Jesus calls us Salt and Light!


Scripture: Matthew 5: 13-20  You are salt; you are light.

Why does Jesus call us Salt and Light? picture shows a spoonful of salt and the Text "You are the Salt of the Earth"
You are the Salt of the Earth

Why does Jesus call us Salt and Light??

Jesus calls us Salt

Yes, you.  You are salt – the salt of the earth – You.  You are the salt of the earth. Nor will be …. When you are older, when you learn to be more loving, when you have time after you retire, or after the children are grown up, or when you have finished a favorite project … You are the salt of the earth, now.  It’s not something we’ll become if we try hard enough, not a reward for good behaviour. But why does Jesus call us Salt and Light?  It’s what we are; part of our spiritual DNA; written in our position description as part of God’s family.  

No conditions

Jesus doesn’t make conditions – you have to be good, you have to pray, you have to have studied the Bible – to be salt. He flat out declares that the disciples–those still clueless, still confused, still wet-behind-the-ears fishermen who had only lately been invited to follow Jesus– are salt (and light –we’ll come to that later) Jesus wasn’t talking to the religious leaders, or to holy people. He was talking to ordinary people like us, village people, and to any of the locals who followed him to listen. Like them, we are the salt of the earth.

Salt is amazing

If you think about it, salt really is an amazing mineral. It was of such great value in the ancient world that it was sometimes used as currency. In fact, the word “salary” comes from the practice of paying a soldier or worker with salt.   

It enhances the flavor of our favorite foods, Salt is indispensable to good food.  When used thoughtfully, it sharpens and defines flavors and aromas, it melds flavors in ways that transform bland dishes into something complex and wonderful.  Salt controls the ripening of cheese, strengthens the gluten in bread, preserves meats. It also, helps control infection, melts the ice on frozen steps and frozen roads, and it replaces the electrolytes in our bodies after we sweat on a hot day.  In Jesus’ day, it was also used in making fuel for fires. The salt was mixed with dung to make briquettes; the salt caused the dung to burn longer and hotter.

But salt can be impure or corrosive

Why does Jesus call us Salt and Light? A view of the Dead Sea showing patterns of evaporated salt. This is where salt came from  in Jesus day
The Dead Sea showing patterns of evaporated salt

But salt can be very corrosive. Think of how road salt can corrode our cars or the salt air near the ocean corrodes appliances and fences. It can also kill all vegetation where there is too much salt in the soil.  In first century Israel, salt was taken from the Dead Sea or dug from the marsh areas. This meant it was often impure and mingled with vegetable and earth substances like gypsum. If the gypsum was in sufficient quantities, the salt became alkaline and would lose its salty character, flavour and effect because of this contamination or admixture. This is, I think, what Jesus was referring to when he talks about Salt losing its saltiness.

Be salt, share God’s Kingdom

So, Why does Jesus call us Salt and Light?  Being the salt of the earth isn’t about being something great and wonderful on our own; no, it’s about being the ones who bring out the great and wonderful things of God’s kingdom to others. We exist to be mixed up with the world, making this world a better place. After all, salt won’t enhance my soup if it stays in the salt cellar. We need to be out there, mingling with all sorts of people, and with cultures not our own.   

Why does Jesus call us Salt and Light? Givie thanks today for the compassionate people: the lovers, helpers,givers and healers, who see more than just themselves, who move through the world with open hands and not closed fists
These people are Salt and Light

Following hard on the heels of his Beatitudes, Jesus is saying that if you’re going to live those grace-filled attitudes, God’s Dream, then it’s not enough to work inside the church community, it’s not enough to nurture a strong interior life of spirituality.  No, the result of all your faith and worship must be pouring yourself out onto this earth so as to bring out life’s complex and beautiful flavors, to be a preservative, to make people thirst for the Kingdom.

Jesus calls us light

Then, as if being salt isn’t enough, Jesus adds to our position description. As well as being salt, we are light:   You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp-stand, and it gives light to all in the house.

