You are Salt & Light – A Sermon for Epiphany 5


Reading: Matthew 5:13-20


An Inspiring Sermon?

During a fired-up sermon, the spirit impressed a great illustration on a local pastor. He said, “Our church needs to get back to the basics. We need to become like a babe, and learn to get up on our hands and knees and crawl like we’ve never CRAWLED before. This church needs to CRAWL before the Lord.”

As the pastor paused briefly, From the back of the sanctuary came a voice crying out, “Let ‘er CRAWL preacher, let ‘er CRAWL.”

The pastor continued, “Then we need to work on studying the word and strengthening ourselves to where we can STAND and be strong in our faith. We need to STAND for the LORD.”

From the back of the sanctuary the voice replied back, “Let ‘er STAND preacher, let ‘er STAND.”

Encouraged even more, the pastor continued his illustration by saying, “This church needs to then take one step at a time, putting one foot in front of the other until we can WALK with the Lord the way we should. This church needs to WALK for the Lord.”

From the back of the sanctuary the voice replied back, “Let ‘er WALK preacher, let ‘er WALK.”

By now the Pastor was fully inspired by the encouraging Brother in the back. Spurred on by the response the pastor continued with enthusiasm, “The church needs to then get into a stride where we can RUN for God. But first, it’s going to take each and every member of this church, each and every one of you, to join in.

“You’re each going to have to make a commitment to tithe, you’re each going to have to make a commitment to study the Word daily, you’re each going to have to commit to pray daily, and you’re each going to have to commit to assembling here as part of this body each and every time the church doors are open. “Then and only then, can this church RUN for the Lord.”

After an exceptionally long and thoughtful pause the voice cried out from the back of the sanctuary with a somewhat disappointed tone, . . .

“Let ‘er CRAWL Preacher, Let ‘er CRAWL.”

Embracing Who We Are

In some traditions, sermons tend to take on a prescriptive tone listing the things we ought to be doing as followers of Jesus. I do think there is a place for offering guidance on how to live this Christian life, but as I shared last week, I think so much about being followers of Jesus is about knowing who we are and embracing the truths about ourselves. Last week we looked at part of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus names the broken and vulnerable as the blessed or privileged of God. In the beatitudes, Jesus pronounces blessings upon the meek and lowly, the poor and grieving, in other words, all of us.  He doesn’t tell his audience what they need to do in order to receive blessings, Christ sees our vulnerability and speaks God’s words of life into each and every situation.

We are Salt & Light

If we weren’t already captivated by Jesus’ message in the Beatitudes, hear today’s particular word for you: “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.” That’s us folks.  Salt and Light.  Much has been said about these symbols, and I won’t try to exhaust their potential meanings.  But taken together these images speak to us of our identity as influencers.  We are the unique and distinct People of God.  We impact the lives of others with the unconditional love of God.   In Christ, we possess healing properties and the power to dispel darkness.  We shine with God’s love, bringing awareness and understanding of Christ’s saving work.  We are the city on a hill, seen by many.

Now, if you’re like me, you probably have a difficult time hearing this.  If you’re an introvert, you hate the idea of being a visible sign to which people are to look. If I had my way, I would be that light that is hidden under a basket.  It’s safer that way…it’s more comfortable for me. What’s more, I have a hard time truly believing that I actually am salt and light. I’m guessing most of you do as well.  You may nod politely when I said those words a minute ago, but deep down you probably have your doubts.  Most of us have a hard time believing that we are good, worthy, and lovable, and perhaps you’re tempted to write-off what I’m saying because as a pastor I’m paid to say such nice things!

Salt, Light, Known & Loved

But this is God’s word for you today: You are salt.  You are light.  You are known and loved.  You are precious.  You matter. You are vital to God’s plans for building God’s kingdom on earth.  Is that hopeful, or terrifying, for you to hear?!

Lest we think this means we are to preach on street corners or strike some unsuspecting victims with our large print King James Bibles, let me talk for a minute about how salt and light work.  Salt has a distinct flavor, yes, but it also works almost invisibly to preserve meats and melt snow.  Light casts out darkness, but is more the means by which people see, it is not the object beheld in itself.   Salt and light are distinct and noticeable but also permeable and of the earth.

Salt & Light Log?

This is truly good news for us! I believe that when we truly hear and embrace our identities as named by Christ, we learn how to behave as salt and light in the world.  And actually, I think if we took the time to really look, we would find that God is already using us as Salt & Light.  I’d like to suggest something to try this week: keep a salt & light log.  Write down the ways you find God uses you this week to better the lives of those around you.  Make a note when you are moved to call someone you think might be lonely.  Write down the times you’ve been drawn to your knees in prayer for the sick.  Keep track of the times your activity is in faithful service to God, and to the people in your life.  Much of the time these actions are barely noticeable, sometimes they may seem kind of silly.  But their impact is often greater than we can imagine.

The Birthday Caller

I’ll close with this example. Eddie was a faithful member of the rather large church I grew up in.  He worked at the food court in the mall, busing tables and picking up litter.  I’m not sure that he finished high school, and he spoke with a bit of a speech impediment.  Eddie was not someone that served in leadership positions in the church.  He did not sing in the choir, and I don’t recall ever seeing him in any form of public ministry.  But Eddie had his ministry: he was the birthday caller.  If it was your birthday, you could except a phone call from Eddie where he’d say, “Happy birthday, I’d like to sing you this song.” He’d then launch in to his “A happy birthday to you, a happy birthday to you…” He’d do this for everyone in the church whose birthday he knew – this was a church of about 500 people.  So, Eddie sang this song a lot.

On my 18th birthday I was feeling quite depressed.  My introverted self said I didn’t want a party or for people to recognize the day, but my heart wanted to feel loved on this significant birthday.  I was going through a tough time of sorts and certainly doubted God’s love for me (I tend to get depressed on my birthday anyways, but this year it was particularly bad).  The phone rang, and I picked up…

“Steve, God loves you and I’d like to see you a song if that’s ok? A happy birthday to you, a happy birthday to you…”

I literally teared up.  I was so moved that this man, who barely knew me, was taking the time to call me and sing to me and show me God’s love in his simple, humble way.

Note when you Act as Salt & Light

Friends, you are the salt and light of the world. Make a note this week of the ways God uses you to better the lives of others.  Some of these things might seem trivial, like a kind smile to a stressed store clerk, a hug for a loved one going through a hard time…these simple things are so often the way God works in and through us.  Make note of them, not just as a way of positive reinforcement, but that we may all grow in our ability to recognize the power of God at work in us.

“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.” It’s all about God’s glory, about directing ourselves to, and helping others to see, the light and love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now, “Glory to God, whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.  Glory to God from generation to generation, in the Church and in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”  Amen.