February 5th 2017
Epiphany 5
Matthew chapter 5:13-20

May the words of my mouth and all the thoughts of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord our strength and our redeemer

How many of us remember that skipping game- Salt – mustard – vinegar – pepper - Salt – mustard – vinegar – pepper and how many hours we would spend playing it.

So many phrases and games have the word Salt in them. Whenever we wish to stress someone’s solid worth and usefulness, we may say of him or her that they’re “the salt of the earth” or “He or she is worth their weight in salt”

In our gospel reading we heard a portion of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus speaks to the people gathered with him—many are Jews. He began with blessing them—blessed are the peacemakers; blessed are the poor; blessed are the merciful. Today’s reading comes immediately after these blessings.

Jesus speaks of a kingdom that is not Rome; a king that is not Caesar, but is God. The God he speaks of is the God of Israel—the God who guided the Jews out of slavery and into the promised land. Now hundreds of years later, they are once again slaves to an empire who cares nothing about their God. Life is fragile and they are nothing in the Roman Empire—nothing but a nuisance who are allowed to exist, and worship this God as long as they pay taxes and don’t cause trouble.

Imagine what it must have been like to hear Jesus proclaim “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.” The “you” is plural—not singular—you, all of you, are the salt of the earth. You, all of you, are the light of the world. It must have reminded them of the promise given to their ancestor Abraham—you are blessed and so you are to bless. In their circumstances they hardly felt blessed let alone able to bless anyone else.

Jesus doesn't say, "If you want to become salt and light, do this...." Or, "before I'll call you salt and light, I'll need to see this from you...." Rather, he says both simply and directly, "You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world." It is sheer blessing, commendation, affirmation, and commissioning.

Does anyone know why would Jesus call us “salt” and what use does it have when it refers to us?
The first use of salt is that it preserves things – it preserves goodness. One of the most important functions of salt in the time of Christ was that it was a preservative – it kept things from going bad, from spoiling. We live in a time of refrigerators and freezers thankfully, but just a few generations ago people had to rely upon salt to keep their meats from going bad before they could eat them.

So as Christians, we too are entrusted with preserving goodness. We must ask ourselves, what are we doing to preserve goodness around us? Those around us are watching us, looking in on our lives to see how we act and react. They see how we treat other people and whether we like it or not, in that moment we represent what it means to be a Christian in their minds. As a body of believers we must commit ourselves to preserving goodness.

Another thing that salt is used for is to enhance flavour – it serves the item to which it is added. We are called to add zest to the lives of those around us. As Christians we are called to be seen by others as living examples of the power and grace of God, examples which others are encouraged to follow.
Imagine ourselves at the supermarket on the free sample day - walking up and down the aisles sampling new products. Supermarkets do this to tempt you to buy something new, to try something different. By living out our faith, we do this too. We allow other people to get a taste for something better. Our values are always expressed in our actions. What is truly important is the way values find expression in our daily lives. This is what Jesus alludes to in this word picture about salt.

To be called “the light of the world” would have to be the greatest compliment ever paid to us. We’re light of the whole world, not just the light of the Church. Salt works quietly and internally, but light works visibly and externally. Christians stay in the world, touching on its questionable activities. We only have to look at what is happening in the world right now to see how important our “light” is and we must not remain aloof from society or the wider world.

Cheryl mentioned in her sermon last Sunday week about light and that at our baptism we go from the darkness into the great light. What a joy it was to have the children from St Greg’s school here for that service and how they lit up the church with their singing. Light enters into the darkness to dispel gloom and bring illumination and enlightenment. We must shine with the radiance that comes from Christ’s presence in our hearts. We are light of the world, both by what we are and by what we do. There needs to be a certain beauty in Christian goodness. This happens when all we do is done for God’s glory rather than for our own self-promotion.

Light makes growth possible. As the days are becoming longer we can already see bulbs beginning to show their heads as they reach towards the light and spring will soon be on its way. As light reveals beauty, so, too, we radiate with the joy of our salvation. As light was the first creation of God, so too we are the first fruits of his creation, who seek to brighten up life wherever we are with our acts of practical helpfulness.

If like me you have a fascination for Lighthouses, we can see that the lighthouse has a leading beam of light that rotates across the water in a unique pattern that allows ships to stay focused on their destination and avoid hazards near the shoreline. The lighthouse is in operation twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. It is important that it is in constant operation to be a guiding light to the ships out to sea.

It is imperative that the ships are guided to the shoreline and are able to avoid the hazards near the harbour mouth and the rocky shoreline. We are to live our lives in such a way that those who do not believe will be drawn to the "light" in us and seek to know Jesus Christ. When we allow our light to shine, it helps others from continually stumbling in the darkness of this world.

We cannot therefore hide ourselves in privacy or obscurity. We exert influence just by being in a situation in prayer and love. We can be of good heart because Christ has overcome the death and sin. Where we stand up for Jesus, life is refreshed as with a cool evening breeze. The gifts of Jesus are not just for personal enjoyment. We receive them to pass them on to others. Our value and worth is affirmed as we give of ourselves to them. The greatest contribution we will make to the conversion of others will be through the kind of lives we lead. We are more valuable to Christ than we could ever imagine.

Jesus’ Church here on earth isn’t some insignificant, unimportant organisation. It isn’t just another ingredient in the world, but it is the decisive one, because it is the one organisation that exists also for the sake of its non-members. So, let what God has done for us shine forth. The light itself is more important than the lamp. We let our light shine in this world in gratitude that God so loved this world that He gave us His only Son.

Dare to be different for Jesus’ sake. He’s counting on us. Go out into the world this week full of confidence and courage, sure of Christ’s blessing on all we do in his name. What a privilege it is to be “salt of the earth”, “light of the world” for our Lord.

As you leave this morning, each one of you will be given a packet of salt. I challenge you to put this somewhere where you will be constantly reminded that we are called to be salt to the world. Put this somewhere in your house. You will know the right place. We must find a place for this salt packet where it will remind us and challenge us to live out our faith so that other people will be attracted to Jesus.

A little salt goes a long way, and I believe we can change so much here in Sudbury alone- with one shake of salt at a time. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.”