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The Rev. Gemechis Desta Buba The Rev. Gemechis Desta Buba

The Rev. Gemechis Buba is the director of African National Ministries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, headquartered in Chicago, IL.

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Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Being Salt to the World

Mark 9:38-50

17th Sunday After Pentecost (Proper 21)

September 28, 2003

Jesus has been using salt as a very important illustration of an influential Christian life in the world. But very rarely was he describing the essential being and becoming of a salt as a solid element. But in this text, Jesus speaks about the importance of fire in the becoming process of a salt. Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is a type of element that dissolves in water. When it dissolves, it grows weaker depending on the amount of water used to dissolve a certain amount of salt. When the amount of water exceeds the amount of salt used, that salt will grow weaker in its identity and loses its saltiness.

Having an identity of a Christ-likeness and maintaining that identity requires our commitment and dedication to stay within the scope of God's burning flames of fire. In Luke, chapter 12, verse 49, "I have come to bring fire on earth, and how I wish it were already kindled."

Why is Jesus describing his mission in this Lukan account as mission of dropping fire on earth? Is the world in need of fire as a solution to all of its problems and commotions? Leaving these questions as they are let us describe the world in which Jesus came to operate.

When Jesus came into this world, human life was:

1. Fallen from its original glory and honor granted to him or her by the creator God to enjoy the abundance of life in the Garden of Eden with a privilege of direct access to God.

2. Lost, into the dark world in search of a substitute lifestyle to the originally designed and intended way of living by God the creator.

3. Enslaved and controlled by the brutality of our fallen nature. Human will ruled and directed by persistent rebellious nature was miserably living as a slave without freedom and peace.

4. Cursed by God according to Genesis 3 and was also living among and within a cursed environment--living under calamities, disasters, catastrophes, and natural crisis.

5. Sin was the prime energy driving the whole species in its own pace towards its own goals, objectives, and directions. By the virtue of its innate makeup and essence of sin can produce nothing other than death. For the wages of sin is death.

6. Death has been extending its agonizing and threatening influence overshadowing the human race. Thus, humanity has been suffering under the grips of death and its agony.

7. Powers, principalities, authorities and rulers of this dark world, which are spiritual forces of the evil nature, were also ruling over the human species in their own magnitude and intensity of destructive power.

Therefore, the entire human species was in need of:

RESTORATION -- Which was restoring humanity as a whole into the original status granted by God. That is exactly why Christ declared on John, chapter 10, verse 10: I came to give life and life in abundance. This is an overt act of restoration. He came to restore our life and to restore it very graciously and very generously. The prophetic exposition of Psalm 23 declares God as a shepherd which was a character used to describe Jesus. One of the many great acts and actions of this shepherd is restoring our soul. Soul is the essence of human life. It is also the seat of knowledge and wisdom. When soul is restored, the essence of humanity is restored into regaining:

1. Value
2. Wisdom
3. Character
4. Dignity
5. Hope

Secondly, humanity was in need of RENEWAL. The old has to pass away and the new has to come. God's intent of renewing his covenant has always resonated with human conscience. This message has been echoing all the way from the days of the prophet Isaiah until the days of John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and even it was stated as an apocalyptic hope in the Book of Revelation. Humanity as a whole needs to be renewed intrinsically and extrinsically. The new life brought into the world through Christ's plan of restoration can never be put into an old container. He used the metaphor of putting a new wine into an old wineskin, which will eventually end up producing a disastrous end result both for the wine and for the wineskin. Renewal is at the heart of Christ's mission. He renewed humanity by killing the old self and rising up with a newly resurrected identity of hope and future.

Finally, humanity was in need of TRANSFORMATION. This transformation means going beyond the current state of being or format. It is being in the state of trans, which is passing over into the other form. This thing called transformation actually happens through the transforming agent, which is the third person of the triune God called the Holy Spirit. Jesus displayed the Holy Spirit as a

* Teacher
* Counselor
* Companion
* Guide/Leader
* Encourager
* Purifier
* And many other similar roles

It was this person that Jesus was referring to when he was talking about the fire that transforms. As restored, renewed, and transformed humanbeings, we get our new identity from the Holy Spirit. When Jesus spoke about this, he said, "Everyone will be salted with fire." Mark 9:49. All of those factors initiating and enhancing the loss of our dignity as creatures of God, handmade by his divinity, in His image, shall be separated from us by the fire of the Holy Spirit. It is this fire that

* Creates
* Consolidates and
* Sustains

The renewed Christian life, which was granted a salty identity to be influential, was made into what it currently is through the agent of God known as the fire of the Holy Spirit. When humanity regains its salty identity, it goes through transformation into becoming salty. Becoming salty means

1. Becoming a symbol of value in the days of Jesus because salt has been an element of transaction and commerce.

2. Becoming an element of therapy and healing because in the days of Jesus salt has been used as a means of medication and as a means of healing diseases and infirmities.

3. Salt has also been used as a substance of preservative through the ages to maintain and keep; things live longer.

4. Salt has also been used to melt snow and make ways in a very snowy circumstance--an agent of transformation in the presence of a Christian can make a way and a hope out of no way because of the transforming presence of the Holy Spirit in our life.

5. It brings flavor and taste. That means that salt brings taste to the tasteless and flavor to something that does not have any flavor.

6. It is used as preventive diet. The Holy Spirit through our life is not only healing our sicknesses; it's also preventing sickness not to come into our life. That salty presence indicates the preventive role of the Holy Spirit in our life.

7. It is used in making soap and chlorine. These elements are cleansing and purifying elements so the presence of the Holy Spirit in our life transforming us into becoming salt to the world is making us an agent of purification and cleansing to the society and to the community.

These are all very symbolic when it comes to restored, renewed, and transformed life of a Christian. In this process of becoming and being salt to the world, the role of the fire of the Holy Spirit is very highly significant.

May God bless the preaching and the hearing of this word for his glory. Amen.

Let us pray.

Father, in the name of Jesus, we ask your almighty presence in every home, every church, and every individual to bless, to transform, and to renew our life so that we can be salty agents in the world, so that we can be influential and to impact our neighbors in love and in your transforming power for your glory and honor. In Jesus' name. Amen.


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