St. Mary's Nanoose
February 9, 2020
True confessions….. I am a salt-a-holic. I love salt. And I’ve loved it ever since I was a small child. No one else in my family loved or even particularly liked salt like I did. Unless it was in the form of the salty licorice Dutch people think is a treat. Then pretty much my whole family can eat enough to make their veins pinch and hearts pound.
In today’s reading, Jesus says “You are the salt of the earth,” and with those words we are given a rich image to unpack and explore.
What does it mean to be salt?
Salt was, and is, essential to our well-being. Wars have been fought over it.
In Jesus’ day, salt was valued in much the same way as gold was. Roman soldiers were paid in salt which is where the expression “worth his salt” comes from. The word “salary” derives from the Latin word for salt. To be salt, then, is to be valued.
Jesus tells us “we ARE salt,” so we know that we are loved and blessed; not for what we will become or what we’ve done, but because we simply are. As salt is part of God’s creation, so are we. As salt has a purpose, so do we. We are essential to God’s creation.
There are many other images and uses for salt.
In the ancient world, salt was key to preserving food. In the right proportion, salt draws out the flavor while cooking.
To be salt, then, is to contribute flavor to what is shared. It is to preserve what is good. In today’s reading we hear that we are to follow the law…… yes, but we are to do more than that. We are to allow our hearts to be transformed by love and for love. Loving action is the fulfillment of the law.
Salt is no good on its own; it needs to be shared, added, used. When we are salt, we offer our gifts thoughtfully and at the right time. We are salt for the good of God’s world; not for our own needs alone, but for the good of our community.
Salt also draws out infection. As salt, we can gently draw out that which is not healthy and right in each other and bring it into the light for healing.
In ancient times people broke bread and shared salt together as a sign of friendship and peace. In Leviticus, salt is mentioned in the covenant relationship with God.
Our sweat and tears are salty. And in this way we share our labour and grief with God. Because, salt, as I said, is part of our covenant relationship with God.
But too much of a good thing is not a good thing! Too much salt will ruin any meal, dehydrate us, or destroy a field.
Like anything, salt needs to be used differently in different situations in order to be effective.
Jesus tells us that we ARE salt of the earth and light of the world. Each one of us. Each one of us is called to the sacred duty of letting our light shine and to share our unique gifts. No, more to the point, we are to let GOD’S light shine through us so God’s love can be more fully known and revealed; to remind God’s people that they are loved, valued, blessed and to live as such.
When I was at the Vancouver School of Theology, I sometimes bunked in with a friend in residence. This friend was an excellent cook and spoiled me with her culinary skills. Trust me….. I was most appreciative. But one night, out of the blue, she snapped at me when for the umpteenth time, I sprinkled salt liberally over my meal. “That’s enough!” she barked. I was stunned. This was our first and only fight. She apologized, “I’m sorry, your salt consumption really isn’t my business,” she said. And I replied, “Not to worry – I hear your concern for my well being.” Once I got over the surprise, the thought occurred to me that maybe I was overdoing it. And days later, I stopped salting my food so much. I still sometimes do, but my relationship to salt has changed. Too much of a good thing is not good! I need to take the time to taste the food given to me; to give thanks for it, and enjoy it as it is given.
Can you hear Jesus talking to you? Saying - You are the salt of the earth. You are needed. You are perfect as you are. You are blessed. You are valued. As one of God’s own, you called to let that truth known and to make sure that every person on earth is treated as blessed, valued and loved. This is our call as Christians. This is our invitation and response to love.
And so this morning, as we approach the table where God feeds us with the bread of life, let us receive this awesome gift of love, and let ourselves be the salt and light that we were created to be.