Salt and Light
There is a story about a man on a job interview. It is a high powered corporate job and as such the interview takes place over lunch at a very fancy restaurant. Sitting down for lunch the man allows the host to order wine for the table and then proceeds to order from the menu. He selects something from the menu that is above the average price, but not the most expensive item. Conversation at the table is going well and the man is feeling very confident about things. When the food arrives the man reaches for the salt and proceeds to salt his food.
The meal continues, all seems well.
At the end of the meal the host says, “Unfortunately, you are not the right candidate for us.”
The man is puzzled and so he inquires as to the reason why he was not select. The reply, “You salted your food without tasting it.”
The idea being that the man should have checked how the food was seasoned. That the chefs knowing the value of salt would have seasoned it already.
Salt and Light – Audio Sermon
Which seems to be what chefs do. My wife and I watch the show Chopped and while watching it has not necessarily made me a better cook, what I have learned is that one of the most common criticisms is a complete lack of salt on food or too much salt and seasoning.
Which brings us to the words of Jesus as we find them in Matthew’s gospel this morning. “You are the salt of the earth.” In today’s world we take salt for granted, we assume that it is just there on hand easy to reach. But it has not always been so. At certain points in history salt has been a luxury, wars have been fought over access to salt.
Salt has created and destroyed kingdoms and empires. The city of Liverpool in England rose from a small port to become the prime exporter of salt dug at the Cheshire Salt Mines. In the 16th Century Poland grew to be a major power, until the German states introduced Sea Salt, which was considered superior to rock salt.
The gabelle is a French salt tax that was introduced in the 13th century and was maintained until 1790 when in the French Revolution it was abolished.
In American history salt played an outcome during the revolutionary wars. Opposing sides would attack and intercept salt shipments, which would interfere with the opposing sides ability to preserve food.
It seems that salt has played a major part in history. We know that we can use it to season food, to preserve food and in this weather to melt the ice. It has a variety of uses.
So when Jesus calls us the salt of the earth, we should take heed that Jesus is trying to tell us something very important. Because his doing so comes with a warning to us, about salt which has lost its taste. And salt which has lost its saltiness is good for nothing.
Jesus continues by informing us “We are the light of the world.” I’m not going to stress the importance of light and how much we rely upon it. In our modern world it is every bit as integral as salt, just as it was in Jesus’ time. But as Jesus says, we do not turn a light on just to hide it. Jesus encourages us to let the light shine, our light shine, so that all can see our good works and give glory to God.
These two statements of Jesus raise two very simple, yet very primal questions. I think that these two questions are central to most of our lives, they inform our most basic questions about life.
Who are we?
What are we to do?
Who are we, and what are we to do? The words of Jesus evoke these powerful questions within us.
Who are we as people? As a people?
Who are we as Christians, as followers of Christ?
Who are we as Christians living in Canada?
As a person, what am I to do with my life?
How am I to live with my neighbour?
What am I to do as a Christian, as a follower of Christ?
I think Jesus is pretty clear here about that.
Who are we? We are followers of Christ, encouraged to keep our saltiness.
Think about that, encouraged to keep our saltiness. In the story I told earlier about the job interview, how does too much salt on your food taste? Not good right. How about getting salt into a cut? A little painful.
Jesus wants us to be salty, which means he wants us to be noticed. Maybe he wants us to be an annoyance. Jesus was certainly an annoyance to the Pharisees and the Jewish establishment. Is Jesus calling us to be salt, to ensure that injustices some would like to gloss over are brought into the light?
Which has us moving to that second metaphor of light, the light of the world. What does light do?
It uncovers the darkness, it brings things out of the shadows allowing God’s justice to be seen. When we shine that light forth, we are doing the good works that Jesus is talking about and that is something that God finds pleasing.
So what are we to do? We are to cast our light about the earth. For all to see.
This is the covenant Jesus establishes with us. It brings richness and flavour to our relationship with Christ and our relationships with one another.
Archbishop William Temple is quoted as saying, “The church is the only organization on earth that exists for those who are not its members.” In as much as we are called to love one another, to serve one another; Christ calls us to love and care for those beyond our doors. It is a part of our sacred calling and when you consider that our reading from Matthew today comes directly after the Beatitudes its emphasis is brought to the front and center.
Be the salt of the earth, be the light of the earth for the sake of those who mourn, for the meek, for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for the merciful, the pure in heart and the peacemakers. Be salt and light for these people. Those that you are aware of and those who you are not.
Eugene Peterson is a preacher and writer and he was asked what he would say if he were writing what he knew would be his very last sermon. He replied, “I think I would want to talk about things that are immediate and ordinary. In the kind of world we live in, the primary way that I can get people to be aware of God is to say, ‘Who are you going to have breakfast with tomorrow, and how are you going to treat that person?'”
Peterson suggests we need to stop thinking that being a Christian means always being part of only obvious religious contexts. We just need to pay attention to what the people around us are doing most every day and then help them do it in ways that glorify God. “In my last sermon, I guess I’d want to say, ‘Go home and be good to your spouse. Treat your children with respect. Do a good job at work.” We need to be salt in the real world, and that involves genuinely being with real people, listening to them well, and treating them as the little images of God they all are.
By being that salt, we become the light of the world. Not to hide ourselves away, but for all the world to see. So that our good works done in the name of Jesus Christ can be seen by all people, all for the glory of God. Amen.
Text: Matthew 5:13-20