Salt: The Gift That Sweetens and Preserves
Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

Salt … is important. Any doctor will tell you that, while we modern Americans overdo it on salt more often than not, sodium is a necessary mineral for our bodies to properly function. Not surprisingly, it was quite valuable in the ancient world. It was a precious commodity in the lives of people, who kept it everywhere in their homes. Indeed, the root of the word salary comes from the Latin word salarium, which, you guessed it, is a reference to salt. Soldiers may have even been paid with salt to preserve meat and food for their families before modern refrigeration. So yes, salt is quite important in both the modern world, and the ancient one. 

When we see salt in Scripture, it is often referred to as both a sweetening and preserving agent. After the prophet Elisha succeeded Elijah, he was told that the water in Jericho was so bad and undrinkable that something had to be done. It may have tasted something like well water, which contains lots of iron and minerals. So Elisha asked for some water in a bowl and placed some salt in it. Then he threw salt into the spring, sweetening and refreshing all the water for the people to continue to use and drink. God healed that dreadful water with salt; He is the ultimate water softener. Perhaps that enhances what Jesus says in His Sermon on the Mount, “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?”

What kind of pain are you enduring or suffering now? Is there anything sour, troubling, or unfruitful in your life? Is your personal health compromised? Or are there some bitter or strained relationships with people? Is your employment situation stressful? Amid life’s sour and bitter experiences, Jesus comes to sweeten, enliven, and refresh you through His healing Word. You are God’s own dear child, baptized, washed, and salted in Christ. God is not distant but promises to deliver you from all your troubles and to heal those things most broken in life – if not in this life, then certainly in the life of the world to come. “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

Jesus sweetens the bitterness of life, but He also comes to preserve and keep you. The ancient people of God used salt to preserve meat and other food, protecting it from spoilage and, consequently, the people from food-borne pathogens and diseases. Even when the priests offered grain and burnt offerings, they ensured these sacrifices were properly salted and preserved. 

Salt does this with food, and God did this to you in your baptism. As your great High Priest, Jesus was salted and offered up for you, sacrificed on the cross to save you from your sinful, diseased life. Now, baptized into His death and resurrection, you are preserved from the power of death. Your life is kept, spoil-free, under the shelter of His wings. Even though this temporal life will end because we get sick and die, your hope is not in this life. Since Jesus rose from the dead on Easter, your weak, mortal body is promised to be raised as a pure, sinless, eternal body. That means you are really living a life that is truly preserved forever. We are His salty people; we have His promise that temporal death is not eternal death, and that news sweetens life now with renewed joy and purpose.

Sadly, many people still live hopelessly with zero comfort when someone dies. Therefore, Jesus warns us about losing saltiness. Salt is not within us, but God gives salt to us just as Elisha placed the salt in the water to sweeten the spring for drinking. When a Christian dies, he or she is promised to be with the Lord forever. Because of that, we read words of comfort, dwell on God’s promise of life in Christ, and sing hymns with joy. That is why St. Paul says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Your saltiness literally makes you hopeful, joyful, and appealing to anyone who sees or knows you. Christ’s Word is the source of sweetening and seasoning in life.

Dear friend, Jesus Christ is with you now, sweetening and preserving all your life and those all around you. He promises you a preservation from eternal death and keeps you now and for eternity. The only way salt is depleted or lost is when we fail to hear God’s Word or receive His sacraments. Even though life is daily torn by sin, broken relationships, and faltering health, Jesus promises to preserve and keep you and to work all things for your good. He will sweeten all things with renewed hope and purpose! By His resurrection from the dead, you are now sweetening salt, wholesome salt, and preserving salt to all the world.

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