I remember my grandmother making a comment about salty language one day. I can’t remember the exact context, I think my Grandfather had hurt his hand digging in their garden, but I can’t be certain. The look on her face let me know that whatever salty meant, it was not something one wanted to be.
Salt gets a bad rap in our day and time as well. While we may not often call foul language salty, we are told to limit our salt intake for healthier hearts. Too much salt will dehydrate you, but too little and your electrolytes go out of whack. Too much and your eggs taste terrible, too little and you can’t taste your eggs. Salt is a tricky thing.
Light is not much better. We must use sunscreen to protect us from ultraviolet light, but if we don’t get enough ultraviolet light we are vitamin D deficient and are more likely to have depression and other illnesses. A bright light is useful when you are looking for a needle you have dropped, but in a movie theater it is considered a nuisance. Light is a tricky thing.
Jesus uses these two descriptors, salt and light, to talk about his disciples, and us. Salt and light, essential for life on this planet, but in the wrong amounts unhealthy at best, harmful in the worst of cases. But what I find really interesting is that Jesus says “You are salt. You are light.”
There is no like, there is no, you should be or could be, only you are.
We can no more control that we are the light and salt than we can control the rising and setting of the sun or the crashing of the waves upon the shore. You, yes you, are salt. You, yes you are light.
Salt is often used to bring out the flavor of foods. Salt makes sweet things sweeter. That’s why so many people put salt on a watermelon and why salted caramel is such a big thing.
Light illuminate’s dark places. It helps make things clear, define situations, bring things into focus.
You are salt, Jesus says.
You are light Jesus says.
It makes me wonder, what are we enhancing? What are we illuminating? What part of the world would miss us if we were gone?
Because by reminding us that we are salt and light, Jesus is telling us that, by our very existence we will make a difference in the world. We will change and hopefully improve things by being as God designs.
Nothing that salt does is for the salt. It doesn’t improve itself by being put with other flavors, its sole purpose is to bring out others flavors. Likewise, light doesn’t benefit itself by shining, it only allows you to see things that you might have otherwise missed.
If we are salt and light my friends, then I must ask, what is our purpose? What is the purpose of a gathering of Christians? Is it too feel better about ourselves? Is it to bring judgement on others? Is it to improve our status?
Archbishop William Temple has said, “The Church is the only organization that exists for those who are not its members.”
The church, the body of Christ exists to help others. We exist, not to come to the church building on Sundays, but to be the church, the body of Christ in the world every day.
We gather together, not as an end unto itself, but as a way of equipping and encouraging one another to go out into the world and live a light filled salty life!
Max Lucado tells a story about a man who lost electricity one day. He was fumbling around looking for some candles and he heard a disturbance in the pantry. He opened the door to find three candles in an argument. As he reached for one it yelled out “No, don’t use me! My gift is singing. I sing songs about light to encourage other candles to burn bright, but I don’t actually ever catch on fire, for then I would burn and who would lead the singing?”
The man put the candle back and reached for another. “Oh, no,” this candle screamed, “Not me. I’m far too young to be burned. Why you only bought me last week. I’m sure I don’t yet know how to shine light that would be of help to anyone. I have too much left to learn.”
The man put the candle back and reached for the third. “Put me down!” it cried “I am an antique! I’ve been in this family for generations. If I shine my light and burn how will all my knowledge be passed down? No, I’m much better off here, talking with the candles that are brought in, telling them what it means to shine so that one day you can see by their light.”
The man put the candle down and slowly closed the door, shaking his head at these candles who were not much more than decorations. As he closed the door he thought he heard them singing “This little light of mine.”
I wonder how often I am like these candles. I wonder how often I am like salt that has lost its flavor. There are times when it would be much easier to focus on the inside, and let needs apart from my family and my close friends go unmet. It would be easier to stand here and sing about loving our neighbor instead of seeking a relationship with our neighbors.
Today, we are blessed to be able to participate in the two sacraments of our Denomination, Baptism and Communion. Both are outward signs of inward acts. God’s grace poured out is signified through the pouring of the water and the elements of bread and wine. These sacraments are to equip us for the work, to remind us of the promise we’ve made to serve the Kingdom of God.
As we participate in these wonderful times together, let us remember that we do these things not for ourselves, but for the benefit of the very kingdom of God.
You are salt.
You are light
You are the body of Christ.
You are a beloved child of God.