Let us pray: Dear Savior, thank You for moving us to come to church today! Thank You for giving us soul-sustaining, life-sustaining food through Your holy Word. Continue the purification process that You have begun today—continue it throughout the upcoming weeks and months. For then our hearts will be worry-free, our souls will be unburdened, and our lives will be blest. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE SALT—GIVER!
TEXT: Mark 9: 50: “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
I like to kid my half-Norwegian wife that the Scandinavians have white food—potatoes, fish, lefse, and cauliflower. They also have two spices in their cooking—salt and pepper. All that white snow must have affected their genes and carried over into their diet. All kidding aside, salt really isn’t so bad for you. Yes, I know that doctors like to tell most of us to cut back on our salt intake. For too much sodium chloride can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. And yet, too little salt is also a problem. It can throw off your electrolytes and cause imbalances in your body which leads to light-headedness and fainting. I learned this when I was in my late teens and worked for a summer in a canning factory. After our nightly shift was done, we had to don rubber suits and asbestos gloves and hoist around live steam hoses to clean the machinery. They had salt tablets on hand to replenish the sodium chloride we lost during that exhausting hour of work.
Salt is probably the oldest preservative known to man. It has helped preserve meats and even vegetables—protecting them from botulism in the canning process. Up until the past 100 years or so, salt was precious. Even today in the Sahara people mine salt and it’s literally worth its weight in gold. For in those hot climates they know that without it they will die.
In the verse directly preceding our text Christ ends a discourse concerning Christian submission of the ego to God’s will by adding this little line: “Everyone will be salted with fire.” Of course, He’s referring to the refiner’s fire of the prophet Malachi. God’s perfect Law judges us and refines us—helping get rid of ego-driven pride—and distilling our lives down to the essence of what is really vital—humble faith in Christ’s goodness and not our own. By blending these two types of preservatives—fire and salt—Jesus seeks to purify us. Well, all this brings me to the point of this sermon, which is:
THE VIRTUES OF INVISIBLE SODIUM CHLORIDE
We like to playfully talk about how Pinewood is a “church of chemists!” That’s because many of you work in that field. And I’m sure after the service is over some of you could tell me a scientific answer to Christ’s question: “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again?” Perhaps bio-engineering could change back those molecules today. But, basically, if salt ceases to be salt, we, you, cannot change it back. Certainly at Jesus’ time that was so.
Now the virtues of sodium chloride are many. First, it was used primarily as a preserver of life. People needed it to survive that hot climate. They also used it to preserve various foods, as I mentioned earlier. Second, it served and still serves as a purifying agent. Many bacteria don’t like salt and will die when dosed with it. And third, it can also be used as a cleanser. One of the best ways of cleaning a greasy cast-iron pan is to rub it with salt. For salt cuts the grease. (I won’t mention here how it melts snow, although considering Buffalo’s 20+ inches earlier this week, I’m sure it’s on those folks’ minds.)
Of course, Jesus is really talking about invisible salt in our text. He’s talking about His Words of divine truth and likening them unto salt. And just like regular salt possesses various virtues, so too, the invisible kind.
In today’s Old Testament lesson, we heard how leaders among the Children of Israel were jealous of other’s who prophesied in God’s name. Moses reply to them was: “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” Then, in our gospel lesson we hear of a similar experience that occurred with the disciples. They, too, were jealous that God had raised up a man apart from them who did miracles—casting out demons—in Christ’s name. Jesus’ reply was similar: “Do not stop him…for whoever is not against us is for us.” And finally, in today’s epistle, we are told of the need to purify our own hearts via repentance, to humble ourselves before the Lord, and not to be jealous of another’s Godly gifts.
The entire point of all these lessons is the same: “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” In other words, preserve, purify, and cleanse your hearts and lives with the salt of Divine truth. Take seriously the commandments. Take seriously the reality of original sin in your lives. You and I were born unsalty. We cannot on our own make ourselves salty again. But God, Who created both visible and invisible salt, can! And more importantly, He does! For Jesus is the Salt-giver. The only thing that can change the human heart is love and forgiveness. The feelings of guilt and punishment, engendered by God’s Law, can certainly change behavior, at least for a while. But it cannot and does not change the heart. Only pure love can do that. And so Jesus, the Salt-giver, came. He came to rise above jealousy—after all, who could He be jealous of since He was Lord of all? He came to bestow upon us His perfect life of love. He came to pay for our sins of jealousy and discord by dying in love for them on a cross. He came to win peace and to bring inner peace to each of us. And He does that through faith. Simple trust in Him, which He gives to you, makes you salty again. Yes, it is Jesus Who makes us into the “salt of the earth.”
Today we use salt to enhance flavor, to make foods savory. So, use His gift of invisible salt to make your life savory to God. Yes, eat your fill of His loving forgiveness and you truly will be satisfied. Amen