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Dr. Jay P. Cook, Pastor

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A Salty Disposition and a Glowing Personality
Matthew 5:13-16
                A few years back my room-mate from college called out of the blue and asked if he could come and spend some time with me.  It was before school was out and Mary Beth and Miriam were in Summersville and I was in Johnstown.  He came and spent the weekend with me.  He was going through a difficult time in his life and needed a place to come and kick back, relax and talk.  We renewed our relationship – laughed and cried together and one of the neat things we did was to cook together.  We had done that in college – cooking at our apartment and then cooking for a Christian house that we managed our senior year.  One night we fixed steaks on the grill – baked potatoes in the oven (not in the microwave – Bill doesn’t like microwave potatoes) and fixed a big salad – he wanted to eat out on the deck so we hauled a table out on the deck – sat down at the table as night started to fall – I looked at Bill and asked “are we missing anything?”  Sour cream for the potatoes, dressing for the salad and steaks medium rare and then we prayed for the meal and our families – I took a bite of the steak and knew what was missing the salt.  Somehow potatoes, salad and steak needed – to have salt.  While I got the salt I also flipped the outside light on and thought about what Jesus had to say about salt and light:  Listen as Levada reads the Lord’s directives to us about salt and light.

Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV) 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 by men.
14 "You are the light of the world. A city 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 men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Jesus calls us the salt and the light. In my research I discovered so many uses of salt and light that we would be here all day and eventually I would have to serve you a meal – putting salt on the table and turn the lights on.  I could say quite a bit about both, but I have decided to follow one of the Beatitudes and have mercy on you and talk about 3 things that BOTH SALT and LIGHT have in common.

