Archive for the ‘Mark 9:38-50’ Category

“Salted for Service”

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

A Sermon for LWML Sunday, October 28, 2012 – based on Mark 9:38-50
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Adapted from the sermon of Pastor Matthew C. Harrison.
President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Click here for audio of this message

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 (Mark 9:50).

The president of our denomination, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod likes to tell this humorous story: “Not long ago, my wife and I returned to her hometown. We were stopped at a gas station. As I filled the tank, I noticed she spent a long time speaking to the attendant.  When she finally returned to the car, I asked her, ‘Who was that you were talking to?’ She replied that it was an old flame.  ‘Oh really?’ I exclaimed with a smirk. ‘He’s a gas station attendant? Ha! I bet I know what you’re thinking!’ My wife responded, ‘Yeah. If I’d married him, he’d be the president of the Missouri Synod!’“

This joke has a profound point. The women in our lives, especially our wives, mothers, and grandmothers, make us men a lot better than we would be without them. “Salted for Service,” the LWML has been a similar blessing for the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.

The mission of the LWML gets at the very heart of who we are as Christians and what we are as the Church. Though not all of you are members of the LWML, every one of you needs to know and believe what I am going to preach to you today. Otherwise you’ll just be stumbling through life pointlessly. And worse yet, you might just miss God’s call to enter His Sabbath rest in heaven altogether.

You dear Christians are called to be salty; Jesus makes us Christians “salty.” And He’s salted us to season everything that’s around us. When Jesus says, “If salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again?” He’s simply saying that salt can’t help but be salty.  You see, there’s no such thing as “unsalty” salt!” Christians are “salty,” and we’re salted for service!

Jesus died to put your sins to death on a cross 8,000 miles away, and He did it more than 2,000 years ago. It’s a done deal. “It is finished.”  There is nothing you or anyone on earth can or need do to gain God’s favor. “…God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself…” (2 Cor. 5:19). What He won so long ago, He’s handing out now, free of charge. In a sense, He grabbed you by your neck in Holy Baptism and made His cross, death and resurrection completely yours! Your sins are washed away! And why did He do that for you? Luther’s Catechism says that He did all of this “so that (you) may be His own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.”

And what does the Bible say about salt? Well, it adds flavor of course (Luke 14:34); it seasons our food (Col. 4:6; Job 6:6), but salt also heals (2 Kings 2:21), and it preserves. Salt purified the sacrifices of the Old Testament and indicated peace with God (Lev. 2:13). It indicated kinship and peace between parties (Ezra 4:14), and so Jesus adds in today’s text, “Be at peace with one another.”

Today we aren’t forgiven, not “salted,” to live in sin and long for it, although sometimes it seems that we do that very thing, and indeed we all deserve the fate of Lot’s wife. No, we’re salted to look forward. We’re salted to serve. At the time of Luther, it was thought that church was all about giving to God the best of our works, praise, and service in order to earn a place in heaven. That’s what the Law demands! In those days, it was believed that the greatest Christians were those who were separated from the rest of the world in monasteries, separated from people and devoted to God. Church was all about doing; performing the sacrifice of the Mass in order to gain points in heaven.

But Luther turned the whole thing on its head. Through scripture, Luther demonstrated that the Church is first and foremost the place where we find God serving us! We are the tax collector standing afar off, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” God is the One doing something for us! Jesus said, “I came not to be served but to serve and give My life as a ransom for many.” So the Church, you and I have learned by scripture to agree with Luther, “And put aside the work (we) do, So that God may work in you!” (LSB 581:4)

The truth is friends, “God doesn’t need your good works. Your neighbor does!” That is one of the reasons that we are all still here; so that we can allow God to work through us serving our neighbors.  So served by God in His blessed Word and Sacrament, we are salted to turn to our neighbor in love and serve him or her. We are salted for service! And this is precisely what we learn from women of the Bible and the LWML.

The LWML is “salted for the service” of bearing witness to Christ. The LWML is precisely Lutheran Women in Mission! The LWML exists to give their witness to Christ. Remember the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4? “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” “Give me this water,” she responded to Jesus (John 4:10, 17). But Christ then confronted her about her numerous husbands and her current live-in boyfriend. Jesus called her to repentance and faith. And she, in fact, believed. After Jesus “salted” her for life eternal, what did she do? John 4:28 says, “So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, ‘Come see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’” And in verse 39, we read, “Many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s witness.”

