Sermon: February 5, 2023

Watch the YouTube video of this and other sermons here.

“Taste And See”

Matthew 5:13-20
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
17 “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. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

I read about a mother mouse who decided to teach her children a lesson about the world. She gathered all of her little mice and set out for a walk. They walked down the hall and turned to the right. Then they went down that hall and turned to the right again. And suddenly, they found themselves in front of the family cat dozing in the sunlight. The mother mouse was scared; but she didn’t want to give in to the fright. So, she signaled to the children to be very quiet and to follow her as she began to tip toe quietly and slowly past the sleeping cat. Just as she was about to get past the cat, the cat’s eyes popped open and raised its paw.

The little mice were petrified. What would their mother do? Well, just as the cat’s paw started to come down, that mother mouse looked the cat right in the eye and started barking like a dog. And you know what? The cat was so startled and frightened that it jumped up and ran away! The mother mouse, wiped her brow, shook a little, and then turned to her little mice and said, “Children, I hope you learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes it’s good to know a second language!”

I have some startling news for you this morning that might just blow your mind; but despite “The Chosen” series on television and the best efforts from Hollywood, Jesus didn’t speak English. Jesus’ native tongue was Arabic. But that’s not the point I want to make this morning.

As we learned last week with the beginning of His “Sermon on the Mount” and the Beatitudes, Jesus sees life a little differently than us so in a sense I guess we can say that He spoke more than one language. Though we refer to it as a sermon it is more like a lecture. Jesus is teaching, and when Jesus teaches, there are usually fireworks. He says some things that are hard for us to understand and even harder for us to accept. His sermon begins by blessing the poor, the hungry, and the persecuted—but for us in 2023, as I shared last Sunday, who wants to be poor, hungry, or persecuted?

We continue His sermon today with Jesus declaring the disciples and those gathered on the hillside as “The salt of the earth and light of the world.” Can you imagine that? Here was a motley crew of farmers and fishermen and tax collectors and housewives in a tiny and remote village in an obscure part of the world and Jesus says these things to them. Talk about a crazy idea or concept! You want to hear something crazier? He’s saying the same thing to us today!

Salt and light aren’t something we give a lot of thought to. We can buy salt about anywhere, even at the Dollar General or our other convenience stores—and we don’t even think about light until the power goes out and we don’t have it any longer.

Salt was greatly valued in the time of Jesus. Not only was it used to add flavor but it was also used as a preservative. In the day and time that Jesus was speaking these words modern refrigeration was unknown. One of the most common ways to preserve food—such as fish shipped from the Lake of Galilee down to Jerusalem—was to salt it heavily. Salt was also used to purify and fertilize. It was a metaphor used for wisdom, and it was used for sacrifices in the temple. In Jesus’ day, a bag of salt was reckoned as precious as a man’s life.

A lamp was a very important item in a windowless Palestinian home and by placing it on a lamp stand it gave light to all that were in the house. A city on a hill as Jesus mentioned was a common sight in the mountainous Holy Land but not the sight of telephone poles holding up electrical wires that for us provide our light.

It was a Saturday in the 1980’s when I was still living in Ohio when the day ended with some precipitation and that night the temperatures dropped to -14 degrees with wind chills around -50 degrees. The morning brought the sight of frozen tree limbs with some drooping all the way to the ground under the weight of the ice and the temperatures weren’t warming up much. It wasn’t long before those branches and entire trees were falling to the ground and with them electrical wires and soon we were without power which meant we were also without heat. The house I was renting had no heat upstairs and very little insulation and soon we found ourselves sitting in our running car to stay warm. Often times we don’t know how good we have it until we don’t have it.

As the salt of the earth and the light of the world what is expected of us as Christians? Life without Jesus is flat, tasteless; as His followers we are to add tone to life and zest to living, just like salt ads flavor to food. I read somewhere in studying for this message that we should “ad pizzazz to the world around us!”

Jesus came to this world as the light of the world so that by calling us light He is comparing us to Himself! How scary is that? As Christians we are on display and must give careful attention to our influence on others.

If you use the Upper Room for your devotions, you read this past Thursday that the objects that appear the brightest in the night sky, the moon and some of the planets like Venus and Jupiter, do not produce their own light. Unlike the numerous stars that generate their own light, the moon and visible planets have no intrinsic light of their own. Instead, they reflect the light of the sun.

In a similar manner, we shine the brightest when we reflect the light of God. That was kind of my idea when I put the lamp in the prayer room that stays on 24/7. Several people have commented to me that they like seeing that light as they drive by here in the evenings. That light reminds us of the presence of Jesus drawing us nearer to Him.

So just exactly what is our light? Our good works which are often a more effective witness than our verbal testimony. As His followers, we are to shine the light if Jesus to others for His sake! As the moon reflects the light from the sun, we are to reflect the light of God’s Son.

As the “Salt of the earth,” we are to add joy to the common day because we are Christians—the zest of serenity, trust, and worship. And as the “Light of the world,” we are to never let the light of Jesus Christ be snuffed out so that all might be able to see.

Jesus is calling us, the common ordinary everyday folks, the nobodies, to be the bright hope of the world!

Thanks be to God!

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