Grace and Peace to you from God Our Creator and from His Son, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.
At my home congregation of Zion Lutheran Church on the South Side of Chicago, celebrating baptisms in our community is a joyous event whether we are welcoming a newborn babe…
…or a weary traveler along life’s journey, who has found a permanent place to be rested and be welcomed.
But there was something curious about the rite of Baptism in the African American Lutheran hymnal, This Far by Faith that stood out from other Lutheran Churches regarding the rite of Baptism
After the candidate for baptism is baptized, my Pastor would present them with sacred symbols of their baptism, besides the candle, which symbolizes that they, that all of us are the light of the world; there was also a gift of a garment, mostly a rich and beautiful swathing of African Kente cloth and finally one which was….salt!
The salt is placed in their mouths or given to their parents (in the case of babies) and these words are said “You are the salt of the earth. Receive the salt of wisdom, that you may conduct your life with the sound judgment of a child of God.”
How ordinary that something so simple as salt is essential to our lives as people of God!
Salt has been a presence in the history of this Earth from preserving foods to currency to a cure all….
…but what about the sacredness in purifying and connecting us to God?
My journey into this exploration took me further, with rituals and traditions I was already aware of….
In West Africa, the Edo people use native chalk mixed with salt during the naming ceremony of a newborn babe that symbolizes happiness…..
With the Igarra people, the elder places several small amounts of elements into the baby’s mouth one of which includes Salt, meaning “No one eats salt and speaks bad of it”….
The Yorbua People in Nigeria, Benin and Togo also do the same, with salt representing wisdom and intelligence.
How ordinary that something as simple as salt is so essential to the sacredness of our lives, something that we can not live without…
……just as the Gospel is impossible to separate from who we are as sisters and brothers in Christ, something that we can not live without.
Perhaps this is what Jesus was trying to stress and teach His disciples then and now in our Gospel text this morning.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can saltiness be restored?”
How confusing it must have Jesus’s words been to His disciples as well as us today. How can salt lose the essential part of what salt is and what it means to a people…..
…..unless we return and are reminded of the symbols and meanings of an ancient African culture and people and realize that perhaps what Jesus is speaking and conveying to His disciples and to us, is referring to wisdom.
Salt that loses what is essential to what salt is, renders salt useless.
The disciples, who were a part of this saltiness of the Earth along with other children of God, created because God saw them and us an essential part of God’s Creation…
To add flavor through our songs, our language, our celebrations, our living and breathing to this life
To preserve what God Our Redeemer had given and gifted to God’s people…this fragile, precious Creation and everything within and throughout it
If the disciples lose what is essential, losing the wisdom and intelligence…
Losing what the Holy Spirit would pour into their very being and in us too what binds us together as sisters and brothers in Christ…
Then it renders them, and us, foolish.
“It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.”
Can salt lose its savor?
Scholars point out that impure salt dug from the Dead Sea could in fact, lose some of its…if not all of its saltiness.
But that seems farfetched right?
Could the disciples lose their saltiness?
Doesn’t Scripture have many examples where the disciples struggled, balked, forgot what Jesus Christ not only taught them but who He was and what joyousness and righteousness He brought into all of their lives and into our lives as well?
Jesus seems to be challenging the disciples and warning us too today,
Of being wary not to be filled with foolishness.
Foolishness in the form of not functioning as God had commanded and infused into who they were as disciples…
By not sharing the Good News that Jesus Christ was bringing to all of God’s People…
By not believing in the miracles and the teachings that Jesus shared with them…
By falling to the wayside and falling into dark ditches of ignorance, where fear dwelled.
By losing what was essential to who they were, their saltiness…
Can we, as children of God lose our saltiness?
When a child of God loses their direction, their calling to stand as a living witness to what the Good News of Jesus Christ means for all of God’s People and not just a few….
When a child of God loses their voice and refuses to speak out against injustice because she feels there is nothing that she can do or can offer…
When a child of God loses their resolve to speak out for his fellow fallen brothers and sisters who have been forgotten because he feels that this fight is futile…
When the children of God loses and throws away gifts from God, Our Healer of grace
And does not share these with the entire body of Christ
THAT, my brothers and sisters….
THAT is when we are rendered foolish
THAT is when we lose our saltiness.
Even in our weakness,
Even in our struggles
Even in our weeping,
The Good News is that God does not leave us helpless.
The Good News is that when we do not have what we feel are the perfect or right words to profess God’s righteousness..
We have an Advocate.
We have an Advocate in the Holy Spirit “so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but the power of God.”
The Good News of Jesus Christ is that we have another Advocate in Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord!
Jesus Christ proclaims to us that He “comes not to abolish the law or the prophets, but comes to fulfill.”
Jesus Christ, the Light of the World floods our world…
Our lives….and our souls with His Eternal Light!
Jesus Christ comes to fulfill God’s Promises to us as children of God, as brothers and sisters in Christ and in Faith to never throw us out or trample us underfoot.
That through God’s Word-Jesus Christ empowers us to be a light unto all the nations..
To share and salt this Earth with the Good News of what Jesus Christ shares with all of Creation…
Because without that Good News
Without the Sacredness of God’s Salt…
Our lives would be worth nothing…
And therefore allowing the wretchedness of this world to throw us out…
And trample us underfoot.
But because God adds this sacred salt to this stew of our lives…
…just as salt preserves the richness in our foods
So does the sacred salt which is the Gospel, preserving our lives!
…just as salt flavors and uplifts foods which satisfies our physical cravings
So does the sacred salt, which is infused in the bread, in the body of Jesus Christ which satisfies our spiritual hunger
….just as salt can heal anything from our aching throat to our weary muscles and our tired body
So does the sacred salt which is the Word immersed in the Waters of Baptism…to soothe the pain deeply embedded within our being and washes over our sins, making us whole.
…just as salt could even be used to purchased precious metals or gold in ancient times
So does the sacred salt that is in the wine, that is the blood of Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord
Through His sacrifice purchased, paid the price…
For our freedom
Marked with the sign of the Cross
To the Triune God.
How extraordinary that something so simple as salt is essential to our lives.
How extraordinary that something so freeing as The Word is essential for our lives.
How beautiful that something so stirring as our witness is essential in all of our lives.
This Salt will remain with us, and perhaps we won’t think about salt the same way again will we?
The African American blues/jazz singer Lizz Wright in her song entitled “Salt” seemed to echo this meaning…
(It must be, it must be true
You cant separate the two oh no, you cant
Its impossible to do just like the salt in the stew
Oh my, its all apart of you)
Because our voice, our song, our witness, our discipleship is paramount in this life…
Because nothing that this life can possibly do..
Can remove the sacred salt from you..
Thanks Be To God.