Salt and light
( Matthew 5: 13-20)
“You are like salt for the whole human race
You are like light for the whole world” (Matthew 5:13, 14)
Salt and light
Light and salt
As Matthew records the Sermon on the Mount, as he remembers and writes down his recollections, he begins to piece together this great teaching that Jesus gave. Luke and Mark record some, but not all of this, you may be aware that I like to remind myself, and you all, that the gospels were written in a particular time and context, and how important this can be when we are trying to make sense of it for ourselves.
Matthew’s Gospel was written to the Jewish community who had become followers of Jesus; it is full of references to Mosaic Law; it frequently uses the motif of referring back to particular prophecies... “this happened to fulfil...” this to help the new followers to know that it is ok to retain their Jewish practices; that it is ok to follow Moses Law; that they are ok, that they are faithfully following – these encouragements are affirming
They are hopeful
They are there to help
They are salt and light
Jesus uses the analogy of salt and light and then immediately turns to the Law of Moses and underlines their importance, their place in our lives: for to follow the law faithfully is to please God
Now, it may seem that there is something of a dichotomy here
For, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees were often criticised and condemned by Jesus
So what does it mean?
How can we follow God’s Law faithfully?
Jesus declares that heaven is available to those who follow more faithfully
He also talks about what others see in us
In our behaviour
In our witness
We are doing what God requires, being salt and light, when people see us, and see God’s light
We are doing what God requires, being salt and light, when we follow God’s ways and teach others to do the same
We are following God’s way, being salt and light, when our actions lead to others knowing God’s love
When our actions reveal God’s love to others
Salt and light are essential for life – our planet itself would die without them; salt and light are also essential for faith
On the surface, it is easy to read “you are salt of the earth; you are light of the World” and think it means we have it all and others do not
But this is an exhortation to share the Good News, not to revel in it
It is also in the present tense:
You ARE salt
You ARE light
Not you will be; or when you do this, and this you will...
And not even, now you will become...
But you ARE...
What do we understand now about salt and light in our own lives?
Salt: we use it in cooking, to enhance flavours, to preserve meats... that is only a tiny percentage of all the salt in the world though. It is used in industry; it can be used to draw water out of things – to help keep delicate technologies dry
It is used every day
Light: nowadays, we mostly take light for granted; we expect that when we flick a switch the light will come on (and how do we feel when there is a power cut? When we do not have instant access to light?)
We need light to show us the way; to warn us of something approaching – cars, rescue vehicles... you see a blue light behind you on the road – you get out the way
Lights of all colours inform us
The little flashing light that tells you that your machine is on and ready to go...
Ready to receive instructions, and provide illumination, help, service...
So, what can it mean for us, to hear again Jesus’ words, addressed not to the gathered crowds, but to us, today, right here and now?
Those who follow Jesus don’t merely sit back and receive abundant life, or simply tell others about what a great abundant life we have. Jesus is talking here about a life that makes a difference for others in the world.
We are the tastiness that adds salt to lives around us. We are light that makes plain the justice way of the kingdom of God. Jesus says we must be tasty and lit up in order to make a difference for God in the world. Neither salt nor light exists for themselves. They only fulfil their purpose when used, poured out.
The work of light is not to draw attention to itself - it is there to allow people to see things that would otherwise be hidden in the darkness.
So it is with Jesus’ disciples - that is us...
Like salt, we are not to overwhelm the world - but to bring out the goodness - or preserve the goodness that we find in it.
Like light, we should allow the Light of God to shine through us - not so that we dazzle people with our radiance - but so that they can see the light of truth.
We may be tempted to hide the light - especially when it might get us noticed - or where people would not understand. That is a risk of discipleship - but, Jesus says, that by allowing our light to shine, other people will see clearly and give praise to our Father in heaven.
When Jesus says, to you, you are salt (ask yourself...)
Am I seasoning, helping, preserving, do I enhance other people’s experience of God?
When Jesus says, to you, you are Light (ask yourself...)
Do I shine my light? Do people see what God has to offer through me, my life, or my actions?
is God's love revealed through what we bring to the table?
The little flavour we bring - the small light we can offer - all make a difference to the world.
Without us - life is tasteless and dull!
|Salt to enhance and flavour|