You are...Salt and Light

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Almighty God, you have promised when two or three are gathered that you are there, May we have eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts open to you prompting – Amen

Jesus tells us “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world”

What do you think of when you hear that said? …

I am going to make a bold assumption and say… most, if not all, here today are Christians

And so as followers of ‘The Christ’ hearing a segment from Our Lord’s most substantial sermon – whereby He declares that “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world”

What do you think of…? And how does that make you feel?

You will excuse me, considering the week of weather that we have had – that when I hear that; I think of all the salt that has been used on the roads and walkways

But then my second response is that; I think that the words wash over me – that they don’t take root

I hear them… – but I don’t really think about them – I think that I disassociate myself from that part of Jesus’ teaching

            Again making an assumption, I think that many of you might have the same experience

Why is that? ….

Why do we hear the bible when it tells stories, (incidentally 40% of the Bible is considered narrative and if we include historical accounts then the number moves upward beyond 70%)

      Why do we connect with stories but then let Jesus’ claims on us pass by

Here, we have God in the flesh giving us identity… and with that identity we are also given purpose

            Why don’t we connect with that?

                        It is puzzling, don’t you think?

I think that there are numerous reasons why that is the case for myself, and I suspect many of you

Fill in the blanks for yourself if you hear the words of Jesus but don’t let them take root in your heart

Never-the-less Jesus says; “YOU are the salt of the earth… YOU are the light of the world”

            So let’s take some time and get a better understanding of what our Lord has named His students

We today can buy salt in so many ways and get light by simply flicking a switch, that the metaphors have lost some of their importance

In my house alone, we have, of course, table salt used for cooking and flavouring

            We have road salt used to melt away the snow and ice

            We have special salt for our water softener

            We even considered getting another salt to replace chlorine to keep our pool sparkling

Our ways of lighting are even more vast and diverse

Beyond the fancy & not so fancy innumerable light fixtures, the things that house the light

There are incandescent light bulbs; fluorescent, halogen, the environmentally friendly CFLs, LEDs and the list goes on and on – not to mention light from the gas fireplace or even the simple light from candles

            Salt and light for us in the modern world is easy

But in biblical times when people were more connected with the elements of the world, Salt and Light carried a much more significant role

People, 2000 years ago did not have refrigerators or ice cube makers and so salt was very important to preserve food. They preserved vegetables. They would preserve fish for the winter time; that is, they would salt it and dry it out.

In Biblical times, they said that a man’s life was as valuable as a bag of salt and people use it as a measure of trade, people might be paid in salt

And when they offered their sacrificial cereal offerings, the Jews always put salt on the cereal offering so the cereal would not mould or rot.

When they had new babies, they would wash the new babies in salt water for medicinal purposes. Salt water would help preserve the baby’s life.

But salt was also a symbol of the preservation of life. If you don’t have salt, all you have is decay. It is very important to understand that. You have to have salt to preserve life.

And Jesus said, “YOU are the salt of the earth”

Salt was also important in Biblical times because of war. Wars were fought with essentially arrows and spears and swords and so there was a lot of skin wounds during warfare.

So if you were a wounded soldier, chances are it was a cut from a spear or a sword and so you had to have salt.

You would rub that salt into the wound… and it was very painful

But you needed it, to experience healing. That was part of the way that you treated the wounds.[1]

All cases salt is not an element useful to itself.  Its value comes in its application on other things

And Jesus said, “YOU are the salt of the earth”

Light was equally vital in biblical times

            Without light you were as good as blind at night

Consider our homes today where we have street lights, house lights, cars lights, the glow of the TV or computer, and even the light emitted from a clock radio

Have you ever tried to make your home truly dark – it is a very difficult thing to do

                                                But in Jesus’ day, darkness was a reality which governed their night

                                                            A simple candle light would have lite-up the whole room

At night, before one went to sleep, life was centered around the light of the fire in the courtyard

There, stories would be told, and life would be shared

Light has always meant many things – it enables us to see things,

it is a kind of energy that gives things colour,

it helps vegetation to grow,

provides solar power for electricity

and can be focused for specific uses, such as a laser.

And Jesus said, “YOU are the light of the world”

It is with these understandings that we approach the gospel lesson for today.

Today’s gospel lesson focuses on light and salt.

         In today’s passage, it describes how we as Christians are to live out lives out in the world.

Not the way we are gathered here in this moment in our worship service.

Not even the way we gather together in our homes

In the text for today, we are invited to live our discipleship out in the world.

In our schools. In our work. In our neighbourhoods. In our circle of friends. Out there in the world which is often very dark.

Out there in the world which is often not so godly.

In the world, Christians are to be the light of Christ.

Like light the disciples as a gathered community have overarching purpose of being the mirror that refracts God’s light so that all peoples and nations can know of God’s justice and mercy.[2]

You are to be the light of Christ in the world.

Our lives are to be an inspiration to the lives of others around us.

