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“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?” (Luke 14:34 ESV). As Jesus turns to the crowds that are following Him, He reminds them where He is going – to the cross. Their journey and ours is no different. Today at International Lutheran Church as we dedicate our teachers and our own selves to the study of God’s Word, we turn our ears to hear our Savior Jesus as He shows us the path that He has chosen. 

These words about salt come immediately after some of the hardest words of Jesus in the Bible. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27 ESV). In a way the very words Jesus is speaking are, well, “salty,” or hard to hear. Yet just as the purpose and value of salt is good, we know that these words are for our good. Just as we use salt to clean things like contact lenses, or make and preserve things like kimchi, Jesus’ Word is spoken to clean and preserve us. 

We should note that these verses taken out of context are not an excuse or pretext to harm or willfully hurt anyone. The Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, is clear that hate and the attitudes, words and actions that follow such thoughts lead us down a wrong path – a path that ends in our own destruction and misery. “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (1 John 3:15 ESV). Jesus is not saying it is okay to hate people. He is using language to help draw attention to the decisive choice and critical juncture before us each day of our lives. To choose A is to reject B. Or to love A is to hate B. Paul uses this argument when he explains the unfathomable act of God to elect us and choose us in grace – not because of anything we have done or will do, but only in His grace and mercy – just as God said when He chose Jacob to be the people of faith. “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (See both Malachi 1:2-3 and Romans 9:13 in reference to Genesis 25:19-26.) As Jesus turns to address the people following Him, they and we need to know the road we are on. We have to be honest, though – salt is salty. If salt isn’t salty, then it isn’t salt.

Yes, we are on a road. Each day two paths lie before us – one path that leads to life and the other path that leads to death. All roads do not lead to the same place. Only devotion to Jesus leads to Him and to His singularity of purpose. Jesus is not about showing us how to improve ourselves. He is not teaching us ways to make our lives more meaningful or fulfilling. He only points us to His cross. Choosing anything or anyone including self is choosing not to follow Him. He is THE singularity. These words are so salty, even if we rightly understand them in terms of choice. These words cannot be tamed. For how often have we chosen the wrong path? How often in our thinking, words or actions, did we demonstrate that we have not learned the lesson? How quickly do our lives resemble those around us and reflect the values of this world rather than the promises of God’s Word? We have a hard time saying “no” not only to other people, but to our own sinful desires and negative thinking. This is why we need a Savior, not just a good teacher.

The Good News is that this is the very road that our Savior chose to walk. If you had any doubt whether He had done His math and counted the cost, here is where we see in His Cross the extent He was and is and always will be willing to go for you and me. Here we see just how salty Jesus can be. Unlike the saline that only purges the germs and infection of our skin, He was purged away to remove our sin. He went to war and alone stood against all the armies of our ancient foe for you and me and all humanity that He would rescue us and restore us from that kingdom of lies and darkness into His glorious Kingdom. Even as He was thrown out and considered worthless by all humanity, on the third day God the Father raised Him from death and chose in Jesus to establish His victory in us so that our baptism into Him would restore our life and give us a new life in Him. Our eating His Body and Blood becomes for us the cup of salvation to keep us connected to Him and to restore us to one another. 

Many of us here at ILC are educators. We are people dedicated to helping others understand the world around us as well as developing the gifts and talents God has given each of us to bless our neighbors, family and friends. You know more than most that having a lesson plan is important. This is not just a list of activities that describe how to pass the time, but instead a detailed description of the outcomes and skills to be built and developed through the course. Some lessons are hard – really hard as they require active participation. In Jesus, our lives are like a lesson plan to display His skills and abilities to change and make new, restore and create. In and through us, Jesus solves problems and preserves relationships. As He brings us together in Him and makes us to be of one mind and heart, He even shapes our will so that all of our relationships are changed. By His Spirit, we are even willing to sacrifice for our loved ones, our neighbor, a stranger and even an enemy. In Jesus and by His Spirit, self-denial is not loss but real gain as He is glorified in our lives. Yes, salt is good. Today, by His grace we dedicate ourselves, our teachers and the teaching of ILC, as well as all the other educational ministry that happens through each of us to sharing this good news with all.

Pastor Carl