Sermon for Kansas Diocesan Convention
I think most Americans would say that the average Midwesterner is âsalt of the earth.â It conveys the understanding that good common sense is present everywhere around here, that you arenât going to be lured away by the excesses of some dubious enterprise or flagrantly seductive advertising. Yet
Average or not, Jesus will take us wherever we start, and ask us to be appropriately salty. In this gospel context, weâre not supposed to avoid the salt, for it is a sign of life â and it always has been. Itâs still a basic symbol of hospitality in the
Where do we encounter the kind of salt that Jesus is talking about, that salt of welcome and friendship and life? Where do you know salt in your own life? Maybe it was the whiff of salt in the air along
Salt was an ancient coin, a medium of exchange, because itâs portable and reasonable stable â it only melts away in a rainstorm, and theyâre not so common in the
The salty signs of blood, sweat, and tears remind us continually of the cost of life, and its preciousness. Jesus gave abundantly of all three, weeping at the death of a friend, sweating in the
That heart is what Jesus is asking his disciples for â a heart of flesh, fully alive, connected to other human beings and the whole of creation, able to feel with and respond to the pain and joy of others. Thatâs salt.
The value of salt was involved in the practice of seating some âabove the saltâ and others below â ranking the guests at a dinner party. Yet Jesusâ table is effectively round, and the salt is in the center, at the heart. All his friends are equally welcome to share his meal of life â a meal with plenty of salt, in the bread and in the wine, and even a little in the water.
Salt has other resonances â like a salty vocabulary, or palabras saladas, those earthy words our mothers discouraged us from using. That kind of salt gets attention, and when our audience is asleep, such language can be very useful. The biblical prophets used the ancient equivalent of salty words all the time: âyou cows of
Your letter to a member of Congress, or to the editor of the local paper, or the words you speak in a town meeting can be salt, when they challenge a sleepy government to pay attention to the needs of hungry children or the unemployed. That is the salt of compassion, even though it may feel irritating to those who are invited to wake up to their neighborsâ need, and demonstrate compassion.
Like all good gifts, salt can be overused â and the excessive use of a good gift often leads to counterintuitive results. Salt is a very good preservative, and we still use it to make things like ham or pickles. But too much in our food also pickles us â and leads to less of life, rather than more. Excessively salty critique may end a relationship and the possibility of change. When our conversation partners shut down in the face of overly sharp words, the agony of the situation is simply fixed, frozen in place. It will take some healing balm or the water of grace or even the purification of salt tears to find signs of life once more.
In addition to salt, Jesus also asks us to be the light of the world. Salt is actually necessary to make light. Salts â and there are lots of kinds of salts â are merely charged particles, ions, that generate some (re)action. Whether itâs the fiery energy of the sun, the light from a battery or an outlet, or even the light from a firefly, the ways we know of producing light depend on something salty. If weâre going to become light to the world, and show what God looks like in human form, weâre going to have to be appropriately salty.
Our task is to figure out where and how. Whatâs cooking in
How and where will you use your salt?
Sometimes it only takes the tiniest pinch of salt to transform a life. The woman who cuts my hair is a Brazilian immigrant. Sheâs been here more than 20 years, and she speaks English pretty well. Last spring she told me she could read English reasonably well, but she couldnât write. She wanted to learn, but she couldnât afford the tuition. I went back to the office and did a little digging. First I tried the local Episcopal churches, but none of them had ESL classes â and this in
The last time I saw her, she told me that she is in love with the Saturday computer course sheâs also taking. She also told me that her English teacher thinks sheâll be able to pass her GED pretty soon. Eventually, I expect sheâll find significantly better employment â and Iâll probably have to find another person to cut my hair. But, oh, what light she radiates, every time I see her!
Following Jesus means using our blood, sweat, and tears, and in the process becoming light to a dark and distracted world. Where are you going to spend your salt?