Sermon: Salt of the Earth Christians

Salt of the Earth Christians
February 12, 2017
RUMC Matthew 5:13-16

A Peanuts cartoon once showed this conversation between Peppermint Patty and Charlie Brown: Peppermint Patty:  “Guess what Chuck. Today was the first day of school and I got sent to the principal’s office.  It was your fault, Chuck.”
Charlie Brown said: “My fault? How could it be my fault?  Why do you say everything is my fault?”
Peppermint Patty then said, “You’re my friend, aren’t you Chuck? You should have been a better influence on me.” 

While Peppermint Patty tried to pass the buck and put the blame on Charlie Brown for all of her troubles, she did have a point. All of us should be a good example for others.  I would like to look at four verses of scripture where Jesus showed his disciples how they could essentially affect their world in a positive way.

The scripture is Matthew 5:13-16.
You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
This is the Word of God.
Thanks be to God.

In this passage of scripture, Jesus talked about salt and light. My focus will be salt; there are many varieties to choose from.  For example when I was recently in the Big Y this past week, I saw the following:

  • Morton’s Iodized salt.
  • Diamond Crystal Premium All Purpose and Kosher Salt
  • Iodized, Natural and Mediterranean Sea Salt
  • Garlic Salt

At the Ellington Agway they sell:

  • Salt Blocks for deer
  • Rock Salt for snow

If you go into Walgreens, there is was an oldie:

  • Epsom salt.

In Bible times, 2000 years ago, people didn’t have the variety if salts that we have. It was a food preservative.  For example, when the disciples caught their fish on the Sea of Galilee, they would clean it, rub salt inside and dry it so it would not spoil.

When Jesus spoke of “salt” he used it as a metaphor; he likened it to the type of believer who would make a positive impact on our world. In our United Methodist Church, we have a vision statement that maintains who we are and what we should be: “Transformed by the Holy Spirit, united in trust, we will respond to God’s call to proclaim Christ boldly to the world.” Those are lofty ideals, and the only way we can do all these things is to become “Salt of the Earth” Christians.

In the May 2000 issue of Decision magazine, there were two youth leaders who had a “salt” like quality in their Christian witness. The title of the article was called “I Saw Something different in Those Guys.”  Carl Cothern, the author of that article wrote:
Gavin and I were helping my pastor guide thirty lively teens through an all-night lock in at the church. Early in the evening, Gavin challenged me to a game of table tennis in the fellowship hall.  Our game quickly heated up.  With the score tied and only three points to go before the end of the game, Tracy an eighth grade girl, grabbed the ping pong ball and kept it from us.  My first impulse was irritation.  But then a scripture passage, 1 Corinthians 13, one that our group had read that afternoon came to mind which said: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking.  It is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs.  The two youth leaders joked with Tracy until she finally tossed the ping pong ball back on to the table.  We thanked her and finished the game.  Hours later, after a spiritual film, Tracy and six others prayed to receive Christ as their Savior and Lord.  Later that night, when gathered for testimonies, Tracy said, ‘I grew up in a family where nobody goes to church. I have learned to get attention by making people mad at me.  But earlier this evening I saw something different.  When I stole the ball from those guys, they didn’t get mad at me.  They didn’t fight back.  I decided right then that I wanted whatever it was they had.’
Let me say this, those “salt of the earth” qualities made an impact on Tracy.

In Bible times salt was highly valued, and, remarkable as this sounds, Roman soldiers were sometimes paid with bags of salt. In fact, our word for salary comes from the Latin word salarium, which referred to the payments with salt.

Now when you think about it, salt is a substance that does not draw attention to itself. It is silent and does not make noise.  It works best when it is not seen.  It exerts its influence in the background.  When Jesus refers to believers as “salt of the earth” he means that our presence could positively be used to purify, to heal, to nurture, to thaw, to preserve and to season others in the name of the gospel.

Modern day hospitals as we know them began their existence under the influence of Christianity. The same can be said for the Red Cross, orphanages, adoption agencies, and mental health facilities.  Additionally a number of colleges and universities had their origins through the ministry of Christian believers.  The aid and education were seen; the Christians behind the scenes provided the spice that shaped their framework.

Some time ago, I saw a movie called “Molokai;” if you go to the library they can get a DVD of it for you. It is the story of the Roman Catholic priest, Father Damien, who ministered to exiled lepers on a remote Hawaiian island called Molokai.  Like salt, Father Damien preserved the faith of lepers and gave them hope.

For salt to be effective, it has to be placed into or on the food. In order for Father Damien to properly do his work, he had to live among lepers.  Although it ultimately cost him his life, Father Damien had no regrets.  When we become part of people’s lives or simply live the gospel, we become like salt in a good way.

Someone once asked Mahatma Gandhi, the great Indian leader, “What was the greatest hindrance to Christianity?” He answered, “It is the Christians.”  You see Gandhi’s exposure to Christianity first began when he was a young lawyer in South Africa, and it was not positive.  At that time period, he studied the Bible, especially the teachings of Jesus.  There was one watershed moment in his life, when he decided to attend a Sunday morning worship service in a South African white’s only church.  It was there that an English man approached Gandhi in a harsh tone of voice.  “Where do you think you are going kaffir?”  Now Kaffir is an offensive racial term for a colored person.  Gandhi replied, “I would like to attend worship here.”  The church elder snarled and said, “There is no room for kaffirs in this church.  Get out of here or I’ll have my assistants throw you down the steps.”  And that was it.  The damage was done.

Although salt is beneficial, it can lose its flavor, just as it had done with that South African church usher or elder. How different do you think our world would be today, if Gandhi had been shown proper Christian respect?

Salt is not useful if it just sits in a salt shaker. We need to spread it.  We do that when we live according to the gospel, when we nurture our spiritual lives, when we share our faith.  If we keep our faith bottled up and fail to be kind, merciful or a peacemaker to others, we could become stale.

When Jesus said we are the “salt of the earth” He meant we should nurture those around us.  Notice Jesus did not say, “You are the Pepper of the Earth.”  Why?  Because pepper is loud and draws attention to itself.  But as salt of the earth believers we will make the world a better place.

Let me close. May God be with us as we spread our salt this week in all the places where we go and give our faith and deeds a good shaking.