The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
A Salty Body in Jesus’ Name
Proper  B, 30 September 2012
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Christians are given to be a salty / body / in Jesus’ Name. What does that mean? Let’s ask Jesus in our Gospel reading for today: 38John said to [Jesus], “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.
Us. Which “Us” did John have in mind? Was it the disciples and Jesus? Perhaps. But this question comes immediately after Jesus rebuked the disciples for their argument about which among them was the greatest. They forgot all about Jesus being part of “Us.” Christ served us, became the very last, the servant of all by being killed and rising. And by being last, the servant of all, He freed us all from sin, to serve others. Jesus embodies true Greatness. He who made Himself last, has been made First.
The point then, is not whether people follow us. We pray they will join Immanuel or a sister congregation, but the bigger question is: Are they following Jesus? Our basic ground rule has been this: what does the text say? We don’t shy away from controversial topics as some Christians do—we meet them head on with our eyes on God’s Word. Then, we know what the Bible says about Baptism, Communion, pastors, the Church, the forgiveness of sins, and the importance of serving others and telling the good news about Jesus. Christians can work toward true unity only if Holy Scripture is the source and foundation for all teaching and practice, instead of human authority, human reason, what happens to be politically correct at a given moment, or the vote of the majority.
We are reminded that we should ask as a congregation and as individual members of the body of Christ: Are we following Jesus? The point then, is not whether people follow us. Are they following Jesus? Then, and only then, will we find unity. We will also know what it means to serve those who need to hear of Christ as well as those who belong to Christ. We are given to serve in Jesus’ Name.
Christians are given to be a salty / body / in Jesus’ Name. What does that mean? Again, Jesus explains: 42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’
We are the body of Christ in this place. Individuals, yes—individuals saved one-by-one by Jesus and gathered together as His body. Jesus takes sin seriously. So, if one of the parts of the body—if one the members of the congregation—sins, then we need to restore them gently. If they will not repent, church discipline follows for their own good, and the health of the body. Unrepented, unforgiven sin leads straight to hell—do not pass go, do not collect $200. And there is wonderful freeing forgiveness for those who repent! The Gospel says, welcome home!
When members stay away for reasons other than illness, it often feels like the body of Christ is missing something. The whole body aches. Parents have an important responsibility to raise their children in the faith. If we wait until they make up their own minds, they would get to run around like pagans forever. Jesus gives a stern warning even to those who care for young people: Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.
Christians are given to be a salty / body / in Jesus’ Name. What does that mean? Today’s text concludes: 49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
Salt has a distinctive, unmistakable flavor. We will face times of testing from the Lord in this life. Even then, that flavor is to preserved just as Jesus gave it to us.
Without church discipline, mentioned before in the discussion of the body, we would lose our saltiness. Eventually, Christians wouldn’t taste any different than the rest of the world. Without Jesus, His pure word, and acts of charity in His name, we would also lose our saltiness.
Salt and Light go together. For LWML Sunday next Sunday, the theme is “Salted for Service.” The word Christian means “little Christ.” As we go into the world, the salt and light of Christ within us shines around the edges. Jesus reminds us: 13"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. 14"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16 (ESV)
Christians are given to be a salty / body / in Jesus’ Name. We are first given to follow Jesus and serve others in the name of Christ. We are one body of Christ, and need to preserve pure doctrine and practice in our midst through teaching, and, when necessary, church discipline. Jesus warns all Christians against unfaith so that we would be salt and light to a dark and bitter world.
LCMS CoW: The Lord’s service calls forth our service—in sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to Him and in loving service to one another. Having been called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, we receive His gifts with thankfulness and praise. With psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, we joyfully confess all that God has done for us, declaring the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Our song joins with the song of every saint from every age, the new song of Christ’s holy people, declaring: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing. (Rev. 5:12)
Within the Lutheran tradition, the wedding of the Word of God to melody was modeled by the reformer himself. Martin Luther had a high regard for music and urged the Church to use it wisely as a vehicle for proclaiming the Gospel. “Next to theology,” he wrote, “I accord to music the highest place and the greatest honor.” Retaining the best of pre-Reformation hymnody, as well as adding a great number of new hymns to the Church’s song, Luther and succeeding generations of hymnwriters continue to inspire the faithful to lift their voices in praise and thanksgiving to the triune God… (LSB, p. viii) Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.