The Church bears witness to Jesus! The real art of reading the Bible is seeing ourselves in all of its characters—sinners, saints, the good, the bad and the ugly. And many times, all of these terms apply to one and the same person, just like us. You are the woman at the well! You are the one whose life does not square up with the demands of the Law. You deserve hell! You are the one whom Jesus calls to repentance! You are the one forgiven! You are the one who now bears witness to Jesus!  You are salted to serve no matter who you are! You are a “spiritual priest,” says the Bible, “that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

But where is that service to take place? The work of the LWML shows us exactly where. Your witness takes place where God has put you—first and foremost in your family. You are to bloom where you are planted.  If you are a parent or a grandparent, you are the witness to your children. You are the witness to your grandchildren. You are the witness to your siblings. That’s why the LWML provides so many resources and Bible studies to strengthen women and families in their faith! And from there, your witness is your circle of friends, this congregation, this community—just like the woman at the well.

Through the mites—the offerings of the women of the LWML—hundreds and hundreds of projects in our districts, the Synod, in our partner churches and all around the globe have been funded so that the Gospel of free forgiveness in Jesus is shared everywhere. This has amounted to millions of dollars. In fact, the worldwide witness of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod would be severely hindered without the LWML. That’s a fact. Countless thousands know Jesus because of the work of the LWML. Now that’s salty service, indeed!

The women of the LWML are also “salted for the service“ of being missionaries of mercy! I’m reminded of the Canaanite women. She cried to Jesus, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon” (Matt. 15:22 ff.). Surprisingly, Jesus put her off. “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs … I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” She responded, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Luther says, “She had Him by the neck here.” Jesus came to have mercy, and to have mercy on both body and soul. Jesus cared for people in need, over and over again. The New Testament teaches repeatedly that the Church is to care for the needy in its midst and also to reach out to others in physical need.  This is St. Paul’s teaching (1 Corinthians 8–9). This is St. John’s teaching (1 John 3:15 ff.) This is the teaching of the Book of Acts (Acts 6). This is Luther’s teaching! This is the teaching of Dr. Walther, founder of the Missouri Synod.  And this is the marvelous “salty” practice of the LWML!

President Harrison tells about seeing this all over the world. “Over the past decade” he said, “I’ve visited dozens and dozens of places in the world and had a recurring experience—like I did, for example, in Ambur, India. There I was touring a large and bustling Lutheran hospital compound. Hundreds of people are treated there daily—babies are born and people are cared for by pastors and deaconesses and doctors. As I rounded a corner on the walk, I came face-to-face with something profound. A plaque on the hospital building stated, ‘Built with assistance of funds from the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.’ Every time this occurs I think of all the women I’ve met over the years. I think of all those faithfully-filled Mite Boxes. I think especially of the women now with the Lord. And I’m profoundly thankful.”

It would literally take all day to tell you about current LWML projects around the district, the United States, and the world that are caring for the poorest women and children, fighting malaria and other diseases, assisting the addicted, providing care for unwed mothers and their children, and supporting crisis pregnancy centers. The list could be multiplied on and on, and in all these instances, Jesus is being shared with those in need.

The LWML is “salted for service“ in our life together in the Church. Don’t you find it interesting that Jesus says in our text, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another”? Being “salt” brings with it a “life together” in the church. St. John wrote: “… that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete” (1 John 1:3–4). John’s witness to Jesus created faith and fellowship and joy. As the LWML bears witness to Jesus, precisely the same thing happens. Our life together is deepened. The LWML helps us share each other’s burdens. It strengthens our fellowship, our life together in Jesus. That fellowship, where we share faith and hope and love, continues to grow. And finally, there is joy—and joy especially in service.

Finally, the LWML is an example for all of us. We are all “salted to serve.” And how do we serve? Forgiven by Jesus we bear witness to Him in our daily lives. We care for those in need, just like He did. And we live a life together of love and forgiveness. And in all this service, through every joy and sorrow shared, there is joy. It’s no wonder the LWML’s motto is Psalm 100:2, “Serve the Lord with gladness!”

