Sunday, 9 February 2020

Salt and Light

I was reminded of my friend Dave the other day. I haven't seen him for a while. He went off to minister to a heathen race in a far off, uncivilized land. East Anglia. And he was driving in Ipswich, I think it was, when somebody cut him up at a junction.  And I should explain in case our American readers get confused that he wasn't attacked with a bladed instrument. I mean that someone infringed his rights of way while he was driving.

And Dave, being a warm-blooded kind of chap, indicated his view of what the other driver had done with one of the Two Obscene Gestures. And then he remembered - newly ordained, as he was - that he was wearing his dog collar. And had to modify his gesture into the up-stroke, as it were, of a blessing.

It's hard being called to be salt and light when you're driving. I think driving is the worst thing humans ever invented. Apart from the environmental damage, I mean. Even if cars were powered by the sun and floated on air, it would still make us worse human beings. I don't put any stickers or other signage in my car to indicate any kind of religious affiliation. It's just tempting fate.

As Christians, Jesus calls us to be salt and light. And in a world where salt is bad for the heart and light pollution is a bigger problem than encroaching darkness, sometimes it can feel like these are bad metaphors. We don't have the fear of the dark in the same way, when the nights draw in and we can chase it away with Christmas bling, or huddle around the iPhone's glow to keep us warm.

And salt? Salt's so common. I thang yew. Salt's so common that some foods have red stickers on them to warn you. Why would Jesus want us to be salt?

Different world, then. Human nature not so much. The things you take for granted, maybe more so. Light when you depended on oil lamps which were just bowls with wicks. A world so dark at night that you'd organise your big get-togethers at full moon, so people could find your way home. Note Jesus's illustration - you put a light on a stand, it lights the whole house. Or it does if you're all living in the same room.

And salt. Mined from the edges of the Dead Sea, or evaporated out in salt pans by the Med. None of your grainy, free-flowing white stuff. More like the rock salt we pay extra for. Or even the stuff we chuck on paths if we ever get another frost in this country.

But essential. In a hot country if you wanted to preserve meat, you'd pack it in salt. Salt was used to draw the blood out of kosher meat. It was used in the incense in the temple, and to offer to God. It was used to clean and disinfect wounds, and the skins of newborn babies.

So we're to be those that add taste to the world. Those that bring healing.
All that Salt and Light

But salt is useless if it's not used. It has to be poured into water, rubbed into meat, chucked onto ice. And as it's used, it becomes part of the thing it's being used for. It dissolves. Chemically you could still get it back out - but functionally it must be dispersed.

Maybe that's like Christians. Locked into a jar, shiny and white, salt is just potential. On fish and chips, it creates something special. I see the numbers of street pastors that were out in our towns last night, offering help where required, or just being there - scattered out, doing some good.

And maybe that's why Jesus's warning. Salt is no use if it's not salty. Typical table salt contains anti-caking ingredient so that if the salt absorbs some moisture, it can still be poured out the holes in the salt cellar. In Jesus' time on earth, salt from the sea or the Dead Sea would contain much higher levels of impurities than we're used to. Maybe it would go off.

If we're leaving ourselves pure and unused on the shelf, maybe that's what we risk. We're no use for anything. In fact, we pick up moisture and pollutants from the air - we get obsessed with our churchy lives or our gossiping or our judgemental behaviour  and we're not even any good for pouring out any more. Church is God's salt mine - God's salt pan - the place where the Spirit works on us to make us pure - and then throws us out to make us useful.

So, be salt for Jesus. Pour yourself into the world, that by doing so you may add flavour and interest, healing and purity. You're salt and light for Jesus - not called to be aloof - for the world has all the loofs it needs - but to make the world better, and in doing that, to shine a light, and defrost the way,  that leads to him.

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1 comment :

  1. I have never heard it mentioned, in all the exegeses I've read or heard on this passage, that salt (ie sodium chloride)is an essential part of mammalian diet. But it can also be deadly. Too much, or too little, and you die. So treat it with respect.


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