Sermon for February 20, 2011

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Matthew 5:13-20

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.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 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. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

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. 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. 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. 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.

1 Corinthians 3:18-23

Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.


  • Cooking Metaphor, Leftovers, and a Little Salt Goes a Long Way


  • Traditional Interpretation: Spice up and light up the world.
  • WE are the Salt, not the Bible
  • Connection to Law and Prophets (scripture)
  • We season the bible?
  • Salt doesn't lose it's saltiness

Translation Issues

  • μωρανθη (moranthe) μωραίνω -- to be silly, foolish, to play the fool. μωρὸς in 1 Cor (stupid, foolish).
  • English translations, start with Tyndale, others follow suit.
  • Martin Luther's translation: Wo nun das Salz dumm wird (Now, where the salt is stupid)

How Does Salt Become Stupid/Foolish?

  • When it doesn't serve it's purpose
  • Tyndale on right track, but wrong purpose for Salt (seasoning)
  • Purposes of Salt in 1st Century Israel: seasoning, trade (salary), rabbinic metaphor for wisdom, and PRESERVATION

What about Light?

  • Same problem: We light up the world? The Bible lights up the world? No.
  • Purpose of Light: to Illuminate the darkness.
  • We ILLUMINATE the Bible (translate, interpret, spread)

Tensions between Preserving and Illuminating

  • Catholic Church vs. Reformers in the 16th Century
  • Reverence preserves...but doesn't always illumine.
  • Translation illumines...but doesn't always preserve (Tyndale as example)

What shall we do?

  • Everyone has a responsibility (laity, clergy, reading, studying, etc.)
  • Strike a balance: King James out, but so is 1984 NIV (adelphoi)
  • Hold tightly to the scriptures (salt)...hold lightly to our understanding of them (light).


  • If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise.
  • Salt = Wisdom = Pharisees. They held too tightly to the scriptures, and missed the point. They were in the darkness.
  • When wisdom becomes foolishness, it gets thrown out.

Principles at Work Here (Morals of the Story)

In the end, sometimes it's better to assume you're a stupid fool. If you are truly wise, it will manifest. As Jesus points out, it's pretty hard to hide a shining city on a hill.

So be salty. Hang on to our sacred texts. Hang on to our sacred traditions. The wisdom of God and the collected wisdom of a 2000 year-old church is worth preserving.

But be bright, too. Illumine the scriptures and traditions with the light of your common sense, your experiences and your compassion for others...but most of all with the humility of the stupid fool, knowing you just might possibly be wrong, and trusting God to sort things out in the end.