As the Old Testament church paid a price to bring salvation into the world; as our Lord suffered the Great Tribulation for the Good of all men; even so the church must suffer the wrath of devil, world and flesh because of the blessed work that her Lord has assigned her to do.

Like St. Paul “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Cor. 4:8-11)

Like Jesus we have no army, no weapons, no purse, no voice that controls the cultural conversation. When struck we turn the other cheek. When required to carry the world’s burdens one mile we carry them two. When cursed we bless. When denounced we pray for our enemies. Because we are the “salt of the earth,” and the “suffering servant,” though earth is utterly oblivious to it.

One day they will know.

But not yet!

In the meantime our God fits us with the resources we need to carry on. He gives us Light in the darkness. Oil for our lamps. The wings of eagles. His Holy Angels to attend us. And especially this “Communion of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor. 13:14) that we partake of at his altar today.

Take eat! Take drink! Amen.