Salt and light

Matthew 5:13-16
2 Corinthians 4:1-6
Isaiah 58:6-12

Doctors are, quite rightly, regularly telling us of the dangers of too much, and many of add far less salt to our food, and use far less salt in cooking. However, no one can live without salt. Sodium and chloride ions are a vital component of a halthly body, and without these electrolytes, as they’re called, our bodies simply can’t function. Too much salt is indeed bad for you, but so is too little.

Nowadays salt is a rather cheap commodity. It can be bought in any supermarket for pence. It hasn’t always been that way. In time gone by nations and peoples have clashed in wars about salt. Roman soldiers were paid their wages not in silver or gold coins, or even in coins of the common currency, but in salt. The words “salary” and “sale” derive from the word salt. In the Bible you will find almost fifty references to salt.

Today we heard Jesus say, “you are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” I think that when Jesus says, “you are the salt of the earth” he’s talking to his disciples, his faithful followers, but the you is also a description of any Christian who is trying to follow Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t say, “be salt!” or “you must be salt,” or “you should be salt,” or “it would be nice for you to be salt.” He said, “you are salt”. In other words, everyone who follows Jesus, cannot excuse ourselves. We cannot say, “thanks, but no thanks.” We cannot say that we don’t mind following Jesus, but that we refuse to be salt. If we follow of Jesus, salt is what we are, whether you asked for it or not, whether you like it or not.

The big question all this raises is what does it mean to be salt?

Firstl, salt is palatable. It adds taste to the food we eat. Salt brings out flavour, os perhaps Christians should be bringing a little more meaning into people’s lives.

Second, salt is precious. In Jesus’s day salt was a rare commodity, with a high price. Greek aristocrats had a custom of buying their slaves with salt. If the slave didn’t meet the purchaser’s expectation, that slave “was not worth his salt.” As followers of Jesus, we are a precious commodity in this world.

Third, salt penetrates the food. It permeates throughout the entire dish. Perhaps you can’t see it with your naked eye, but although it does its work silently, it does so very effectively. Followers of Jesus worth their salt will not want to blow their own trumpet, but they quietly and effectively permeate the flavour of the gospel in the community around them.

Fourth and fifth, salt preserves and thus prevents. There were no freezers in Jesus’s day. The only way to preserve food, such as meat, was to salt it away, and so prevent it from destruction and decay.

Jesus says to his followers, to you and to me, “you are that palatable, precious, penetrating preservative that prevents decay.” And you are that “of the earth.” The earth is the place where people live and work. It’s the place where people work at their economies, build their communities, construct societies, form nations, and develop cultures.

We all know only too well, that there’s much on in our economies and communities, and nations and culktures, that is not as it should be or could be; and this passage is a reminder to all followers of Jesus that by our very presence in the community, both individually and together as a body, we are the salt that prevents utter chaos and decay, because we have a little bit of God at work within us.

After saying that, “you are the salt of the earth,” Jesus went on to say, “but if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” I think that Jesus was probably allusing to salt that was gathered from the shore of the Dead Sea. What happened in gathering in the Dead Sea salt is that sand would become mixed with the pure salt, and then it would be impossible to separate the salt from the sand, and so the salt would lose its power to do what salt was supposed to do.

When the sand of all that is wrong in the world becomes mixed with the good news, the good news loses its power, and people who are supposed to represent that good news lose their power to be the salt of the earth. What do you do when salt and sand are mixed together? Jesus says all you can do then is spread it on the road.

What I think Jesus means by all is to become what you already are. We are the salt of this earth, of this society, this community, in this culture wherein we find yourselves.

When we live in a world full of challenges to Chrisitianity, a world full of indifference to Christianity, a world where there is little room for the healing and saving power of God, we can find ourselves being like salt in an open wound, which means that it hurts, but like the healing of a wound, it usually gets better with time.

If you find all this a little bit daunting, or depressing, remember that we have done an amazing thing today, when Steve was baptised, it’s an enormous sign and symbol of the love and goodness of Godf, that is planted much more deeply than all that is wrong. It’s a powerful reminder of how are light, and it’s anything but hidden under a bushel. It’s what Paul talked about the light being unveiled, and shining in our hearts, shining out into the darkness. It’s an encouragement on the way, as we remember how God will restore what is wrong, like watering a dry garden, as Isaiah told us.

So, let us take a moment to consider what God has done in us. We are the salt for the earth; we are light for the world, because of God’s work in us. That can be very hard to get our head around. Has God made us into a light for others to see by? Has God made it that our lives life light up other’s lives?

In our time of silence, ask God “am I your light?”, and don’t doubt, criticise, or condemn yourself.

Ask God, and listen, “am I a light? Please show me.”

Ask, then be quiet. Be still.

Remember, that you are God’s work, and marvellous in his eyes.

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