Sermon, Epiphany 5A, Sunday February 9, 2020.
Matthew 5:13-16 13 ‘You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 ‘You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. https://stpetri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/20200209_message.mp3
I like salt. I like it too much. Potato chips, fish and chips, salt on a ham and tomato sandwich, mettwurst….The list goes on. Unfortunately, I grew up in a salty food home. Anything cooked, whether boiled, fried or baked had salt added to it. Needless to say, I watch the salt now! I use it sparingly when I cook. But I do use it. It just brings out the taste in things.
And that is the thing about salt; you never use it by itself. Ever been at the beach and inadvertently gulped in a mouth full of seawater? Yuck! Salt is only ever used with other things. Salt is only useful, only reaches it fulfilment when it is used with and for other things, like a beautiful pasta or those yummy potato chips that we shouldn’t eat!
Same for light. Light does not exist for itself. Light exists for everything else around. Light makes living possible. This is a bit hard for us to really get. We live after 1879 when Thomas Edison invented the electric light bulb. Light in darkness is pretty easy for us.
But remember that camping trip? Remember those days when night was lit by gas or kerosene lamps right here in the Barossa. Some can! Remember that blackout when you had to scurry around trying to find the torch with which to cook tea? That is how it was for the people hearing this word about light. Every evening they had to find the wood, the oil and the spark to light their fire and lamps to live after dark.
Whether easy or hard, light and salt don’t exist just for themselves. They are things that exist to make life happen for other things. And of all things Jesus could have used to name the people with him, he used these things; salt and light. Was it to help them see who they really were in his eyes; in his kingdom mission?
I think is was. I think it still is. He is saying to us again, that we do not exist for ourselves. We exist to give zest and function and ability to enjoy and live life to other people. We are at our best when we are living with and for others.
Interesting that he names the people on the seaside slope ‘salt’ and ‘light’. In this Sermon on the Mount scene, Jesus says they are already salt and light. The people did not seem to do much to be these things. He just says they just are. What makes them salt and light?
It must be hearing Jesus’ word that makes them people of use and value to others in Jesus’ missions. As people hear him speaking, he makes them salt and light. They certainly don’t make themselves spicy and bright. His words in their ears makes them light and spice.
This is good news. This means that you and I don’t have to know a lot, be especially gifted at anything, be of a certain good moral fibre or family stock, or even be particular religious to be salt and light among others.
What a relief! You don’t have to be particularly smart or good with words, or clever in argument to be a person who exists for the spice and lighting up of others. The only thing you need to be a person who brings good taste and great light to another person is Jesus; his words; listening to Jesus; hearing his words about you and what he is doing in and through you.
But it is obviously possible to NOT be salt and light for others. Jesus gives that warning to stay salty and bright. We can limit our seasoning, lighting up gits to others.
We can somehow lose our ‘saltiness, he says. When that happens, salt is just a powder on the ground that has no particular use. We can stick a big cover over ourselves that hides the light from others.
Why would we do that? How do we do that? I can think of some reasons:
Maybe you think you are not good enough to be of use in Jesus’ mission to others? Maybe in these changing times, we Christians have developed a thorough going inferiority complex.
We seem to at times suffer from a complete lack of confidence in bringing Jesus into the conversation and telling his story and sharing his promises to people.
I hear this lack of spice and cover over our light as we would rather talk about anything other than our relationship with Jesus and each other – all those promises, those stories of real people in real situations wit Jesus that give us light and spice up our life.
I see this cover over our light as we for some reasons compare ourselves to the other so called, ‘good Christians’ or ‘successful’ churches, concluding that if only we could have their light, their spice, then we would be a ‘better Christian or ‘successful church’. Rather than seeking to follow the light Jesus has already made us; seeking to discern and do what the Holy Spirit is doing right here in and through us in our place, we hide that away or leave it outside in the weather to be hidden; to be lost.
I hear stories of the past as sometime covering up the salt and light now. As we sometimes tell the stories of salt and light in the past when we were the centre of town and we built things, had big programs and ministries we get dim and bland on thanking God for every good salty light thing that happened then, but now trust that his salt and light are still active in us now for our day, we use the past as a cover over the light that the Holy Spirit is beaming now.
But despite this, Jesus tells you here that you still are salt and light! You just are. We just are. You are his spice for others; his light for others, his seasoning for this season. You are these precious and useful gifts because you are his precious and useful gift. He gifted you his light, his spice, his words, his hope, his future in his living and dying and rising. He poured his oil of grace into you at your baptism and lit you up to be his light.
It is still true. You and I just do not exist for ourselves. We never have. We can’t now. Light just needs to shine and salt needs to season something. We bring spice and we shine because we carry Jesus word in our bodies. We are here to spice up others’ lives with his good news; the good news of his undeserved acceptance and love.
No guilt here! Our usefulness and effectiveness are not at all dependent on how moral we are, how knowledgeable we are, how courageous we are, although these are very important part of being salt and light. Our usefulness in God’s economy of grace is totally dependent on his grace; his acceptance of us and his calling to share, give, serve, love others with this good news Jesus in our words. Being salt and light is a gift, not a sack load of guilt!
That means that we are not here to ‘fix the church’ or ‘fix ourselves’. We are here to speak and do his promising words with others – to let that taste of forgiveness and hope mix into our relationships and be that light in any shade of darkness. It is how those things ‘not seen or perceived by human beings’ are revealed in the Spirit.
That is Jesus mission: to show people what he has prepared for those who love him by loving them. We as a church exist in Jesus for others; to bring Jesus spicy good news to them like salt to stew and light to a dark space.
We are ‘cover-free’, and tasty with grace.
Salty Light people, as Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message translation of this text: “Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”
Friend, let them see him in you so they know they are seen and loved by him. That is what lifts the darkness and brings new taste and meaning to everything.