“Salt & Light”

Click here to hear the audio recording of this sermon.

    Matthew 5:13-20 • February 6, 2011

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.

In baptism our gracious heavenly father frees us from sin and death by joining us to the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are born children of a fallen humanity; by water and the Holy Spirit we are reborn children of God and made members of the church, the Body of Christ. Living with Christ and in the communion of saints, we grow in faith, love, and obedience to the will of God.

These are the words that we hear at the beginning of every celebration of the sacrament of Holy Baptism in our congregation. I think they are some of the most important words that we will ever hear as followers of Jesus. They are words that have been offered in our congregation more than a dozen times in the past month alone. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t really heard these words before, I miss them sometimes even if I’m the one offering them, but do make a point to listen deeply to them the next time we celebrate a baptism in worship. In fact, hear them again right now –

In baptism our gracious heavenly father frees us from sin and death by joining us to the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are born children of a fallen humanity; by water and the Holy Spirit we are reborn children of God and made members of the church, the Body of Christ. Living with Christ and in the communion of saints, we grow in faith, love, and obedience to the will of God.

Baptism is not a one-time event that freed us from having to be part of a community of faith or do anything or grow in any way during our life as followers of Christ.
Our baptism is not simply a get out of hell free card OR a one way ticket to heaven. In our baptism we are freed to grow and to be active in the world and the communities in which we live as we experience God’s grace in everything that we say and do.

Presbyterian pastor Thomas Long offers an insight that is helpful as we live our lives rooted in baptism. Long says, “The hardest part is not in being Christian for a day, but being faithful day after day, maintaining confidence in what, for all the world, appears to be a losing cause.”

In today’s text, Jesus is calling us to live in ways that won’t make us the greatest and most powerful people in our community, or give us material wealth beyond our wildest imagination, or make us amazingly attractive in the eyes of the culture around us, or even enable the physical institutions that we build and love to survive forever.

Thomas Long offers another insight into today’s text, “Jesus is saying that what the people of God do in the world really counts.”

You are salt. Jesus says, you are salt. Salt? I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel like much of a mineral.

While on our most recent trip to Mexico I accidently cut one of my toes on a sharp rock. I didn’t think much of it until later in the day when I was walking along the beach and accidently stepped into the saltiness of an ocean wave. Saltwater and an open cut on your foot is not a combination that I need to experience again anytime soon. It was quite painful actually. But salt in the ocean’s water is life giving for millions of organisms in God’s good creation.

I love to cook. And while cooking I love the quest for the delicate balance that salt plays in making a meal perfect.

Salt sitting by itself in a kitchen container is pretty useless, but salt incorporated with other ingredients in a meal can be amazing. Water in the ocean by itself is useless, but perfectly combined with salt is life-giving and sustaining. Salt is useful when applied to other things. Jesus saying, you are salt is a call for us to live as followers of Jesus in ways that always look toward others.

Jesus also says that you are light in today’s text. You are light. In our modern world, where electricity and technology always seems to be within reach, it may be difficult for us to imagine a time without light.

Let’s think about light in this way. I think community is a very important facet of living out our faith in this world. There is light from the sun shining into this room through the windows. This sunlight is available to us who are gathered here and to other parts of the world at the exact same time. Its light that is given for all to share as we live in God’s creation.

We are also experiencing light from the electricity in this building. Again, it is light that is not meant for our own individual purposes. It is light that we share as a gathered community of faith in worship.

Salt and light are ways in which we live out the faith that we are invited to live out in our baptism.

I recently heard a cute story about a mother mouse who decided to teach her children a bit about the world one day. She gathered all of the little mice together and set out for a walk. They walked down the hall and out into the front yard to enjoy the afternoon sun and have a little fun outside. They didn’t get very far outside before they found themselves in front of the family cat dozing in the afternoon sunshine. The mother mouse was scared, but she didn’t want her children to let them know or see her fear, so she signaled to them to be very quiet as they tip toed past the lounging cat. They were almost past the cat, when it opened its eyes and lifted its paw.

The little mice were terrified. What would they do? What would their mother do to protect them? Just as the cat’s paw started to come down on the little mice, the mother mouse looked the cat right in the eye and started barking like a dog as loud as she could. The cat was so startled that it jumped up and ran away!

The mother mouse wiped the sweat from her brow, shook a little and turned to her little children and said, “Children, I hope you learned a valuable lesson today. Sometimes it’s good to know a second language!”

Thinking of ourselves as salt and light is a little like that. In our baptism we are given a new identity. A second language so to speak. The language of God; the language of grace; the language of hope and love. And when this language becomes active it is the most beautiful language we can experience. We are called, today and all days, to be salt and light living out of the language of God in our life of faith. A new language and a new way of being that is given to us in baptism.

This week, remember that you and I are called to be the salt of the earth in our baptism – a perfect seasoning and life-giving presence to others. We are also called to be the light of the world, light that is always given to us in community to serve our neighbor as we walk together as followers of Jesus.

The opening sentences of the sacrament of Holy Baptism draw us deeply into relationship with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus and in the presence of the Holy Spirit. And one of the last things that we do at every celebration of baptism is light a candle and offer the words in verse 16 of our text today. May these words from Jesus sending us forth to be salt and light in the world guide us as we leave worship today – “Let your light shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Amen.


About Bishop Craig Schweitzer

The Rev. Craig Schweitzer, of Bismarck, was elected as bishop of the Western North Dakota Synod on July 17, 2020, in the first-ever digital Synod Assembly. A historic event, Schweitzer is the first bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to be elected in an online assembly. Bishop Craig Schweitzer began serving the Western North Dakota Synod-ELCA on September 1, 2020. He has always seen himself as an easy-going person who seeks to daily discover anew how God is present in his life and the world in which he lives and serves. Prior to service in the Office of Bishop of the Western North Dakota Synod, Bishop Craig served at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Bismarck, ND as Music and Worship Minister (lay staff from 2002-2010), Associate Pastor (2010-2014), and Senior Pastor (2014-2020). Beyond his service in the church, he has an eclectic background that is a diverse collection of musical, educational, and business experiences ranging from live concert production and promotion to recording studios and live performance to music education. Throughout all of his professional and personal experiences, the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Rome have been a guiding light that has kept him grounded in whatever work God was calling him into – “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7) Bishop Craig is a graduate of the University of Mary in Bismarck with a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education and a Master of Science in Strategic Leadership. He also holds a certificate degree in Theological Education for Emerging Ministries (TEEM) from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, CA. He was ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament on September 16, 2010. Outside of his life as Bishop, Bishop Craig enjoys reading, all music, a little golf, a cold beverage with friends, and intentional times of quiet. And, of course, spending time with his wife Wendy and their adult twin daughters Ilia and Taegan. View all posts by Bishop Craig Schweitzer

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