Faithlife Sermons

Being Salt, Being Light, Being Awake - 2.9.20


Salt and Light

(Mk 9:50; Lk 14:34–35)

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

The Law and the Prophets

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

My parents made a strong effort to raise my sister and I to eat healthy, eat our vegetables, eat well-balanced meals. Not too much dessert — as mom was a dental hygienist and we weren’t to have too much sugar, especially before bed.
My mom, especially, is a good cook. She was always creative, coming up with soups from whatever she had in the cupboard, casseroles with a good mix of vegetables, pastas, or meat. We drank our 2% milk to keep our bones strong. My dad hunted in the fall and we would often have deer or elk meat in the freezer, easy to prepare alongside some baked potatoes and a salad.
All in all, we ate well and were quite healthy in my home growing up.
However…I do have one particular complaint. One thing that only after leaving home, coming to college, and especially after being introduced to Stacy’s family and their style of cooking, one thing I realized and looked back on and realized I had been really missing for the first 18 years of my life…SALT!
Not to criticize my parents, but looking back, I have to admit I have funny memories about the prohibition of salt in my home growing up. Like how my parents would store it on a high shelf in the kitchen, next to the cooking wine and irish cream! Or how their watchful eyes would fall on my sister or me every time we picked up the shaker from the table, peering over to monitor our dosage. (which, mind you, had very small and very few holes in it, assuring it was hard to get the salt out).
Stacy’s family, on the other hand, pretty much hands everyone their own salt shaker when they sit down to a meal…not because they cook bland food, but because everything is better with salt!
Now, admittedly, since leaving home at the ripe young age of 18 and discovering this blissful mineral, salt, I’ve gained a bit of weight and my blood pressure has risen a few points. But…salt! It’s worth it.
Being Salt
So, in the reign of God, in the way of Jesus, what does it look like for us to be salt? For us to be that thing on the table that makes the meal a little bit better?
I’ve read this passage before and heard it interpreted to emphasize the essential nature of salt — that we, the “salt of the earth”, are simple, basic and foundational. That the people of God are to be humble, to be set apart. And while this is an important way to read it, I see something else here for us today, something beyond simplicity or humility and more about flavor and enhancement.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.”
These words of Jesus immediately follow his opening of the Sermon on the Mount, the Beattitudes, the “blesseds”, which Kyle preached on last week. All of these blessed ways are ethics of the reign of God that bring life to those who embody them.
And then, the hearers are reminded they are to be salt!
Think of the dinner table and hear the words “pass the salt.” Pass the salt — why, to enhance the food, to make it pop, to bring out flavors. I don’t hear, in Jesus’ teaching, a worry that things will get too salty (which can certainly be a problem) but rather that there is a threat that the salt won’t be salty enough.
You are the salt of the earth — you are meant to enhance the world.
Salt by itself does not amount to much. But salt enhances what it touches.
Where do you go each day? Where do you live, where do you work? What might it look like, embodying all of the blessings of the way of Jesus (mercy, kindness, humility, grace, righteousness), what might it look like to bring those enhancements to wherever you are called to live out your faith?
Being Light
The same goes for being the Light of the World.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Light, as with salt, enhances. Think about it — One of the most amazing things about light is what it does to all that it touches. It illuminates. Where darkness shrouds, light brightens, awakens.
I saw the full moon last night. And this sense of light enhancing what it touches clicked for me — when we see moonlight, we know that in fact the moon itself is not shining out from its own source — it is reflecting back the light from the sun which hits its surface. The light touches it and enhances its face, shining back toward us.
So to be the light of the world is to enhance, brighten, illuminate what is around us. To be a city on a hill, to be a light on a lampstand, shining through the darkness. This is our calling, these are the ethics of God’s people in God’s reign to shine out.
What do we shine out? We shine out the lovingkindness of Jesus, once again, the grace and mercy which enhance and bring healing to the world. Not our own light, but the light of Christ which brings to life, which awakens all that God has made us and others to be. We shine so that that Goodness may be seen.
We are salt. We are light. And when we let ourselves be, we are awake.
Being Awake
One of the best ways I can think of how these images of salt and light connect with us here and now, today, is to think about what it means to be awake and to invite others to be awake, to God’s love and mercy.
We live in very sad times. Difficult times. Times when many folks are being silenced and others of us are resigning ourselves to the fact that it just might not get any better. For instance, we’ve seen some very hard things happen on the political landscape of our country this week. However you find your political leanings to take you, you have to admit this is a difficult time to feel hopeful for how our country functions. Or how we hear report after scientific report about our world’s dire need to make changes to how we consume and pollute our environment…and yet many are overwhelmed by apathy or despair.
In some ways, doesn’t it feel like we’re groggy, sleepy, exhausted? Or perhaps we’ve got a bad taste in our mouth, like the flavors of whatever we’ve just eaten are not rightly balanced? Or maybe it feels like our vision is getting dark, cloudy, shrouded?
Salt. Light. Awake.
Our invitation, as the people of the way of Jesus, is to bring Salt and Light and Awakening to the world which is experiencing this dreary, dysfunctional, hopelessness.
Remember, salt and light by themselves aren’t enough. But salt and light, taken to a hurting world, can change the story, can enhance the solutions to the problem, can be what sparks a change in the wicked problems we face.
Sharing the Good News
We need to be salty. We need to be light. We need to hear this call to go into all the places we are sent, to our schools, to our work, to our tables with friends and family, to the public sphere and to our own private worlds — we go to these places are we bring these fruits of Jesus’ way: We bring the salt of grace and truth to a co-worker who is unkind and bullying. We bring the illuminating passion for justice to our schools to lift up kids who don’t get that light at home. We bring salt to the political and social conversations we find ourselves in, saltiness that looks for ways forward and doesn’t settle for bland black and white understandings of the complex issues we must face together.
To be a divided people, to be a people of contempt and aggression: this is to choose the ways of darkness, of withholding flavor, of staying asleep in the comfort of our perspectives and allegiances. The way of salt and light is the way of breaking through these divisions.
And so, we, the people of Jesus, those who follow in the ethics of God’s reign — we go out to enhance our world.
Thankfully, God is out ahead of us. God is setting the table. And God is calling us to go, be with others, and get salty, to get real, to shine light, and to banish the darkness.
As Jesus says, this is nothing new. The law and the prophets have always pointed God’s people in this direction. But what he is saying is that we have to start hearing this message and then sharing it. We have to be the ones who take the salt to the world and resist being trampled by injustice. We are meant to shine the light of love and grace and not be stifled by the darkness of despair.
So it is imperative that we go and do this. That we do not withhold the salt. That we do not cover the light. That we go and make disciples of others, bringing this enhancing, empowering, awakening way with us.
May it be so. Let us pray.
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