13“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
[Please look over this fable by Laura Beasley- I told a brief version of it to begin this sermon, but I cannot post it here due to copyright.]
(Tell story: “As Bread Loves Salt”)
“You are the salt of the earth,” Jesus says. “But if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?” That is the question for this morning as we are challenged to examine our own spiritual lives and take inventory of our own saltiness. This might be a difficult image for many of us because so often we are told to reduce the amount of salt in our diets or to go for the low sodium option. Salt has become something we try to avoid. Salt has the advantage of making our roads safer in all of this snow, but then we complain that it does damage to our cars and makes things messy. Salt adds flavor to our food, but sprinkle too much and we don’t want to eat it. But with just the right amount, we are able to make hearty loaves of bread. With just the right amount, we are ready to express the love of Christ and pass the salt to someone else who might need it.
Yes, salt has advantages and disadvantages. For the most part, saltwater, for example, is pretty useless aside from the fact that it plays a crucial role in the balance of the global ecosystem. Think about it- you can’t drink it, you can’t water the lawn with it, and you might get a weird feeling after swimming in it (Homiletics). Modern technology has introduced methods that remove salt from saltwater to produce fresh drinking water, especially in third world countries. This process is known as “desalination.” For example, just a few years ago in Singapore, the country opened a desalination plant that produces 36 million gallons of fresh water each day just by pulling it straight out of the ocean. That’s freshwater that people can drink and use every day that helps millions survive.
While desalination is a good thing when it comes to water, or even when it comes to our diets, today Jesus tells us that desalination of our spiritual lives is a bad thing. When Jesus looks at his followers and tells them, “You are the salt of the earth,” he is telling them just how valuable and vital they are. After all, salt was highly valued in the ancient world to the point where it was used as currency and even wars have been fought over salt. It was used to cure and store meat, disinfect wounds, and used in food preparation, pottery, and much more. It had many uses for good and wonderful things. Jesus’ first hearers of this message would have understood that as salt of the earth, they must be working toward the good and preservation of God’s world and to “pass the salt” to others in the world.
But in order for us to get to the point of passing the salt, we must ask ourselves the honest question: how is my saltiness? With the complimentary statement that we are the salt of the earth as followers of Jesus also comes with it a challenge not to lose that saltiness. Jesus says, “But if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.” We all know what it’s like to bite into a cracker and realize it has gone flat- that it has lost its salty flavor because it’s been sitting out too long or lost in the back of the pantry. But do we really know when we have lost our saltiness as Christians? How is your saltiness? If you’ve lost it, how can you get it back? How do you know when it’s time to say, “please pass the salt”?
As a pastor, I confess to you that remaining a salty Christian is a challenge. It’s easy to get caught up in all of the meetings, paperwork, sermon preparation, and visitations that come with ministry and forget to re-connect with God. It’s easy to get stuck in the routine and forget to take the time to recharge my faith. It’s easy to get stuck in the mentality that this is all part of work instead of continuing to build and strengthen my relationship with Christ. For all of us here, I’d venture to say that it’s easy to get caught in the routine of coming to church every week and forget that we are coming here to worship our savior and experience the presence of God rather than simply just to hear a sermon, sing some songs, and connect with our friends. For many of us, we work throughout the week or go to school and check off our to-do lists, all without taking time to read scripture or to pray or to simply open ourselves to the presence of God in our every tasks of life. It is so surprise, then, that none of us remain salty Christians. We have highs and lows just like everyone else. We are constantly going through cycles of saltiness and then perhaps longer periods of a desalination process.
But the good news is that Jesus is our re-salination process- he is the one who brings us back to our salty state so that we might be the salt of the earth- that we might be salty enough to pass the salt to our neighbor without hesitation or fear. Jesus takes us through the re-salination process by calling us to remember the waters of our baptism, by turning to prayer, scripture, by reading, discussing, by remembering to open our spirits to God’s spirit, by receiving forgiveness and mercy, and by remembering that worship is not just a noun- it’s not just that thing we go to on Sunday morning-that worship is a verb- an action word! Worship isn’t just about going through the motions- it is a two way street- we open our entire beings to God so that God reveals himself to us! If we do not come to worship prepared to do this, then why are we here?
Jesus also brings us through the re-salination process by inviting us to the table of Holy Communion that we might come together as one in the body of Christ to experience the grace and mercy of God at the open table prepared for us all.
Being a Christian is not easy. It is not supposed to be. We have no guarantee that we will retain our saltiness for God, but we do have a guarantee that God will work with us to become the salt of the earth and to strengthen our relationship with God, but it is always a two way street. John Wesley would say that this text deals with both personal and social holiness. It’s personal holiness in that we must do what we can to keep ourselves salty by strengthening our relationship with God in a variety of ways. Being a salty Christian is like having routine maintenance on your car to keep it running smoothly. If not, then it begins to break down and have problems. It’s the same way with a keeping a healthy faith. When we do this, we then are ready to partake in social holiness, and we are prepared to pass the salt, to bring the good news, to practice works of justice and mercy, to share the love of Christ with someone else. When we have been re-salted ourselves, we are then ready to BE the salt of the earth as Jesus tells us we are.
In the fable this morning, the princess tells her father that she loves him as bread loves salt. The father was enraged, thinking that she did not love him because he didn’t think that bread had any salt. The hidden gem waiting to be revealed in the story was that just a little bit of salt was what made the bread edible- the bread needed the salt to be bread. It is the same way with us- we need a little saltiness in our faith to be faithful disciples of Christ. When God asks us, “do you love me?” we will hopefully be ready and willing to respond, “God, I love you as bread loves salt,” recognizing our need for God, for the love of Christ in our lives, and for just enough salt to be ready and willing to pass it along to someone else. Amen.