  1. For one thing: Salt and Light are important for survival.  We all know that LIGHT is essential. Nothing could grow --- and nothing could live --- without light. Turn off the Sunlight and the world would quickly die.  SALT is also a necessity of life, but we tend to take it for granted.  
  1. After all, you can pick up a pound of salt for just a few cents at any Grocery Store. But salt was not so easy to come by during the time of Christ. And in the days before Refrigeration, salt was the primary way to preserve meat. When you need salt to preserve your food, and when it is hard to find, it takes on great value.
  1. In fact, salt was sometimes used for money in the Roman economy. The word “salary” comes from the Latin word “salarium” refers to the practice of paying Roman soldiers with SALT. We still say that hard workers are “worth their salt.”  
  1. Medically we cannot live without salt – though we have discovered that too much salt creates some physical side effects.  In general though we can’t live without salt.
  1. When Jesus said that His Followers are SALT and LIGHT, he was saying that Christians are essential for the survival of the world. It’s no wonder Jesus said no one would ever light a lamp and then put it under a bowl. There’s a good reason no one would do that. Remember, they didn’t have electricity back then. If you put an Oil Lamp under a bowl, it would go out.
  1. Put a lamp under a bowl and it will go out. Hide your relationship with God and it will be extinguished.
  1. Take your LIGHT out in the open, and it will burn brightly. In the same way, if you let the Salt out of its Shaker, it can flavor all your food.
  1. In other words, we have to get out there in the world if we are going to reach the world.
  1. To be the Salt and Light we will have to take Risks. We have to be willing to get out of our comfort zones. We may have to be inconvenienced. We may need to put forth effort. We might have to get our hands dirty or try something bold and new if we are going to be SALT and LIGHT for those who need it.  
  2. The co-operative parish will be holding a couple classes on Becoming a Contagious Christian – it is a class on learning how to share our faith.  Look for more info on the classes – it teaches you how to use your personality style to share your faith.
  3. Take a risk.
  1. The second thing SALT and LIGHT share in common is that Salt and Light can produce purity
  1. Nothing smells better than clothes than have been dried out in the SUNLIGHT. And few things smell worse than a pile of wet clothes that were left in a dark hamper for a few days.  Light pushes darkness aside. 
  1. SALT also has purifying qualities. It can be used in wounds to speed healing. We still talk about “rubbing salt into a wound.” It may be painful, but it produces healing. Mothers used to rub salt on their newborn babies to protect them from infection – I don’t remember this practice but some of you might. In the Old Testament, salt was used in order to make Sacrifices acceptable to God.
  1. Jesus made a puzzling statement when He said: … if 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 by men. Matthew 5:13 in a technical sense, salt cannot lose its saltiness: sodium chloride is a stable compound.
  1. But the people of Jesus’ day understood what he was talking about. In the part of the world where Jesus lived, Salt was collected from around the Dead Sea. The Salt Crystals were often contaminated with other minerals and impurities. Since the actual salt was more soluble than the impurities, rain could wash out the salt. That “unsalty salt” was worthless. If someone gave it to you, you’d probably throw it on the ground --- just like Jesus said --- to be trampled by men.
  1. The Greek word that was used for “unsalty salt” is moraino. It’s the word from which we get the term moron. Christians who are contaminated by sin will lose their effectiveness. A Christian who lives like the rest of the world, and then tries to witness for Christ, will look foolish.
  1. That’s why it matters where you go, who you spend time with, what sites you visit on the Internet, … what Movies you rent, what books or magazines you read, what TV shows you watch. How can you have a purifying effect if you yourself have become contaminated?  That is losing your saltiness
  1. I’m not saying this is an easy thing to do. There are two extremes we have to avoid. In our day and age, Christians can get too involved in the culture and become contaminated by it.
  1.  But the other extreme is just as dangerous –we can cloister ourselves away from the world. It is best illustrated by the Monastic Culture that was prevalent in the Middle Ages. Certain Priests and Monks would shut themselves away in Monasteries so they could stay completely pure. That may have worked in some ways, but it also caused the church to lose influence in the everyday world of most people. They lost their saltiness as well.
  1. Churches can fall into that same trap. We want to protect ourselves and our families from the World. But if we go too far in separating ourselves from the culture, what influence will we have?  Our saltiness is then hidden from the world.
  1. “When the church retreats into the monastery of their four-walled church building, they cease to be of any use. Their light is extinguished under a bowl, and their salt loses its flavor.”
  1. So how can we stay Pure while still being “out there” in the “real world”? Jesus answered that question in Matthew 5:14. After He said, You are the light of the world, He explained further: A city on a hill cannot be hidden. What does that mean? I am not a city. I’m only one person. I am only one candle in the darkness. But we were never meant to shine alone.
  1. When we gather together, we help each other stay PURE. We encourage each other. We hold each other accountable, so that we are ready to go back into the world.
  1. That’s why it’s good for you to attend a Sunday School Class, Worship, Youth Group, go to Campaigners (Young Life’s Bible Study Group) and or Bible Study. That’s why it is important to be in a Bible Study Group
  1. We can’t stay SALTY and shine BRIGHTLY on our own. We were designed to spend time in Community with other Believers. God’s plan is for us to be a city on a hill. No one can put a whole City under a Bowl. When we Shine together, we can reach far out into the darkness.
  1. Both SALT and LIGHT have one more thing in common:  Salt and Light will reveal truth
  1. When I sprinkle SALT on a juicy piece of Steak, I don’t end up saying, “Wow, that was great salt!” Salt on steak brings out the steak flavor. Salt on popcorn brings out the popcorn taste. Salt on a Pretzel brings out the essence of Pretzel. Even recipes for Cookies or Cakes call for a dash of salt.
  1. You see, SALT enhances the flavor of anything it touches. And that’s the effect you have at home, at work, at school, in the church, or in your neighborhood. If you are a Follower of Jesus, you will just naturally enhance the environment around you … everywhere you go the Truth, Jesus Christ will be present.
  1. Colossians 4:6 says Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. It’s not necessary to preach to others, or debate with them. The way we talk … the way we act … the way we RE-act  at work or school or home will make a difference.
  2. If our conversation is full of grace, seasoned with salt, we will draw attention … not to ourselves, but to the ONE we follow. That’s how we can be the salt of the earth in our daily lives.
  1. SALT always enhances flavor. And LIGHT always reveals the TRUTH. When you turn the Light on in a dark room, you don’t think much about the light itself. Instead, you look at what the Light reveals. Light illuminates the room. You see furniture or decorations that were hidden by the darkness. If it’s dirty, you see the dirt. If it’s beautiful, you enjoy the beauty. Light reveals the TRUTH.
  1. If you are a Follower of Jesus, then you give Light wherever you go. Just by being who you are, you help people see the TRUTH about God … and about their own lives. It is amazing the effect that one Christian can have when they love other people the way Jesus loves them.
  1. You may feel like your light is no bigger than this little light. You can hardly see it in this bright room but put it into a dark room and the LIGHT will dispel darkness.
  1. As Christians, we should not ever be afraid to come in contact with Darkness. Darkness is passive … darkness is nothing but the absence of light. When the LIGHT of CHRIST enters, the darkness always gives way.

When I was pastoring near Pittsburgh I played racquetball early in the morning with a number of business men and a few business women.  One of the men that I played ball with was a pilot.  He flew for a hobby but also flew a small plane for business purposes.  He was flying back from Maryland one evening and would end up landing in the Allegheny County airport when his panel lights went out and the sky was pitch black – no stars and moon was behind the clouds.  The only thing he could get his bearings by was a large cross at the Jumonville – a UMC church camp that sat on the mountain top outside of Uniontown.  The lights on the cross saved his life.  He landed his plane safely because of the lights from the cross.  We are the salt and the light.

Now, I want you to notice what Jesus did NOT say. He did not say: You need to become salt and light. You don’t have to worry about how you can get salty. You don’t have to figure out how to shine. If you are a Christian, you ARE salt and light.

In fact, this sanctuary is full of SALT and LIGHT right now. But the purpose of shining together is not to draw attention to ourselves so that people say, “Wow, what a great church that is over there on Main Street.” Our purpose is to draw attention to the TRUTH.

We just need to let our LIGHT Shine and get our SALT out of the Salt-Shaker. When we go out into our community, people will see how Great our God is. They will be drawn to Jesus Christ.

Please click here for slides to accompany the sermon.