SHAKE THE SALT OUT OF YOUR SHAKER Matthew 5:13-20 by Jim Langreder, Member in Discernment

Let us take ourselves back to that place again, like Jeannie had us do last week. Imagine we are poor and living in a small rural village no one cares about. We hear that a man is speaking over on a mountain and so we gather our family to go listen. We hear this man, Jesus, go through a list of rather crazy things like blessed are the poor, and those who mourn and so on…and then he comes to today’s scripture passage and tells us “You are the salt of the earth..”  He is telling us, that our life has meaning and purpose in this world, that we ARE the salt of the earth.

To fully understand this simple yet powerful statement, we need a little history lesson. Salt was actually highly valuable in ancient times. The Greeks believed there was something divine contained in salt. The romans had such a value on salt that they would sometimes pay a portion of a soldiers salary in salt. It is said to be from this that we get the word soldier – ‘sal dare’, meaning to give salt. From the same source we get the word salary, ‘salarium’. Salt was a scarce and expensive commodity and its value was legendary. Wouldn’t you just love that of your boss came up to you next week and said sorry we can’t pay you fully in cash but here is a cup of salt?!

Salt was also a preserving agent. Used heavily before refrigeration. Salt was also a large part of offerings in the Old Testament. In Leviticus 2:13 Moses was giving instructions to the Israelites for their offerings that they would bring to the temple.  He said to “season all your grain offerings with salt to remind you of God’s eternal covenant. Never forget to add salt to your grain offerings.”

And obviously another big use for salt was to add flavor to food just like it is today.  So I believe that In this context Jesus is telling us that we are to bring flavor, taste or zest to those around us. Notice Jesus doesn’t say “you will become the salt,” or “you have the potential within you to be the salt,” No, it’s important that we notice He says “you ARE the salt.” We as followers of Christ ARE the salt of the earth. We have value to God and are to share that with others.

Then we get to the line “but if salt loses it’s saltiness, there is no way to make it salty again. It has become worthless so it is thrown out to be trampled on.”  So what is Jesus talking about here?  At this time in Palestine, there were two types of salt. The first kind was pure through evaporation but the majority was taken from the Dead Sea and it contained a lot of impurities in it like little white minerals that resembled salt but were not.

So farmers would get this stuff and they would have big piles of it behind their homes and they would mix it with fertilizer to use in their fields.  A small amount benefited the soil and their crops. But what would sometimes happen is rain would come and pour down on that mound of salt and wash away the true salt (the sodium chloride) and they would be left with this hardened useless substance that couldn’t be used in their fields because it would harden the soil…so guess what it was used for?  They would throw it out in front of their homes to make a path. It would harden and become almost like a sidewalk for people to walk on.  And so Jesus warns us that if the salt (pointing at self) loses its flavor, it’s zest for God, it is useless and is like a pathway for people to trample on.

So let’s fast forward to today, February 9th, 2020 – what does this mean for us when we read Jesus telling us that we are the salt of the earth?  Looking back at the history lesson I just put you through and yes there will be a test at 10:25, I believe it means we are highly valuable! That we are called to add flavor and seasoning to this world that at times can seem so dark and dismal or bland of you will.  And if we take it a bit farther, we as Christians are called to preserve the world – preserve the values of Christ in this world where so many are searching for meaning and purpose.

That song I played during offering reminded me of that meme that’s been floating around recently that says something like “humans are like plants. They both need water and sunlight to survive.” I’m not sure what it really says but close enough 😉  Well guess what else plants need to survive? A little bit of salt – not too much, just a little. A tiny sprinkle is all it takes. The same is true for us!  You, me, we need some sodium, some salt, in order to survive. It’s true, I looked it up on the internet 😉  Salt is needed to transmit nerve impulses, contract and relax muscle fibers (including those in the heart and blood vessels), and it is needed to maintain a proper fluid balance.  And guess what? It doesn’t take much to do this.  Literally 1/10 of a teaspoon of salt contains all the sodium needed for a human to survive.

Too much salt and we get health problems. Too much salt and we ruin our food, right? Just a little sprinkle, just the right amount and we got it! A perfect balance…

So if we, as the “salt of the earth” are highly valuable, can keep fires going (as in the offerings in the temple, and can preserve things, such as the values of God…how can we do this in our daily lives?

I believe Jesus is calling us in this scripture to live out the values of Christ in a REAL and honest way. The values of truth, honesty, love, kindness , justice and peace. As the Bible says, “We are the peacemakers.” But we must be careful to keep the balance and not over do it, not “over salt” if you will.

The metaphors of salt and light specifically addressed the impact faithfulness should have in the world. It should illuminate, flavor and preserve. Like both salt and light, our relationship with God should have an obvious impact on everyone who comes in contact with us.  Jesus isn’t just calling us to be devoted, He’s encouraging us to have an influence everywhere we go. To add flavor and life to a conversation or environment we are in.