We are light, and light, like salt, is pretty amazing. Light isn’t something we see; it what enables us to see other things.  If we are light, it so others can see God, not see us. We give light so that others may see the way of God. In the end, it isn’t really even our light that shines forth after all: it is God’s light, the light God created on the first day of creation, days before making the sun, moon and stars. The light that John tells us was in the Word – in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. That light [that] shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

You are God’s created light

Our light, your light isn’t the incandescent light of the sun or the reflected light of the mom, but God’s light. Makes us feel special, right? And we shine forth this light for the world, the cosmos (that’s the Greek word). But more specifically, we are to let our light shine before others. And why? ‘So that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Light that shows Jesus to the World

See your good works, not hear your good speeches or sermons. Letting our light shine is not being a Jesus-pusher.  It is not wearing Christianity on our sleeves, or more literally wearing crosses around our necks to show everyone that we are Christians.

No, letting our light shine is much more subtle than that. It’s living in a way that shows people what it means to follow Jesus and to live as he calls us to live. Faith and action go hand in hand. To hide our faith by inaction is to betray all that our faith means to us. It is to deny God’s love, to deny the transformation God works in us.  Real faith leads to loving action, and that points to God’s Kingdom. It is the opposite of hiding our light under a basket, where, without oxygen, the light will go out.

Small Acts of love keep the darkness away.

Why does Jesus call us Salt and Light? Gandalf quote on kindness keeping darkness at bay
Small deeds of kindness keep the darkness at bay

In a quote from the Hobbit movie, not found in the books of Tolkien, but in the spirit of the author, Gandalf says: “Some believe that it is only great power that keeps evil in check. But … I have found that it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the Darkness at bay. Small Acts of kindness and love”. With small acts of kindness and love we are the Salt of the Earth and the Light of the World.

Both salt and light have properties which affect things around them. We use salt to enhance flavor, and as a preservative. To be salt means to influence the people in our lives by showing them the unconditional love of Christ through the way we live. Similarly, light represents knowledge, and understanding. We are light to the world when our lives show others the truth of God’s Word, especially about Jesus whose life, death and resurrection show us God’s Love for us and all creation.  

Why does Jesus call us Salt and Light?

Our discipleship must be seen in how we live, at work, at school, with our friends, family and neighbours, our discipleship is to be visible.  Our light of Christ is must illumine God’s love to everyone around us where ever we are, not just at church. We witness most effectively when others see the difference Christ has made in our lives. We show the Christ light by the way we treat other people. The effectiveness of our witness lies in our ability to “get out of God’s way” and to allow God to work in our lives.  So how can we be Salt and Light?

A Salt and Life Log

Why does Jesus call us Salt and Light?I challenge you all this week to think about some ways to be salt and light. Call it your homework. If you find it hard to think of how you can be salt and light, start a Salt and Light Log and keep examples of where God has worked through you to help someone else. Or ways you have noticed God at work around you. How have you been kind? What kindness have you received? In what ways have you seen others be kind or show respect? After a few days, go over the list. When I post a link to this homily on our Facebook page, I will ask for examples for the Salt and Light Log, so please comment with them.  To start us thinking …

Small acts of Kindness and Love

Here are some ways I saw or thought about last week. Don’t let people get away with saying mean and hurtful things in your presence. Not even about politicians they don’t agree with! Call them out on it. We can disagree with actions and beliefs without putting down the person. Likewise, refuse to take part in gossip, and challenge untrue statements. When someone calls or texts you and they feel down, take the time to hear them – if possible face to face. Even if you are tired, say something like: You sound down, why not drop over for a coffee? Or let’s get together at Tim’s. 

Another way: Is your neighbour sick? Then take some soup, or some baked goods  or flowers to them. And remember to call in a day or two, and ask if they are feeling better. How about this? I was standing in line at the supermarket, when a man, right behind two schoolgirls in line, told the checkout clerk to add their juice to his bill; the girls left delighted. 

Be what you are – Salt and Light. 

It’s the accumulation of small things that add flavour (like salt) and that show (like light) the love of Jesus in us. It’s being the face of Jesus, the light of the world. So when the server dismisses you at the ends of this service, with the words: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord” remember that we serve the Lord by being salt and light. And ask yourself “Why does Jesus call us Salt and Light?” – salt mixed in with the rest of creation adding value by our presence and light showing the way to (and the way of) Jesus by your actions.  So pour on the salt, turn on the light and go in peace to be what you are – Salt and Light.