Salt and Light
All Age Sermon preached Sunday 5 February 2017 by The Reverend Canon Charles Royden
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built 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. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Jesus is speaking to his disciples and he tells them that they are like three things -
I wonder if you have ever seen people checking the labels on tins and packets of food, or perhaps you do it yourself, to check how much salt is in the food. Many people are very concerned about salt because it is bad for folks with high blood pressure. If you say to somebody, this food has a lot of salt in it, then it is considered bad.
I like salt, not because I need it to keep things fresh, I like the taste of salt, I think that it bring out the flavour in food. At the time of Jesus it was not considered a bad thing,salt was very important and
Salt was valuable and salt is at the root of our word ‘salary’.
Sal is the Latin word for Salt. It seems that Roman soliders were given money to buy salt - their salary.
Salt was essential for everyday life, without there would be trouble !There have been times throughout history when salt was traded weight for weight with gold.
Before refrigeration salt was the way of keeping food preserved. Without salt armies could not go to war, explorers could not sail because provisions would go stale.
Without some salt we would all die, our hearst would stop beating
Jesus believed his followers were as important in the world as salt, no salt, no life. He wanted his disciples to be as like salt, to change the flavour of the world around them.
Jesus doesn’t say that he wants them to become salt, he says that they are ! What we say and do as Christians matters.
At the time of Jesus salt was considered really important for religious purposes, salt was used in sacrifices to God and the Torah was thought of as salt for Israel. Th e Jewish teachers likened the Torah to it; for as the world could not do without salt, neither could it do without the Torah (Soferim xv. 8). So Jesus is saying that it is necessary for the disciples to be in the world making a difference, the world would be in trouble without them.
Now think of light
I often think what scriptures would be in the mind of Jesus when he spoke about certain things.
Jewish tradition considered Israel and Jerusalem as well as the Law to be the light of the world. Is 42:6, 49:6 God’s presence were once thought to be found in Israel and Jerusalem (Mic 4:1-3, Is 2:2-4), Jesus is now replacing these with his followers. Just as Jesus followers are the news salt, so the light is no longer found in Israel.
The image of light is so important throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament Isaiah said that those who sat in darkness have seen a great light. That great light is Jesus and we Christians have found Jesus to be the light who guides us through the darkness along life’s way, we are called to let our light shine before others.
The way in which we communicate our faith to others is not by discrediting the faith of others, or by finding clever ways to explain ours, it is allowing the light of Christ to burn brightly in our lives so that others are attracted to that light. One light is totally visible, even in the midst of complete darkness. No matter how dark things around us might be Jesus wants us to be like a torch in a dark place. Darkness cannot quench a light !
City on a hill
There are many people who would like to think that faith should be a personal thing, something that you keep to yourself. What Jesus is saying is that our faith isn’t just for ourselves. But Jesus won’t have that. It says that we are like a city that is set on a hill, it should be seen, it should stand out. We might want to keep our light in the shadows, not burn too brightly to get noticed, but that is not what being a Christians is all about. It might be easier to live faith in the shadows. But God desires we not be just a good person. He also wants us also to be a just person, for our light of faith to shine before others. The city set on a hill is no longer Jerusalem.
Christians should be concerned about themselves and their own lives and families. But we should also be concerned about our neighbour and we should be concerned about strangers, people who suffer on the other side of the world, not just the other side of the street. The Church also is not a secret society, it is a public proclamation
So how are we to be Salt and Light
When Jesus told his disciples that they must be lights, he would have known well this passage which we had from Isaiah this morning. It tells us that if we want to shine we must do certain things and in themselves they would not perhaps be seen as very religious. It is not about how many times we pray or anything like that
Isaiah says that if we want our light to break forth like the dawn, a very powerful image, then we must
1. loose the chains of injustice
2. untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke
3. To share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter
4. when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
What Isaiah is saying, and what informs this teaching of Jesus is the understanding that what we do matters and makes a real difference.
To do these kinds of things brings blessing upon others, it also brings blessing upon us. Isaiah tells us that
‘healing will quickly appear then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
When Jesus spoke these words about being salt and light, Jesus knew that the world was a dark place, he knew that without the salt of his teaching from his followers the world would go bad.
The disciple is the light, the disciple is the city set on a hill. Of course if we illuminate the darkness then we might be blessed, but we might equally be cursed. Jesus was not greeted with warmth when the light of his life exposed those around him.
What we do as Christians matters because we are God’s messengers and God’s activity in the world. Never feel that what you do is insignificant, it is significant and important, to you and others and to God. As Christians we are tasked by God, not to be successful but to be faithful. It is not our job to make right what is wrong in the world about us. God’s work is never ever dependent upon our skillfullness, what God calls for is our willingness. We are light, but it is God’s light not our’s ! In a sense we are windows through which people see God
We might feel a sense of being besieged with so much darkness around us, but the light of Christ within us can never be extinguished by the dark. Those who come here to worship with us should feel with us a sense of hope and confidence.