Our lives are to be like a beacon, that light on the hill, that shows people the way.

      Our lives are to be like a lighthouse, guiding other people’ lives through nasty storms.

YOU Christians are to be like salt and light.

Martin Luther in a sermon in 1532 provided the following three understandings of salt.

The purpose of salt is to preserve.

The purpose of salt is to bite.

The purpose of salt is to pleasure and tastiness to life.

The purpose of salt is to preserve the quality of life.

Salty Christians are to preserve the moral, the spiritual and the political health of society

         Because there is always the possibility (and the probability) that society can begin to decay

As we consider our society, consider the world that we hear and see on the news or read about in newspapers or magazines – the prevailing message is that the moral fibre is in decay

The media needs to create dark and violent pictures in order to sell their products, or sell their advertising space, so we don’t know if the media is exaggerating the decay

But regardless, the prevailing image over and over again is the decline of our society

To pick just two examples, we have all heard of that the divorce rate is hovering around the 50% mark

Or maybe you have heard that one out of five of our children live in poverty?

To this Jesus said, “YOU are the salt of the earth”

We need to help make this society a better place.

We are to help preserve the moral values of our community.

But Martin Luther also said that salt also bites.

When people sin, like the solider injured on the battle field, you are to rub the salt into the wounds of their sins.

Like the wounded soldiers ‘you need it’ to experience healing. That was part of the way that you treat physical and spiritual wounds.

There is a very telling quotation of Luther in which he says, “Bishops and successful clergy are the smartest of people, for they preach in a calculated manner in order to keep themselves out of trouble by refusing to salt the sins of their people and press for genuine repentance.” 

But it is not only ministers. This same pattern is found among friends. Often friends are not honest with each other, and we as friends need to be honest with each other.

So when you see somebody doing wrong, the tendency is to pour syrup on their behaviour, and sweeten up to them.

But there are times when syrup is not necessary. What is needed is salt. And if you have a good friend or a parent who is willing to rub salt into your wound and press for genuine change in your life, you are fortunate.

The words of the prophets in the Old Testament were cutting and bitter, often tasting sharp like salt.

The prophets were acidic in their condemnation of the sexual perversities and the economic injustices found among the people of God

The prophets didn’t mildly suggest to the Israelites that they were sinning; the prophets blasted the Israelites for their sins

Jesus own words to the Pharisees were lethal: “You bunch of hypocrites.” Jesus said this not once but several times to them.

In other words, Jesus’ tongue was salty. It was sharp, biting, and acidic when needed.

The last thing that Martin Luther said in his sermon in 1532 was this: “Salt is to bring seasoning to life.”

Think of French fries or any number of foods

We all know that salt really adds flavour to life.

One of our roles, as Christians, in this life is to bring flavour to life.

If you are a person who loves God, who walks with Jesus.

If you are a person of forgiveness and kindness. If you are a person who brings generosity to those who are hurting.

If you are that kind of person, there is a flavour that you bring to the workplace.

There is a flavour that you bring to your school.

There is a flavour that you bring to your neighbourhood.

In this season of Epiphany, we celebrate the appearance of God in Christ among us. Through Word and sacrament we encounter God precisely and forever where we least expect to find God:

In the midst of our everyday lives and humdrum days.

Without looking for God, we find God-or, more to the point, we are found by God

Last week as we began our several week focus on the Sermon on the Mount, we began with the Beatitudes and I challenged you to consider those that are a blessing to you in your life…

And I also challenged you to think of times when you are a blessing to others…

                        This week I want to continue to challenge you to see the world as God sees it

But this Sunday, I want to go a step further. And a step in a practical way

I realize, you see, that we have a hard time believing that we are good, worthy, and lovable and therefore will perhaps nod politely when Our Lord Jesus call us salt and light

We may know this part of scripture well, but if you are like me, and when Jesus declares that YOU are salt and light, you dissociate yourself from that part and don’t let it take root in your heart.

I want to challenge you to do something a little out of habit

            As today, we gather in our annual meeting

Taking stock of the year going by and looking and planning for the year ahead

            I want to challenge you to take stock in a different way

At the conclusion of the service, when I greet you at the door I will be handing out little notepads – They are to be "Salt & Light Log books"[3]

My hope and prayer is that you actually do this

That you start to collect examples of where God has worked through someone you know or even and especially ‘you’ - to help someone else.

The goal is first, to help you to start looking for God in the world – be that in others or yourself

And second goal is for you to come to believe that YOU are vessels through which God is working

Today is the perfect day to start – because today is the annual meeting – a day when we take stock

This is a good way to help us all to act out the mission plan that we as a church represent

You will be more readily able to hear or think about God active in mission in the world, by naming and claiming how YOU are vessels of God’s grace and mercy.

“YOU are the salt of the earth…. “YOU are the light of the world. A church built on a hill cannot be hid….let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven”


[1] Some of the structure and content was borrowed from -

[2] Feasting on the Word – Volume 1 Year A - page 332


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