Pastor's Sermon
February 5, 2023
Matthew 5:13-20

 
The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Rev. Matthew C. Rauh

 
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You Are the Light!
 
     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.19Therefore 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.
 
     If only we had 7 million dollars.  Then we could buy a thirty second ad for the Superbowl next Sunday.  That is a very high price tag, but when you consider that over 112 million people watched the Superbowl last year, companies are willing to pay it.  You will never reach as large of an audience as the Superbowl.
     If God was a businessman, you would think he would move one or more of his churches to buy an ad or two.  But don’t be surprised if you don’t see any Christian ads on Sunday alongside the beer, pop and chip ads.  God has a much better way of advertising his Christ.  It is you.  If you add up all the Christians in Minnesota, or the U.S. or the world, and if you count up the number of contacts they make in a day or week, God has found a much better market and a more efficient way of reaching out to the unchurched.  It is folks like you.  Let’s sit down and hear Jesus tell us how.
 
  1.  You are the salt and light.
 
    Jesus is the light of the world. He let’s a blind world see God.  His light shines on everything.  He had the courage to call sin “sin.”  We need more of that.  And he had the love to proclaim forgiveness for the penitent sinner.  We also need more of that.  
    Jesus is the light of the world.  But did you catch what he said in our gospel reading?  You are the salt of the earth … You are the light of the world.  You. You are the salt.  You are the light.  Salt adds flavor.  That is true. But the main purpose of salt is to preserve food.  Think of how your grandparents or great-grandparents preserved meat.  They would take the ham and bacon and cure it in crocks of salt brine.  Then they would put in the smokehouse for several weeks.  The result was meat you could hang in the cool basement without the need for refrigeration.
     You are the salt.  You are the preservative of the world.  How?  Look at your children.  You want to preserve them.  So you brought them to Baptism to wash away their sins.  But you didn’t stop there.  You made sure they grew up knowing Jesus.  You prayed with them and for them.  You read the Bible with them.  You sent them to Sunday School and or our school.  You did this to preserve them from sin, from the world, from death.
     We preserve.  We preserve good as we defend what God calls good and right.  We preserve when we live that way.  We also preserve when we share the truth including the truth of sin.  You want to preserve you family member, neighbor, fellow member?  Don’t just sit there.  Preserve them by showing the sin that is creeping back into his or her life so they may repent and you forgive them.  
     J14 “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.  Christians should be as noticeable as an unobstructed city on a hill at night.  We are to be seen.  How?  By our good deeds.  
     13 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. …   15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Can salt lose saltiness?  I never seen or experienced that.  But that is not the point here.  If for any reason salt stops being salt, what good is it? It will be like shaking sand on your roast beef.  And the only way a Christian can’t be seen if he purposely stops shining like putting a basket over a lamp.  
     It is easy to curse the darkness of this sinful world, even the darkness of our own nation.  Look around. Marriage is being dishonored by so many with more than half of all marriages ending in divorce.  And in our backyard, a new abortion law was signed into law allowing abortions up the moment of birth.  But those are not the most disturbing statistics.  The worse is the fact that we live in a nation where the vast majority of citizens claim that they call Jesus Lord.  Don’t blame those outside of Christ.  They are doing only what naturally comes to sinners. Maybe we are losing our saltiness. 
     That is why Jesus says, You are the salt of the earth. … You are the light of the world. …  You are a city on a hill that cannot be hidden.  Jesus doesn’t say, “Try to be the salt,” or, “You should be the light.” He is not holding saltiness and light as some lofty goal you should try to reach.  He says you are already the salt, you are the already light.  But how?  By letting our good deeds shine?  You bet. But the true salt, the true light comes when you let them know that a sinner like you is saved by Christ.  
 
  1.  Because we are saved by Christ alone.
 
     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.
     What is called the “Law or the Prophets” is another way of saying the Bible.  They accused Jesus of making up a new religion. Wrong.  He did not come to throw out the Old Testament.  He came to fulfill it.  Picture all the promises like hundreds of jars waiting to be filled. And what did he do?  He filled every single jar.  Word after word, promise after promise, page after page, book after book was all fulfilled by him.  And he is still fulfilling them.  The end of the world will not come until he fulfills every promise.  
     And there was one aspect of the Old Testament he kept for us.  It is the law, the Commandments.  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.  Yes, Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins.  Yes, the requirements of the law, the commandments were met by him; we don’t have to obey them to get into heaven.  Very true.  So, do we ignore the law?  Never. If we set aside any law, if we stop being bothered by sin, and worse, if we teach others by word or example to sin, we are the least in the kingdom.  When they caught a woman in adultery and prepared to stone her to death, Jesus intervened.  He said that anyone without sin can cast the first stone.  They left.  Then he turned to her and what did he say?  Stop sinning.  The law still stands.  It still points out sin. No.  We are to still teach the commandments.  We are still to say clearly what is sin and what is good. 
     So we still teach the commandments.  Good. But is that all we teach?  God forbid.      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.  The Pharisees were world renowned for their dedication and zeal for the Lord.  They even made more laws than God gave in the hopes of being as perfect as possible.  So, if we think that obeying the law gets us closer to God, think again.  If we stress the law and hardly if ever mention Jesus, you might as well throw a drowning man an anchor.  Unless your righteousness is perfect, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
     So there are the two ditches on the side of the road, ignoring sin and the law, or basing everything including your salvation on that law.  Either one will spell disaster.  How can we avoid them?  Stay on the road in between, and that road is Christ.  The law shows our sin.  It tells us we are lost and condemned.  But the gospel tells us that Jesus takes away the guilt of our sins by being offered up as the sacrifice for them.  
     So, we still teach the law.  But Romans 3 scares us:  Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.  The law is good.  There is nothing wrong with it.  The problem is us.  Don’t be surprised in your zeal to follow the law that you start to see more sin in your life.  But Christ is the answer.  Romans 3 continues:  But now a righteousness from God, APART FROM THE LAW, has been made known, to which the Law and the prophets testify.  There is a righteousness that is perfect, but you will not find in yourself.  You will find it in Christ who kept that law perfectly for us.  It is yours as gift through faith.  It cost Jesus everything to provide it for us, but it costs us nothing.
     That is how we serve as the salt that preserves or the light that shines.  We are to expose sin like a light.  But we don’t expose sin for the sake of exposing it, nor do we do so to make us look better.  We expose it as ones who had our own sin exposed so we may then show them their Savior.  Yes, they will see your good deeds.  But they will also see your bad deeds.  That’s the point.  Confess that you too are a sinner.  That is why you are relieved that God gives you a righteousness in Christ.
     Seven million dollars for an ad during the Superbowl.  I can think of better things we can do with seven million dollars. Think of the gift we can give to the synod to send out more missionaries.  Imagine the new school and gym we can build for that.  I am not saying churches should not advertise. But we have the best advertisement available.  Believers like you and me.  God is shaking you like salt upon the earth.  Preserve it.  let them see you and your deeds.  Let them see your Savior.  Amen.

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