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On Being Salt and Light

In the Gospel reading from Matthew 5 Jesus tells us a story using the metaphors of salt and light. Salt is a common spice. One that does not do a whole lot on its own (in terms of taste) but it really helps to accentuate strong flavors of foods to which it is applied. Salt adds a little flavor, like we are called to add goodness and mercy and kindness to our world. Salt brings out the best in other foods, like we are called to bring out the best in our neighbors, supporting them, loving them, helping them see that they God’s beloved. Salt preserves, like we are called to preserve and keep the practice of faith fresh as long as possible.

You can see, Jesus was no fool, salt is a fantastic metaphor for discipleship! But wait… he doesn’t affirm the work of the disciples as if a good measure of salt has been applied to a bland recipe. No, Jesus says, “but if salt hast lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

But then Jesus offers a new metaphor, light. And unlike the salt, the light is actually doing its work. The light of a hillside city shines brightly and is not concealed. The light stands out, like a beacon, guiding us in, illuminating the path, helping us to see. With the stark contrast of the salt that has lost its flavor and the light that cannot be hidden, Jesus is telling his disciples and the crowds that gather around him that if they want to follow him, they will stand out.

In this church, when we baptize new believers, new followers of Jesus, we bless them as the emerge from the water with the words from this Gospel lesson. “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. Go now, and let your light shine.” In those words there is both a prophetic call and a holy promise. The promise is that God has given each and every one of us a special flavor, gifts all our own, and an ability to – like salt – to use those gifts to enhance the gifts of other around us, to preserve and grow faith in our neighbors, to bring out the very best in everyone we meet.

The question is, are we doing it?