Salt, Light, and Yeast

by | Jul 3, 2023 | Sermons | 0 comments

July 2, 2023

Matthew 5:13-16 & Luke 13:18-21

Here we are at the Fourth of July weekend again. I have to say it’s a rather hard time for me as a pastor because of all the national fervor in the air and the expectation sometimes for the church to get on board. Church and the nation are not always best of “buds” for a number of reasons. One, is Jesus was all about peace and nations have a hard time with peacemaking. Nations are about justice and laws while Jesus was about love and mercy. Nations often get out of synch with Jesus’ much repeated best-behavior guidelines. Who’s going to call them to task but the church?

So for those reasons and more, when flag-waving days come around, there’s a little shiver that goes up my spine. I want to say “yes” to the revelry and join in, but I don’t want to say “yes” to everything because I think the church is called by God to lead the way in supporting the kind of behavior in our nation that pulls us toward being our best. So, the way of God must take priority over the way humans seem to drift. You can’t do that at the front of a marching band. So, it’s a balancing act and what often seems like a no-brainer kind of action to many sincere Christians, is not so clear to those of us in ministry.

So, I believe the church is called to be more concerned about how to CHANGE society or the culture than it is called to CELEBRATE it! That brings us directly to today’s sermon topic because I’m pretty sure HOW the church has gone about working toward transformation has alienated and deeply offended people who have a very different (and maybe equally as defensible) vision for our country. Jesus was very good at this kind of thing. He saw with exceptional clarity what he believed was God’s way for humans to live together, but his compassion for all sorts of people who disagreed and were disagreeable was amazing! I believe that this trait of his was precisely what got him killed and it still does get people killed.

At the time he was preaching the words from this morning’s texts, he was apparently thinking about how Kingdom people go about transforming the culture / world in which they live. He was asking the question: What’s the best way to do that, because there are lots of options and lots of styles of making change happen?

Here’s what he said: Salt and Light Mat. 5:13 “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.

So, he says we are to be like salt: intentionally adding flavor and preservative to our broader community and if we don’t, we are contributing to our own worthlessness! And, we are to be like light: not hiding our truth and our values, but letting our lights shine without pointing them in each other’s

The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast Luke 13: 18 Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” 20 Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

All of those illustrations are rich with meaning, but let’s look just at the yeast. I like baking bread. Do you? Essentially, it’s quite simple to do: It just takes water, flour, salt, maybe sugar and that little, trouble-bubble maker yeast! Not much, but don’t forget it because it is the transformational ingredient! It’s nothing to look at. It calls no attention to itself, once it goes to work you never see it again, it adds no color. But neither does it ever compromise what it’s there to do. No apologies. No backing down! You can kind of ignore it really, but if you’re sensitive, you know it’s doing what it should. Your part is to massage the stuff in the bowl. The job of yeast is to stay in contact with the ingredients, to stay true to its calling, and produce little tiny bubbles that just slowly and quietly expand the lump of flour.

Jesus said: that’s how you get things to change in the world! That’s how the Kingdom of heaven transforms the Kingdom of this world. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Now that sounds quite non-threatening! But those little bubbles can really annoy some people!

They are like:

Q: Did you make your bed this morning?
Q: Did you pay the light bill?

Or maybe just a thought: Could I have said that more kindly? Was that the truth?

Or maybe someone says:

This doesn’t seem fair to me. You wouldn’t treat a white person that way.
Or maybe it is a rainbow poster or an ad featuring Hispanic people

And the bubbles can be such a gentle presence, a faithful reminder of of what people of God should be like:

Like the way Nancy Smith was so positive and gentle and kind.

Like the way my friend Jim Sleeper always used to say when someone strange came by:

“Everybody’s got a story.”

Like the way some people just forgive and forget.

Like the way some people just do what they can to keep some other vulnerable person healthy

These things are like yeast. They are the way the world changes for the better.

They both irritate and soothe. They are the gentle bubbles in the rising dough and they will make the best bread to feed the world if we let them. Amen

Pastor Don Crist