Isaiah 42:5-13, Matthew 5:13-16
October 7, 2012
Ok, so last week, I gave you some little half-page printouts of the Beatitudes. I said to put them on your refrigerators. (How many of you did that?) Because refrigerators are the official “bulletin boards” of the family, aren’t they? That’s where you put things that you want to see every day!
Now. some of you said you had no magnets on your refrigerators. And some of you said you didn’t have anything posted on your refrigerators. I don’t believe either of those things! Refrigerators are the information centers of modern life! They’re like the kiosk of the home!
Well, this week I got to thinking, how many refrigerators do we have? How about it? How many of you have more than one refrigerator? How many have two? Three? More? I’m pretty sure over the years I’ve ended up with about five refrigerators, though I only use two of them. Well three, actually. But almost every home has at least one. If you think about it, the fridge is pretty much a fixture in just about every home, isn’t it?
So let me ask you, can we even imagine a culture that had no means of refrigeration? We know that there are. But it’s hard for us to imagine, isn’t it? And I’m not talking about arctic cultures, either. They have built-in refrigeration. But what about the rest of the world? Actually, if you think about it, people didn’t have refrigeration for almost all of human history! But we can’t imagine it!
I want you to think for a moment about what happens during a power failure. A couple of weird things happen. One has to do with the bathroom light. How many here have gone to the bathroom during a power failure? You’re carrying a flashlight or even a candle. And you go in there, and whats the first thing you do? You flip the light switch! You do it without thinking, don’t you? And then you stand there in the dark feeling silly!
Well the other thing that happens has to do with the refrigerator. You go to the refrigerator, you open the door and the light doesn’t come on! And there’s a moment of panic, isn’t there? “Oh no! Close that door!” “You gotta keep the cold in there!” “We don’t know when the power is coming back on!” Am I right?
Refrigeration is a given in our culture, isn’t it? If you think about it, food supply has always been important. Every culture has had to find a means of obtaining food. But the greater problem has always been the need to preserve food for times of famine. Every culture has had to figure that out, or suffer the grim alternatives.
Well, by the time of Jesus, humans had become quite good at growing crops and raising livestock for food. But, they had none of the modern means of food preservation. They had no chemical preservatives, (which maybe isn’t such a bad thing!) and of course, they had no refrigerators! Which really didn’t matter anyway because they had no place to plug them in!
So, what did they have? They had salt! Salt was their preservative. And salt had become quite valuable. It wasn’t just a flavoring. I’ve heard that said about this passage. Jesus was saying that you are to bring flavor to the earth. But that wasn’t the important thing here. Salt was an important means of preserving food. And that was so valuable, that it had ever become a means of exchange. It was like currency! In fact, part of the salary of a Roman Soldier was paid in a measure of salt. Even today when we talk about a persons value, we say they are “worth their salt.” That’s the origin of that expression.
So, with all that in mind, Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth!” And he wasn’t talking about a substance that merely flavors food. He was talking about a substance that allowed humans to preserve food and survive hard times! And they knew what he meant when he said it! We are to be something that important to the world around us. We are to be people who help sustain the world in hard times. We are to be people who help give others the means to live! We are the “salt of the earth!” How about that statement now!?
Ok, well Jesus didn’t stop there. He also said “You are the light of the world.” I’ve always found that interesting, because Jesus also used that expression about himself. In John 8:12 he said, “I am the light of the world, He who follows me will not walk in darkness.” And we can understand that, can’t we? That makes sense to us. In the prologue to Johns Gospel we read, “The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world.” (John 1:9)
We’re fine with that! Jesus is the light of the world. But then we go back in his ministry, back to this time which was near the very beginning and we find that he says the same thing about us. He says, “You are the light of the world.” “Like the salt of the earth, you are that without which the world cannot survive!” How does that strike you?
Again, these people should have known that at the time. Their scriptures told them that they were chosen so that they could spread the light of God to all people. “But.” like I’ve said, “they had instead turned their faith into an exclusive community where they were in and everyone else was out. They were supposed to be the light of the world. They should have known!
We’re not like them, in that they were hearing this for the first time. We know of Jesus ministry and teachings. We know the things Jesus said about himself, and what he was now saying about us! We’ve heard it all for years. We have no excuses! (Not that they did either, but in a different way.)
Well, I think it’s always good to hear it again. I don’t know about you, but I think maybe these words sink in a little more for me each time! Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth!” “You are the light of the world!” And as we think about this World Communion Sunday, we need to remember that this is not just a matter of celebrating Jesus and remembering what he did. This is also about of sharing in his ministry as we commune with our brothers and sisters around the world. Together, we are the salt of the earth. Together, we are the light of the world.
So, are we? Think about the world for which we are salt and light. Thats a good thing to do on this particular day. On World Communion Sunday we try to think about the whole world, not just our own little world. We are salt and light! That is a high calling! Its not easy! We are called to be what Jesus has called us to be. And frankly, that sometimes means we have to set aside some of the things we think we should be!
And so, may we have the strength we need to do that. May we have the strength we need to be salt and light. And may our strength come through the fellowship and communion we share with each other here and around the world and through the communion we have with God in the Holy Spirit. As we dine with him, may we be truly be the people he calls us to be!
Lord, you have called us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Help us to know what that means. And help us to have the strength we need to be that light, that city set on a hill. Help us to be the example of the love and grace of Jesus Christ, as we seek to follow him. For this we pray in his name, Amen!