May God bless all the women of the LWML and the entire Church on earth with such salty service!

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

Salt is Good

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

17th Sunday after Pentecost, September 27, 2009
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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 Our text this morning is the 50th verse of our Gospel lesson.  “Salt is good, but it if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? [Mark 9:38-50]

What is the kingdom of God?  Where is the kingdom of God?  These are a couple of questions I want you to keep in the front of your minds as we receive God’s message this morning.  As I told you last week, the apostles thought that it would be a brand new world order, where Jesus would rule, destroy the reign of Cesar and the Roman Empire, and make all things right.  They wanted the Kingdom of God now, and they wanted it according to their estimation.  In their minds, it was Jesus and them against the world!  But Jesus had other ideas.  He always does…He is God.  Where they see the kingdom of God consisting in a select few, Jesus has other ideas: “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he wasn’t one of us.”  But Jesus had other plans…”Don’t stop him” he said.  “Don’t you see that anyone who does a mighty work in my name will not be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.  Listen, the one who is not against us is for us.” 

 And there you have it…the kingdom of God is a lot bigger than we think.  So some might say this is proof that denominational differences are unimportant—as long as your heart is in the right place.  Right?  Well, let’s keep reading and see if Jesus agrees with that.  Remember the child Jesus took into His arms in our gospel reading last week?  Well, this is a discussion that continues that teaching.  The child is still in His arms, and now He looks at His disciples and says: “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.”  What causes children to sin?  What causes adult Christians with a simple faith, like the stranger that was casting out demons to sin?  In both examples it is a lack of knowing and understanding God’s Word, both the Law and the gospel.  How can you help protect the young and the simple?  Teach them biblical truths…good doctrine.  Teach them that there aren’t many ways to the kingdom of Heaven.  Teach them that God doesn’t require any work from us before He will give us Jesus’ kingdom of Heaven.  Without faith in the true gospel, a faith that clings to Jesus alone friends, you cannot be saved.  In fact, bad doctrine can actually give us the opposite of salvation…it can lead to damnation.  An eternity in hell!

What is hell?  Jesus compared it to the garbage dump right outside of the city of Jerusalem.  It was called the Gehenna.  There, trash fires were always burning as refuse was disposed of.  In essence, Jesus was saying, “Imagine that the Gehenna is like a picture of hell with one big difference.  Where the fires of Gehenna are temporary, in hell they are eternal.  Where maggots eat rotting flesh until the flesh is no more or the maggots die, in hell the fire never goes out, there is an endless supply of flesh, and the maggot never dies.  So what?  Well friends, the fire isn’t burning the demons that are in hell, and the maggots are eating them either, because demons are spirit and they do not have flesh.  So who is burning, and who is being consumed?  People!  People who willing rejected God’s simple method of salvation—the cross of Jesus Christ!  People who refused to cling to Jesus alone and decided there was a better way to the kingdom of Heaven.  These are poor fools who decided that doctrine didn’t matter, and because of that they willing set aside the kingdom of God and embraced a lie!

What is hell?  Scripture says that it is the place where people are eternally banished from the sight of God—eternally excluded from communion with Jesus Christ.  To these damned souls, Jesus says “Depart from Me” [Matt. 25:41]; (and) “They shall be cast out into outer darkness.”  [Matt. 25:42]  Friends, we were made for God; that is we were made to have communion with God.  That is the supreme joy and delight of man—that is the kingdom of God.  But sadly, many people reject the offer of peace with God the Father, because they reject the means to that peace…God the Son, Jesus Christ.  Through their own sinful choice they have embraced a state of damnation where they will experience intense agony of body and soul that scripture calls “tribulation and anguish” [Rom. 2:9], “being in torment” [Lk. 17:4], “tormented in flames” [Lk. 16:24], “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” [Matt. 8:12; 13:50]  There in hell, those poor damned souls will see “the smoke of their torment ascending up forever and ever; and they (will) have no rest day or night. [Rev. 14:11]  Friends, think of the horror that awaits those poor souls… for an eternity they shall be tormented day and night forever and ever” [Rev. 20:10] simply because they have rejected God’s only means to save them.

