Is 58:7-10; I Cor 2:1-5; Mt 5: 13-16
One Sunday the preacher’s sermon went on endlessly. A man got up and walked out of the church. He came back near the end of the service. The pastor made an effort to greet him as the people were leaving church and said, “Dave, I noticed you left during my sermon and then came back later. Are you feeling okay?” “Sure,” Dave said. “I’m okay. I just went out to get a haircut.” “Why didn’t you do that before you came to church?” The pastor asked. Dave replied, “I didn’t need it then.”
Some scripture passages could keep pastors talking for an hour. I checked the YouTube videos “Salt and Light” hours and hours talk. Good news for you is I am not going to take more 10 minutes. In today’s readings the message is so clear that it is hardly necessary to say anything more about it, but a couple points deserve a comment.
As the Sermon on the Mount continues, Jesus tells us You are the Salt of the earth….You are the light of the World…..But if salt goes flat it is good for nothing…..No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket. Jesus is definitive in two ways. First he says, “You.” He is not talking to people long ago, or someone next to you. He is not merely talking to your pastor, or only to the Saints. He is talking to you, “YOU are salt, YOU are light.” You. It’s too easy to say, “Look what the Lord is saying to them, long ago, near the lakeside.” It’s not long ago, It’s now, it’s you.
The second way the Lord is definitive is that both images depend on us, and if we are not salt and light then no one else is around to be this and we have utterly voided our worth.
Look at the metaphor of salt: You are either salt, or you are nothing, in fact, good for NOTHING. We have signed up to be Christians. What this means is that if we go off and do anything else, we are nothing, and good for nothing. It’s a very all or nothing scenario. You may be a great doctor, but if you don’t do it as a clear and visible Christian you are nothing. You may be a skilled social worker, but if you don’t do it as a Christian, you are good for nothing. Any non-believer can be socially useful as a doctor, sports hero, actor, lawyer, or social worker. But only a Christian can be a Christian. If you don’t do “job one” you are nothing. If you get your kids every good thing, send them off to college, paid in full, but do not bring them to Christ and be a Christian witness to them, you are good for nothing. Any parent can give their kids material things, but only a Christian can give them Christ. Got it? You’re either salt (a true Christian) or you are nothing.
As for the light we can note something similar of this second definitiveness. The Lord says, you are THE light of the World, not merely A light. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp-stand, where it gives light to all in the house. – You don’t light the light. It is the darkness that needs the light. Light is meant to be seen. But there are too many undercover Christians, secret agent saints, and hidden holy ones. Jesus didn’t light our light to have it hidden under a basket out of fear or secrecy. He wants the Church, he wants you and me, to shine. He wants every Christian to be a light so that it’s like a city on a hill! He wants us to shine so that we can’t be hid.
What this means is that if we do not shine, the world is darker. No one can take our place. If we don’t shine by living our faith and proclaiming it, the world is in darkness.
Sometimes we can do big things. Sometimes we can be a city on a mountain, a lamp on a lamp stand, giving light to everything in the house. Sometimes our light can change people’s lives. We can be instrumental in leading an alcoholic to recovery, or an enemy to forgiveness, or a family to reconciliation. When we have an opportunity to accomplish one of these big things, we should by all means in Christ’s name let our light shine.
But these dramatic possibilities do not occur every day. It is for this reason that today’s gospel tells us that when we cannot be the light of the world, it is still service to be a pinch of salt.
Salt is to be used sparingly. How often do you read a recipe that asks for, “a pinch of salt”? A pinch is very small. But here is the point. It is still necessary. That is why the recipe calls for it. Without that pinch of salt the food loses its flavor. So when Jesus says that we are the salt of the earth, he might be asking us to adopt the small gesture, the simple word, the gentle touch. When Jesus says that we are salt, he is telling us that sometimes following him involves actions that are not very big at all.