Summary: Salt is more than just a flavor for a meal. It is also the sign of our relationship with God.
17th Sunday After Pentecost
Mark 9:38-50 “Please . . . Pass the Salt”
1. Ushers, can you help me out this morning. I want you pass something out to the congregation as we begin this morning. [Ushers pass out individual salt packets]. I think there should be enough for every single person to have one so make sure they all get one, please.
2. You never knew you’d get paid if you came to church did you? That’s right. Tell all your friends that you got paid to be in church this morning. This past week I learned when salt was more difficult to come by, “salt rations given early Roman soldiers were known as ‘salarium argentum,’ the forerunner of the English word ‘salary.’” (http://www.saltinstitute.org/38.html) And so I thought I could afford some salt today and I just went ahead and paid you for coming to church, because I thought you were worth your salt. A saying which literally meant that a person was worth their pay. I bought 100 of those this week for $1.00. So I thought it was worth it.
3. I learned a lot about salt this week. Things I never knew before. I learned that there is an organization called the Salt Institute. And here is what they have to say about themselves on their website, “The Salt Institute is the world’s foremost source of authoritative information about salt (sodium chloride) and its more than 14,000 known uses. The Institute is a non-profit association of salt producers (manufacturers) founded in 1914. It provides public information and advocates on behalf of its members, including use of this website. Membership eligibility is limited to companies which both produce and market sodium chloride.” So if you were a salt producer, you could join up with the Salt Institute and have a part of all that they support.
4. I learned salt has more than 14,000 known uses. And you thought you put it on your food with pepper. But the Salt Institute has something to say about that as well. They said, “Salt is used in greater quantities and for more applications than any other mineral. It has more than 14,000 known uses. Everyone uses salt, directly and indirectly. Americans each consume more than 16 tons of salt during their lifetimes, 402 pounds a year for each living American. Only a small percentage of that massive amount is ingested as food.” So next time the doctor tells you to cut back on your salt intake you can tell them, Well, Doc, I don’t eat as much as you might think.”
5. I learned that salt is used in the textile industry to fix and standardize dye batches. That it has been used to “seed” clouds to produce rain in desert areas. Salt is used in the process of making paper from wood, both in creating the pulp from tree bark as well as in bleaching the color.
6. Which is good for a guy by the name of Mark Kurlansky who wrote a book called, Salt: A World History available in either hardback or paperback. Nearly 500 pages dedicated to the history of salt, but one reviewer said it wasn’t nearly as good as his book, Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World. That may or may not be as bad as Bettina Werner an artist who calls herself, “The Queen of Salt” and whose works center around, you guessed it, salt.
7. Did I tell you I learned a lot about salt this week? I also learned that it has connections to the covenant. In Exodus 30.34-36 God speaks to Moses and He says, "Take fragrant spices—gum resin, onycha and galbanum—and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, 35 and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer. It is to be salted and pure and sacred. 36 Grind some of it to powder and place it in front of the Testimony in the Tent of Meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you.” (NIV)
8. In Leviticus 2.13, the people are told, “13 Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings.” (NIV) and in Numbers 18.19 we read, “19 Whatever is set aside from the holy offerings the Israelites present to the LORD I give to you and your sons and daughters as your regular share. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the LORD for both you and your offspring." (NIV)
9. These verses underscore the role salt has in terms of the covenantal relationship the nation of Israel was called to have with God. Salt was a sign that all was right between the people and their God. It was a sign of the covenant. It was a symbol of purity and right relationship. A phrase that is still used in some cultures is this one, “There is salt between us”. Meaning that the relationship between two people is good. It is covenantal language.