 Friends, it doesn’t matter whether you believe that the fire of hell is real fire or a metaphor for unspeakable torment, the point is God doesn’t want you there; He wants you to escape the agony of hell.  It wasn’t designed for people created in His image—it was created for the rebellious and fallen angels…the devils.

How do we make sure that we never go to hell? Listen to Jesus answer: “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 hell, to the unquenchable fire.  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.  And if your eye cause 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, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” [Mark 9:43-48]

 Does that sound crazy to you?  It should, it was meant to be absurd.  Jesus was addressing the mindset that people in that time had about sin.  They like many others in their day were trivializing their personal sins, much like many of us do today.  “I guess I can’t help steeling, I was born with itchy hands and sticky fingers.”  OK, cut them off!  “I can’t help looking at women that way, I must have been born with a wondering eye.”  OK, pluck it out!  “What do you mean?  I can’t” you say.  Friend, do you want to go to hell?  Well then get rid of the offending body part.  If you had diabetes, and your foot or leg was diseased you would let the doctor amputate it so you could live wouldn’t you?  Well…go ahead, cut it off and pluck it out.  Keep cutting and plucking until there is nothing left of your body!

 Absurd and ridiculous isn’t it?  And that is the point Jesus is making.  Your hand, foot, eye, tongue, or any other body part is not to blame.  They can’t think independent of you!  You are to blame…you have a wicked heart, and there is only one cure for a wicked heart… YOU MUST BE SALTED!

 You must be salted with fire.  In the time of Jesus, salt was both a preservative and an antiseptic. When someone had an infected wound they would pour salt on it.  It burned like fire, but that was good because it meant that there was still some life in the tissue that could be saved.  We must be salted too, because we carry with us dead tissue that must be removed.  How are we salted?  With the Word of God!  God’s Law must be applied to our sin so that we will feel the fire and wrath of God.  We must know that we are sinful thoughout every fiber of our being.  We must stand before God knowing that we deserve all of the punishments of hell.  We must be silenced and simply surrender to His perfection and Holiness!  That is the work and sting of God’s Law.  It is at this time, when the Law has had its way with us that we are moved to cry out to God, “Have mercy Lord!  Forgive me!”  And then…then when we feel our very life slipping away, we must listen—we must listen to God’s mercy.  “Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us. That we should be called the children of God.”   How are we made the children of God?  Through the salting of His Word.  And it is that Word that tells us about the cross—the cross where He allowed His Son Jesus Christ to willingly and in agony give up His life for those very same sins that condemn us.  And then by faith, we must hear His Son shout loudly from the cross, “IT IS FINISHED!”  “What is finished Lord” we ask?  “My Father’s anger for your many sins” He says.  “How” we ask? “Friend” he says, “the Father no longer sees your many sins because I have covered then with my precious blood.  The blood I, Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior, your brother and friend shed for you.” 

 Will you be salted?  Will you teach your children about this salt, this life saving Word of God that both terrifies and saves us?  This Word has been with you since your own baptism…will you grab onto it and live it out until your last breath is taken on this earth?  Will you remember that in your baptism God made you a mortal enemy of sin, death, and all the devils? 

 Friends, think about what we have done this morning at the baptism of baby Justin.  We have made him Satan’s mortal enemy.  We have made him a deserter from the forces of evil, and now it is as if he has a sign around his neck that says, “I hate Satan!”  He along with you who are baptized are truly Satan’s enemy!  How will baby Justin survive the constant attacks and temptations of those devils?  By being salted constantly with the Word of God. 

 Now do you understand how important it is to always be in God’s Word?  Do you finally understand how important it is for parents to bring their children to church, Sunday School, and to read and share the Word of God with them?  Do you understand how important it is for you to live this kind of life that clings to God’s Word and Sacraments?  Do you understand that God’s kingdom can only be found at the cross?  Do you understand that the kingdom of God, Jesus’ kingdom was given to you at the font?  And do you understand that every time you hear the Word preached and taught, every time you come to His table of mercy, you are being reminded that you are even now part of that kingdom of God?

Friends, don’t lose your saltiness.  Seek this salt in your life always.  I pray that you do.  I pray that you will hunger for this salt, and be at peace…peace with God and peace with each other.  In Jesus name…AMEN!