My neighbors growing up were the type of Christians who may have over salted things. They only allowed their kids to listen to Christian music, they went to church Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday night in addition to bible study groups during the week. They openly prayed in public before meals, called the police on their fellow neighbors for playing the “devils music” too loudly, never uttered a curse word and on and on. They turned off every neighbor around them because their behavior was just too much. It left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth, even their kids rebelled as adults.  Too much salt!

It’s like trying to enjoy a good meal. Using a little bit of salt is perfect, but too much salt ruins it, so there must be a balance. Too much can make it unbearable, but too little can make it bland.

God calls us to be ourselves. Not to over do it and shove it down people’s throats.

  • If we live a life, a genuine life of kindness and love, and sprinkle a little, just a little, of that around we will be what God calls us to be in this world. We can take our time, our talents and put them to use to build the kingdom of God. If we are a great musician…make beautiful music and share it. If we are an artist…create masterpieces that spread joy. We can use our math skills to help our friends keep on budget. Many of you are retired and have the gift of time in which you can invest in others. But friends it is not enough to stay in our close circle of church friends, close friends and family. No. We are commanded to go out into the world and share God’s message of love and peace to everyone. Is that scary? Yes…

The story of Sir Nicholas Winton, a British stockbroker, illustrates these truths about salt and light.

Winton was born in England in 1909, and baptized in the Anglican Church by grandparents of German Jewish decent. He grew up to be a stockbroker. In 1938 his friend asked Winton to forgo a ski vacation and visit Czechoslovakia as part of a British Committee for Refugees to Czechoslovakia.

As part of his trip he toured refugee camps. Winton was concerned that war was imminent and worried about the increasing violence against the Jewish community. He was made aware of a Jewish agency in Britain which helped rescue 10,000 Jewish children.

Winton decided to start a relief effort of his own which would require raising 50 pounds per child to be paid to the British government just for transport. He also worked to raise other necessary funds and find foster homes for each child. Through it all he kept his job as a stockbroker by day, and worked on his relief efforts by night.

In total it is believed that he saved 669 children. Winton never spoke a word about his efforts. It wasn’t until his wife found a scrapbook in the attic 50 years later that he began to speak publicly about his story. By the time he reached 104 years old, he had been reunited with some of the children and the 6,000 members of his “extended family.”

What Winton did was heroic. It’s something most of us will never have the opportunity to do, but it doesn’t mean we can’t be salt and light.

Think of the talents and skills that Winton needed to be a stockbroker. They are probably the same skills he relied on when organizing the rescue of almost 700 children. It required someone who wasn’t afraid to take risks. It required strategic thinking and a view for the long-term impact. What served him well in his vocation served him well when God called him to save those children. This was no accident.

God has gifted each one of us with a specific bundle of skills, talents, and vision which make you suited for very specific things. These skills that allow you to serve others through your work allow you to serve others across all dimensions. This requires that we make calculated decisions about what work to pursue, as well as about our work in the church and in civil society.

In the book “The Call” by Os Guinness, we are called to be salt and light in the four major corners in our lives…

  • Family
  • Community
  • Church
  • Work

It’s just as important to use your skills and talents in volunteer work as it is in your career. Winton did just that. His heroic efforts in saving children doesn’t make his day job any less important. In fact, he kept his day job. What’s important is that we take our core skills and stretch them across all four areas of life to serve the body of Christ.

So this week, let us take our packet of salt and keep it with us. Set it on your desk at work or place it on our bathroom vanity. And as we go about our day let us remember that it only takes a little sprinkle of salt to change the flavor of someone’s day and maybe even their life.

In the name of Jesus…Amen

 

References:

Salt, Light, and A Stockbroker: A Story of Flourishing  Dr. Anne Bradley  June 11, 2013

The Jesus Film Project 

The Call, Os Guinness 

 

SCRIPTURE FOR FEBRUARY 9, 2020                      MATTHEW 5: 13-20

You are like salt for the whole human race. But if salt loses its saltiness, there is no way to make it salty again. It has become worthless, so it is thrown out and people trample on it.

You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead it is put on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise God in Heaven.

Do not think that I have come to do away with the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. I have not come to do away with them, but to make their teachings come true. Remember  that as long as heaven and earth last, not the least point nor the smallest detail of the Law will be done away with – not until the end of all things. So then, whoever disobeys even the least important of the commandments and teaches others to do the same, will be least in the kingdom of heaven. On the other  hand, whoever obeys the Law and teaches others to do the same, will be great in the kingdom of heaven. I tell you, then, that you will be able to enter the kingdom of heaven only if you are more faithful than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires.

Friends, listen to what the Spirit would say to us today.

2020-02-11T08:24:41-06:00