Matthew 5: 13-20
The Salt of the Earth
Let’s take a deep breath and open our hearts, mind, soul and spirit to receive the message that God has for us this morning. Let’s focus our thoughts on the mystic presence of the Holy One. Let us pray: Lord God, Lord Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit, please let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all of our hearts, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our Strength, our Rock and our Redeemer. In Jesus’ name, amen.
As Christians, we must expect to be persecuted, if we hold up the pure light of a loving life amid the evils of this world. People will tolerate you only so long as you leave them alone. But Jesus and the Holy Spirit will always walk through the fiery furnace of life beside their faithful believers, as in the third chapter of the Old Testament Book of Daniel. After Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace, King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, "Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?" They replied, "Certainly, Your Majesty." He said, "Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods." “I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you.”
John Chrysostom, wrote about today's scripture, saying, "when Jesus says: You are the salt of the earth, he’s saying that all humankind had been
corrupted by sin. Therefore, He requires of these (people) those virtues, which are especially useful and even necessary if they are to bear the burdens of the many. For the (people) who are kindly, modest, merciful and just will not keep their good works to (themselves) but will see to it that these admirable fountains of kindness, modesty, mercy and justice send out their streams for the good of others. Again, the (person) who is clean of heart, a peacemaker and ardent for truth, will order their life so as to contribute to the common good."
This implies that we are not destined for easy work or unimportant tasks, and that we should translate our belief in Christ into action to help others. To whom much is given, much is required! When Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth”, what do these words mean to us? Depending on its use, salt can either corrupt or preserve. What had first been freed from corruption through repentance and forgiveness, the disciples salted and preserved with the new life that the Lord had given. It took the power of Jesus Christ to free men from the corruption caused by sin and death; and it became the task of the Apostles, through dedication, hard work, and even martyrdom, to help keep that corruption from returning.
Jesus calls His disciples the "salt of the earth." This Salt, which is spiritual salt, has many layers of meaning, which includes sacrifice, faithfulness, trustworthiness and change. In ancient times, eating together was called "sharing salt," which suggested a binding relationship between two
parties. This could be between two people, two families, two city-states, or even two countries. Salt also was indicative of seasoning, change and purification, so when Jesus says, "You are the salt of the earth," He’s talking about our sanctification, a being set apart, or consecrated through repentance, and a change in us that turns us back from sin. In the Greek, the word is Metanoia, a turning around and back from our sinful ways.
If we look at Mark 9, we read that “everyone will be salted with fire.” In our world, if we hold onto the same attitude of sin and non-repentance, then we will drag others down with us, instead of helping others to come to Christ. For this reason, Jesus says: "But if the salt becomes tasteless, how can its flavor be restored? It is good for nothing now, but to be thrown out and trampled by men’s feet;" or like the chaff that’s been separated from the wheat, to be “thrown into unquenchable fire.”
Our mission is an important one, because others are looking to us for leadership. As Disciples of Christ, we encourage people to read their Bible, and think for themselves, and not expect the pastor to tell them what, or how, to think. In that vein of thinking, sometimes we Disciples agree to disagree. So, people want to see what we're made of; and being the "salt of the earth," as Jesus calls us to be, also calls us to mission in community. It reminds me of the Scout Oath: “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; To keep
myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight,” as well as the Scout Law: “A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent.” Folks, if you accomplish those principles, you WILL be the salt of the earth! We are to be the binding salt that changes people’s lives for the better and brings more people to Christ. Jesus calls us to be the binding salt of a spiritual awakening that is being born again in the world, right now.
In today's scripture lesson, Jesus moves to a higher comparison, when He says, “You are the light of the world.” The light Jesus is talking about is a spiritual light, far superior to the rays of the sun we see, just as His salt is a spiritual salt. It amounts to God calling us to spiritual awakening, both as individuals AND as a community of believers. This means that we are to listen seriously and hear the words spoken that are about a serious matter, which pertains to our spiritual self, our spiritual calling and our spiritual well-being. This teaching of spiritual awakening and mystical spirit-presence prevents weakening and being watered down; it leads to virtue and sharpens the intensity of the mind’s eye. It's not milk toast!
“A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor do men light a lamp and put it under a basket.” Here again, Jesus is urging the disciples, and you and I, to a vigilant lifestyle that teaches us to be sober and watchful; God is also watching us, so we need to stay on the straight and narrow, and always take the high road
that leads to righteousness and sanctification. This teaching reminds me of Hebrews 4:12-14: where we read: "the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword; it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess." And I would add, let us listen to the calling that God has for each one of us who choose to follow Christ and call ourselves Christians.
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 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." Like our Lord Jesus, we, and the disciples, are called, one by one, to BE the spiritual light to a dark and sinful world. Jesus calls us to spiritual awakening and calls us to be His light for the hungry and homeless, the widows and the prisoners, and the sick and the dying, the lost, the least and the searching. It is the same commission that Jesus read as His own commission out of the Book of Isaiah. We read in Luke 4: that, "on the Sabbath day Jesus went into the synagogue, AS WAS HIS CUSTOM. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place, in Isaiah 61, where it is
written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.’ Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he BEGAN by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
We are being called by God, and salted with fire, to do the same things that Jesus was commissioned to do; be the spiritual light to a world that has been darkened and crippled by sin, misfortune and evil, to a world embroiled in all manner of upheaval, lies and deceit. God is calling us to be the salt of the earth and the light to a world that is wrestling with the real presence of the Dark Side and the Dark forces that we read about in the Book of Daniel and Revelation. Jesus is saying to us, "You must be the salt of the earth.” We must be the hands and feet and mouth of Jesus; the spiritual leaders in this community and state and world that have the positive affect of building Christ's kingdom! And this will always include pushing back against the forces of evil.
Thomas Merton once said: “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business, and in fact, it is nobody's business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbor’s worthy.” If we let our light shine;
if we lovingly allow ourselves to be found by those seeking a Savior and a church; if we ARE the city on a hill that is not hidden, then the Spirit of the Holy One will bless us and spiritually awaken each of us and bring new life to our world. As I have already said, this kind of new growth will not be painless, but if we work to become the church that we all know we can become, then the growing pains that we experience as we prepare to hand off the leadership of this church to the next generation will be like birth pangs. We will experience pain, just as a mother in labor experiences pain; but the joy that comes out of that birth, will have made the pain we all go through well worth it. And why will it be worth it? Because we will have been awakened spiritually to share in the great commission that Jesus gave His disciples 2,000 years ago, to: “Go into all the world, making disciples in My name.” Amen? Amen! Let us pray:
Rev Jan Ekstedt MDiv.