John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But 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. For the one who is not against us is for us. 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. “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. 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. 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 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, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire. 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 9:38–50, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
(From a sermon by Rev. Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod)
President Matthew Harrison of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod tells the story:
Not long ago, my wife and I returned to her hometown. We 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.
The joke has a point. Wives make men far better than we would rather buy wise be. Open quote salted for service," the LWML has been a similar blessing to the Missouri Synod.
To be sure though this sermon is no obligatory tip of the hat to the LWML, of what we are as Christians.
Today's text talks about being salt. What is it about salt? The Jesus calls us Christians "salty." We are salty, he says to season everything around us. When Jesus says "if salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again?" What he means is that salt cannot help but be salty that's what salt that's what salt is. There is no such thing as and salty salt! Christians to our "salty," we are salted for service.
Now for sure, there is nothing that anyone on earth can do to gain God's favor. Jesus took care of that on the cross. His death satisfies God's punishment for sin. Jesus said on the cross "it is finished!" The Greek word is "TE TEL LEST I". It's the word they used to write on your debt when you finished payment. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself" (2 Corinthians 5:19). What Jesus did all those years ago he gives to you now. In holy baptism he made makes his cross, death, and resurrection yours! Your sins are washed away their in the water connected to God's word. As Luther says the point of all this is, "so that I may be his own, live under him and his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness."
So Jesus says we are salt. What does the Bible say salt does? First, salt that's flavor (Luke 14:34). It seizes food (Colossians 4:6; Job 6:6), but salt also heals (2 Kings 2:21). The Old Testament salt was used to purify the sacrifices. And also indicated peace with God (Leviticus 2:13). It indicated kinship peace between other parties (Ezra 4:14), and that's what Jesus means when he adds in today's text, "be at peace with one another."
We are forgiven, but we are not to live in sin or long for it. This is what our sinful nature wants to do. We certainly deserve to be turned into a pillar of salt just like Lot's wife. We are not salted to send but salt to look forward, salted to serve. During his lifetime Martin Luther fought the notion that the church was all about giving God our works and praise and service to earn heaven. That is all law. Those days the church believe the best Christians were those who lived in monasteries separated from the world. Their lives were completely devoted to God. Worship services were all about the sacrifice of the mass to earn heaven.
Luther turned the whole thing on its head. Sunday morning worship is primarily about God giving to us! We had a tax collector standing far off saying "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" God is the actor in our worship doing what we need done. Jesus says "I came not to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many." Luther's him on the 10 Commandments LSB 581:4 says
and put aside the work you do,
so that God may work in you!
God does not need your good works. Your neighbor does. Through Word and Sacrament God serves us, we are salted then to turn to our neighbor in love and serve them. We are salted for service! This is precisely what we learn from the women of the Bible and the LWML.
1. The LWML is "salted for the service" of bearing witness to Christ. The LWML is precisely Lutheran Women in Mission! The LWML exists to witness to Christ. Remember the Samaritan woman at the well and John for? "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). Jesus doesn't leave it there confronts her about her many husbands and her live-in boyfriend. He called her to repentance and faith. She believed. After Jesus "salted" her for eternal life, what did she do? "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 later in the same section we read "many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's witness."
It is the task of the church to bear witness to Jesus! When we read the Bible we can see ourselves in all of the people that interact with the word. We should see ourselves in the sinners, the Saints, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It's the nature of who we are that often these terms all apply to you and me the same person. 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's punishment. You are the one 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).
And where is this service to take place? The work of the LWML shows us exactly where. You are to serve where God has put you. Our nearest neighbor. This is 1st and foremost your family. You are to witness to your children. You are to witness to your grandchildren. You are to witness to your brothers and sisters. That's why the LWML provide so many resources and Bible studies to strengthen women in the faith. And from there your witness certain is your circle of friends, this congregation, this community. All those God puts in your life every day.
In the back of the church is the mite box. This is the offerings of the women of the LWML. These amazing little boxes fund hundreds and hundreds of projects in our districts and in the Synod all around the world. It amounts to millions of dollars, even though it starts just penny by penny. Just think of all the people who know about Jesus as their Savior through the work of the LWML.
2. We are also salted for us the service of being missionaries of mercy. In Matthew's Gospel we have the Canaanite woman. She cried to Jesus, "have mercy on me, O Lord, son of David; My daughter is severely oppressed by a demon" (Matthew 15:22ff.). Jesus response often hits us wrong. "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 won't let it be. "Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters table." Martin Luther says, "she had him by the neck there." Jesus mercy that he comes to bring extends to both body and soul. Jesus cared for people in need. In the New Testament we find that the church is to care for the needy in its midst and also to care for others and physical need. You have it in St. Paul and St. John (1 Corinthians 8 – 9; 1 John 3:15ff.) And it is all over in the book of acts. This is what we believe teaching confess. It's what the LWML practices.
Once again Pres. Matthew Harrison tells about seeing this all over the world.
Over the past decade, I visited dozens and dozens of places in the world 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 their 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. And I think of all those faithfully filled might boxes. I think especially of the women now with the Lord. And I am profoundly thankful."
And there is more. Current LWML projects around the district, the United States, and the world are caring for the poorest women and children, fighting malaria and others diseases, assisting me addicted, providing care for unwed mothers and their children, and supporting crisis pregnancy centers. The list goes on and on. Mercy is being shown in Jesus name.
3. We are salted for service in our life together in the church. The text says "household in yourselves, and be at peace with one another". Salt in yourselves is collective. That means among your group not inside the individual. This saltiness comes together with "life together" in the church. In in 1 John chapter 1 (3-4) he writes "… That which we have seen and heard we proclaim 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." John's witness created faith and fellowship enjoy. As we bear witness to Jesus this is exactly what happens. Our life together is deepened. We share each other's burdens. It strengthens our fellowship, our life together in Jesus. That fellowship where we share faith hope and love, continues to grow. And finally there is joy – and joy especially in service.
Again we see this example in the LWML. We are all "salted to serve." How is it that we do that? 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. All this service, through every joy and sorrow shared, there is joy. It's no wonder that the LWML's motto is Psalm 100:2, "serve the Lord with gladness!"
May God bless all women of the LWML in the entire church on earth with such salty service!
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.