Matthew 5:13-16 The Message (MSG)
Salt and Light
13 “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
14-16 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! 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.
To begin with – let’s talk about salt.
An ionic compound with the chemical formula NaCl which has a one-to-one ratio of sodium to chloride.
Salt is most responsible for the saliencey of seawater and the extracellular fluids of many multi-cellular organisms, like you … and me … and your across the street neighbor whose you don’t really know but you always chat with … and that guy who had the über complicated order at Starbucks this morning…you get the point…
It is as if when God was knitting each one of us in our mothers’ womb, a pinch (or panch) of salt was sprinkled on top of us all.
Salt has been used as a preservative, and had been used to season foods since the first person complained about the taste of their saber tooth tiger.
Salt was used for barter/trade/even currency.
Wars have even been fought over salt.
Salt is essential,
salt is to be valued,
salt is treasured.
So when Jesus said to the masses:
“YOU are the SALT of the earth…”
the implication right there is:
YOU are essential,
YOU are to be valued,
YOU are treasured.
But we’ve got to do more than sit back and feel like a bowl of fancy sea salt. Remember we’re told we are here to bring out the God flavors of this earth.
With the kids earlier we played with the idea that salt has its own flavor which is…salty. But – when combined with another food, salt brings out the flavors more strongly of those foods.
If we are the salt of the earth – then we should not be locked up and put away from the world – rather we should be sprinkled out upon it to bring out those God flavors. As followers of Jesus we need to get out and sprinkle some salt in our communities.
Share the love of Christ.
Or as the kids learned in VBS this summer at Point Hope UMC (let’s see if any here can remember): Do good! Seek peace and go after it! – Psalms 34:14
Have you ever been in total darkness? No ambient light from a city, town, house, the gentle glow of a cell phone. No stars of moon shining in the sky. I remember being on the border of Honduras and Nicaragua doing some mission work while in college and had this experience of darkness. It was disorienting, I stood there looking around and actually felt a bit dizzy not knowing which way was which. Pilots (or scuba divers) probably know this experience well and train to trust your instruments in those situations rather than their senses; because the darkness can overwhelm you and change your perception of how things are (which those pilots and divers here will tell you is when things get dangerous).
But in those time/places of darkness –
the smallest amount of light can rip things wide open.
The light just pierces through the darkness.
The light is overpowering.
And as Christians we are to be that light to others. Be a beacon of hope, of Christ’s Love for those to guide them from darkness.
When we get out and do the work of God,
others will want to know what’s up.
Ephesians 5:8-10 takes this approach:
8 You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, so live your life as children of light. 9 Light produces fruit that consists of every sort of goodness, justice, and truth. [this next part I find especially important] 10 Therefore, test everything to see what’s pleasing to the Lord,
So Paul reiterates Jesus’ image of Christians being light – and then spells out what happens when we’re the light in our communities. AND he goes on to add we should test, to learn, what is pleasing to the Lord – and then, as the VBS kids said, “Go after it!”
If we are living out the love of Christ we will continue to seek out ways to please God; to be the light on a hill,
to be that shaker of salt.
Things in our faith journey/community will evolve;
we may find new ways of doing things,
new tools in our spiritual toolbox.
Have you ever spent a day swinging a hammer to build a fence, or wall, or roof? And if you’ve had that wonderful experience; have you done the same job with an air-hammer? It goes quicker and takes a different amount of effort. There are still jobs, which need a good hammer – but we might look at the jobs different having the extra tools at our disposal.
As we get out into our communities we will develop new, exciting, and (at first) sometimes scary ways of speaking about Christ. I’m sure there was a couple volunteers from Point Hope were quite nervous to see 49 kids walk through the doors (more than double Point Hope has ever had) – a VBS this large was something new, perhaps a little scary for a few at first – and I’d be willing to bet it was quite pleasing to the Lord.
Let’s get back to salt.
Mark 9:50 simply says:
50 Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it?[a] Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
Salt is good,
God is good.
And also be at peace with one another.
Again – harkening to the kids’ VBS theme:
Do good! Seek peace and go after it!
And Mark is challenging us to have that God salt within us – the God salt sprinkled on us for extra seasoning in our mothers’ womb – and not just be peace keepers – but peace makers. If we’re just trying to keep the peace are we really bringing about change – are we inviting the love of Christ – the light of the Lord into the moment – or are we just trying to make due until the next day?
But…if we try to make peace – that is very different.
Be peace makers – not peace keepers – as we learn how to further please God.
Paul goes on to say (as he was often want to do) in Colossians 4:5-6:
5 Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.[a] 6 Let your speech always be gracious and, [get ready folks] seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.
If we’re being told to conduct ourselves wisely towards outsiders guess what that makes ALL of us? The insiders. And if we look back at our Matthew text – right there in verse 15 – it says no one after lighting a lamp puts it under a bushel/basket. The light is not to be kept trapped inside hidden under a bucket; It is to give glory to God in heaven. We gotta let the light out. We need to get out – this doesn’t mean wild and crazy things –rather we get chances to share God’s light each day.
Remember when it said “Making the most of the opportunity” – that’s real. We need to make the most of every opportunity. While Narcie was in seminary at Emory I was teaching music in an elementary school, and there was this one kid in the 5th grade who was super smart – made all A’s – but always cut up and acted the fool in my class. So his grade suffered because of his choices. I remember his mother volunteered a lot (she was very cool and supportive, and was well aware of how her son was acting). She mentioned how my grade for him was going to keep him off the honor roll (which also meant the opportunity to be in fun drawings to win things at the end of the year);
I had an opportunity.
I made the choice (and had the support of his mother/father) to let this student learn the consequence of his choices/behavior. He received poor grade as a consequence of his actions.
Let’s go back to the Colossians verse…
Let’s change a word there – let switch out salt for grace.
6 Let your speech always be gracious and, seasoned with GRACE, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.
Does the verse take on a different shape?
What if I had chosen to sprinkle a bit of Grace on that kid –
how would that have impacted his life?
I wasn’t looking for an opportunity,
and I hope to not miss another one again.
So…we are to:
Be the salt of the earth – get out and sprinkle our God seasoning in our community. Salt (or grace) does no good in the back of our pantries, that’s why we leave it out on our tables.
How are we making our “salty God seasoning” accessible for those we seek to invite to the table?
We need to learn, to practice,
find what is pleasing to God and get out do it.
As we continue to learn and grow we will begin to make the most of our opportunities – and act with Grace.
And remember: Stay salty my friends.