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Posted: February 11, 2011 12:00 a.m.

Grace Notes: Savior’s Sermon: Be who you are

Maybe you’ve heard this story about the guy that the Super Bowl trophy is named after.

Supposedly, during the Packers’ glory years, when Vince Lombardi was used to winning very regularly, there was a game when his Packers looked terrible against the worst team in the league. They should have been dominating, but instead, all their mistakes put them behind at halftime.

Lombardi was known for his temper, so the players were in fear of the halftime speech. They were prepared to be torn apart.

But when Coach got into the locker room, he didn’t say a thing at first. He simply started calmly reviewing the game plan. The players sat there in stunned silence waiting for the other shoe to drop. But it didn’t.

Instead, just as they were getting ready to take the field again, Lombardi simply said, "One more thing fellas. Remember, you are the Green Bay Packers. Go play like it."

Read Matthew 5:13-20 in your Bibles and you see Jesus saying the same thing to you: "Be who you are."

He says that you are salt. He says you are light. Now act like it.

Notice something important, he doesn’t tell us to "Become the salt of the earth." He says, "You are the salt of the earth."

He doesn’t tell us to "Become the light of the world," he says, "You are the light of the world."

Salt is not there to be unsalty. The light is not there to be hidden. We are here to be what God has made us.

Salt was important in Jesus’ day. It was there to be a preservative, to prevent the meat from going bad. Light was essential. You needed it to see where you were going.

It would make no sense for someone to put salt on their meat and then expect it not to function. It would make no sense to light a lamp and cover it. Those things serve a purpose.

Now today, Jesus says, "That’s you". Sure, it is a bit surprising that he called that rag-tag group of his followers — fishermen, farmers, even a tax collector — he called them the light of the world, not Caesar, not some general, not some great actor or orator — them, his followers.

It’s just as surprising that he says the same to us. But he does. He has made you that light by filling you with his. He has made you that preserving salt by preserving you from the decay of sin and shame and making you fresh and new through the forgiveness of sin and the promise of faith.

And now he says that you are the salt of the earth. The question is, "Where is the salt?"

If this society has gone bad, there really is no sense blaming it: That’s what happens when sin lives unopposed. The question is: "Where is the Church?"

But you don’t even get off that easy. Make it more personal: If the world around you is bad, there is no sense blaming it. That’s what happens when sin goes unchecked. The question when you see problems around you is, "Where is your salt and light?" Where are the fruits of your faith in the lives of your neighbors? They need it.

It’s easier to stay in the salt shaker, isn’t it? It’s easier to just let the light shine in our holy huddles with the people that think like we do, under the bowl, right?

But Jesus doesn’t even give you a choice here. He has made you the light of the world. It is his light that shines through you. It is the knowledge and trust in his preservation of you, that preservation that cost him his life, that makes you salt. Jesus took all the destructive bacteria of our sin so that ours is gone off our record and we can fight against that sin in our hearts and lives. He has done the work to make you what you are. Now as you live in this world, you will naturally shine. So "Be what you are!" In Christ, Amen.

Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.

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