“You are the salt of the earth,” Jesus tells the crowds who are gathered to hear his Sermon on the Mount. “You are the light of the world,” he tells them.
These are just regular people he’s telling this to. These aren’t the super-saints or the supremely-pious. Just the crowds, the people, you and me.
He’s telling us tha we are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world That’s nice; I like that. He doesn’t tell us we should try to be salt or that if we work hard we can achieve light. No, he says, we already are.
But then he keeps going. A light under a basket isn’t doing any good. Salt that has lost its saltiness is thrown out with the trash and gets run over.
And then I wonder, “Is that us too? Is that me too?”
I don’t know many people who don’t try to shine, or who don’t try to add positive seasoning to the world. And yet, in spite of our attempts to shine and to season, the world can be dark and taste bitter.
- Children still go to bed hungry.
- Women are still abused and made to feel it’s their own fault.
- Our young people still fall victim to the atrocities of war.
- Our friends still suffer from physical and mental illness.
- We continue to grieve and cry and wail in the wake of death as it claims those we love.
Within LCM, most of us love this congregation deeply, and shine here and season this ministry, participating in God’s mission. But we have fewer people than we did 10 years ago, and fewer dollars than we did three years ago. That can feel dark and it can taste bitter. Do you ever wonder if we’ve lost our saltiness? If there’s a big basket covering our light?
Even individually, we each know our own personal inadequacies and failings. We know where we’re not good enough, not smart enough, not gifted enough. There’s darkness, there’s bitterness, in the fear that someone’s going to find out how inadequate I really am. Have I lost my saltiness? Have you? Is that what Jesus means?
We have this tendency to compare our saltiness to other people’s. Some people seem to season up a room by walking into it. They have the love of Jesus just oozing out of their pores. They forgive, they show mercy, they shine brightly even when their lives seem dark. Do you know those people? Do you ever feel like they are more salty than you? That compared to them, you’ve lost your saltiness, just like Jesus warns about?
But here’s the thing. Salt is salt. It doesn’t lose its saltiness. So it’s not that we’ve lost our saltiness, it’s just that there are different kinds of salt. Table salt is completely different than Himalayan salt, which is nothing like Kosher salt, which is used in situations different than Smoked salt. Maybe you’re Grey salt, or Sea salt, or Flaked salt. Some of us are really fine grained, refined, ground down to smooth crystals. Others of us are chunky and coarse, with sharp edges and a rough texture.
One isn’t better than another, just different.
When life is hard, when things are tough, when your gifts and abilities aren’t enough, when you’re in over your head, that’s when Jesus reminds you, “You are the salt of the earth.” You don’t have to try to be, you don’t have to pretend your a different kind of salt — salt like someone else. You are, right now, the salt of the earth. “You are the light of the world.” Not just when you’re feeling particularly shiny, because it’s your God-given nature to shine. Just as you are. Right now.
In the back are several kinds of salt. I invite you to go look at them, feels them, taste them. Maybe one kind of salt will appeal to you. Maybe you will find yourself drawn to one kind of salt over the others.
Take a pinch of some salt with you when you leave. Know that as someone created in God’s image, you are the salt of the earth. Pay attention this week. When you catch yourself seasoning the world, when you find yourself adding God’s flavor in someone’s life, leave your salt there or give it to someone. Recognize that through you, God’s saltiness has added yet more seasoning in the world. Through you, the world is brighter.