Saturday, February 8, 2014

Salt and light

Matthew 5:13–20

Have you ever known salt to lose its saltiness? … I haven’t either. Salt is salt. We may dilute it, but it is still salt, and tastes salty.
Have you ever put a basket over a lamp? … Unless we were trying for less light from a lamp, we wouldn’t do that. We might use a dimmer switch on a lamp instead of putting a bushel basket over it, but the result is the same: we don’t get as much light from it.
Jesus’ intent is not to use science to explain that salt can lose its taste, or to imply that anyone would actually cover a lit oil lamp with a basket that could catch on fire. Listen to the language. Jesus doesn’t say, “You will someday be salt or light.” He says, “You are salt and light.”
So, since we are salt and light, how do we lose our saltiness? How do we hide our light? It’s pretty serious business to lose our saltiness – we could get thrown onto the ground and trampled underfoot.
I think it’s simple. Light is shared, put up high on a lampstand so the whole room is lit. Salt is available on every dinner table. Salt and light are only effective if they are used. We are only salt and light if we let others taste and see that the Lord is good.
Some of us find it easy to let others taste the salt, or to see the light. Some of us find it much harder. This text serves as a reminder to manage our fears and let the light of Christ shine fully through us.
When we do let ourselves be salty, beautiful things can happen. I know you all have memories of those who were salt and light for you. Most of us identify our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, someone in our families who were salt and light for us. Today, I want to challenge you to think of others who were also salt and light for you.
… In my own life, the saltiest people outside my family were three women, Jill, Evelyn, and Katie. They saw gifts in me that I didn’t know I had. I am a leader and not a wallflower today because of these women. They encouraged me, elected me, trained me, and allowed me to be myself, the self I had been hiding under a bushel.
… Bob Kruger was the unofficial greeter at Saron, in St Joe, Michigan, my home congregation. He was never afraid to say to someone, “Hi. I’m Bob Kruger. I don’t believe I know you. Welcome to Saron.” Occasionally, he met someone who had attended the early service for years, but it never stopped him from reaching out his hand to the next stranger. Salt and light poured from Bob in unlimited quantities.
… I talk often about St Paul Lutheran Church, in Forest Park, IL. In recent years, the congregation has become a Thai – as in Thailand – and American congregation. I still get their emails, and am often amazed at the way they are working together to grow the congregation. They have fun events, especially badminton tournaments and Christmas parties. They host Thai students learning to be pastors. Pastor Pongsak regularly reports baptisms of family members in the US and in Thailand. These folks are so excited to be Christian, they are determined to be salt and light for other Thai and American people.
… Kenny Thompson is a mentor at several elementary schools in his part of Utah. He recently saw the need to be salty for a group of low-income students. Thompson learned that students in an elementary school were so far behind in their lunch accounts that the school took the lunch trays out of the hands of the children.
Thompson declared, “These are elementary school kids. They don’t need to be worried about finances. They need to be worried about what grade they got in spelling.” Thompson realized that there were probably students in his own schools in the same situation. He used his own money to pay off the balances for 60 students at a school in his own community, spreading salt and light in his town, and now around the country as we all learn of his generosity.

… Who were salt and light for you?
Who welcomed you into a congregation in such a way that you remember it?
Who helped you begin to understand scriptures so that you wanted to learn more about Jesus?
Who taught you to pray as an adult?
Who made you realize that Jesus is in everyone, not just people who look like you?
Who led you the first time into serving God by serving God’s people?

We all have many people who have been salt and light for us. I invite you now to identify one or two of them and write their names on the index card you received. If you have time, turn the card over and name someone for whom you have been salt and light. When you are finished, you may keep the card, or put it on the offering plate.

Susan will play as you write, and I’ll close with a prayer.

Please pray with me: Lord Jesus, you call us to be your salt and your light in our world. Fill us with your presence and empower us to be salty enough that others can taste you, and light enough that others can see you through us. Amen