Given the nature of our existence lately here in the land of the polar vortex, there are lots of things I could say about salt and light. Including that because a sidewalk was not salted, I ended up doing a faceplant which fortunately only involved a couple really banged up hands and knees. Salt in the winter has a special preserving quality. One of the things I love about Centre Park is that many of us sort of the Fellowship of the Snow Patrol. Someone shovels out here at the church so others of us shovel their house, and random salt dispensing for each other happens. At the same time recently someone proudly cleared all of their snow but did it in a way that buried the cars of elderly neighbors who it turns out have just as many places to go in their cars as wage earners. Not all our collective responses are as life giving as they could be. And some folk who emerge with a shovel hoping to earn a few dollars, some of whom can barely shovel. But who surmise that unless they have something to offer they have no hope of receiving. Now, these particular concerns were not a reality in Palestine where Jesus lived and preached. There was no such thing as a snow day. But salt and light were obviously important to life enough the Bible mentions them a lot.
Salt, a simple and common thing has really significant powers. It can preserve things. Meat could be salted and saved for another day’s meal. It makes bread rise. It has abilities to have certain abilities to heal, and to clean. Currently the production of saline solution for surgery is outpaced by demand causing delays in medical procedures. According to the Salt Institute (yes, there is one), salt helps muscles stay strong, and makes our brains work. And of course, we know that salt can make things taste better.
As important as we find it, salt was so important in Jesus’ day, it was used to pay people. Literally the word “salary” comes from the Latin of when people were paid with salt. The best workers you hired were “worth their salt.” All those people who were sick and downtrodden were not. Being salt means bringing life and worth.
Light, is another seemingly simple thing. Yet, without it, the earth would be cold and there would be no life. Plants wouldn’t grow. For those of who garden it’s just about time for the “grow lights” to start seedlings. Without light, things would be unclear, there would be no color. Without light people become depressed, and fish in places like the deepest ocean trenches or caves are blind. Without light there is isolation. Think of all the things you cannot do or do well if you don’t have light in which to accomplish them. Cooking, reading, cleaning, the list goes on. And a candle in the window means welcome. Being light means drawing others into growth, and seeing and community.
Salt and light- two things we take for granted much of the time. But two things that when circumstances force us to stop, we see differently. Ask anyone who has endured living without them. These simple things, are just as critical for our existence as they were in Jesus’ day. Both of them are naturally occurring in God’s world. Both thing that when shared, bring life more abundantly.
I think that the fact they occur naturally probably means that God intends that the world share in them. And God’s arrangement is we care for each other, love our neighbor with them so we all share in the blessing of abundant life.
Rather than hiding the light or calculating who is worth their salt.
Jesus takes these notions and turns them upside down.
Aside from all of the other things we can say about salt and light, I am thinking that what I notice is that whenever I shake salt, I only marginally control where it lands, and no matter what we try to do to direct light-particles of it go beyond. We live in a world that so often tries to put salt and light in containers. But if you've ever been longing for life to have flavor or darkness to end, you know that you hope that some falls your way.
Much of our life in our world and sometimes in the church is about structure, but Jesus reminds that our structures should never be the primary thing. We as individuals are vessels as are our ways of being community. But vessels not so much to contain as to distribute. We are called as the Psalmist shares, to not fear bad news so much we fail to be generous or to live with integrity.
Just before today’s gospel Jesus has shared the Beatitudes. Sayings which tell the large crowd gathered there is a word for the poor in spirit, those mourning, who work for peace, who are persecuted. And a message for those who hunger and thirst for God’s people to be people of righteousness. Blessed.
To the thousands who have been drawn out of that hunger and thirst-who long for life, the downtrodden and the weak- Jesus says-“you are to be blessed.” Those who have nothing to add to the equation of worth as the world see it are worth it. You are worth your salt. For many of us this is a word of blessing. We who have gathered this day are blessed. Where have you seen it? Thanks be to our God! If you came here this day looking for salt and light may God bless you through us.
There’s more. Jesus turns to his followers, the blessed and says-“You and you and you- are salt. You are how blessing will be spread. You all are salt for the whole earth. And you are light. You are the answer to those who walk in darkness. Don’t hoard your light. You are light for the whole world.”
Jesus doesn’t say- “you COULD be salt and light.” OR “you should try to be salt and light and see if you like it.” OR "if you try you might be good enough to be salt and light."
You are. Salt and light. Life for the world.
This is righteousness- living as those who are my disciples is this. Scattering life abundant and God revealing community spilling over. So, go be who you are.
Be the answer to the prayers of those who cannot pay, or earn, or contribute. Be the path into wholeness, the preservers of lives. In your saltiness and lightness, others will see the grace of God falling their way. And they will praise the God of salt and light shown through you.
It’s that simple. We have the ability through the Spirit to be salt and light. We don't need to wait for the right moment or other ingredients. Or the right people. We simply are.
And we don’t need to decide who is worth their salt. God’s decided it’s everyone.
Salt and light will happen this day.
Where will you see it? Where will you be it?
May you share in God’s bright and salty day!