Gotta Shake It and Let It Shine

Sunday, February 6, 2011, Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Morning Service
Matthew 5:13-20
“Gotta Shake It and Let It Shine”
Salt has been a part of human history for thousands of years…
Archeologists have discovered settlements around salt springs
Evidence shows that salt was once traded ounce-for-ounce for gold
Trade agreements were formed around it
Wars have been fought over it
Exchange of salt for slaves in ancient Greece gave us the expression “not worth his salt”
Romans gave a salarium or salary to those who were “worth their salt”
There are salt museums to remind us of salt’s key role in the history of Europe, Asia,
the Middle East, and North America…
For us, salt is a flavor enhancer we take for granted and it is still used to cure and preserve meats
It is believed that there are more than 14,000 uses for salt…
From anti-icing sidewalks to making better coffee…
From helping with your laundry to cleaning copper pots…
From curing bad breath to relieving bee stings…
This simple compound – sodium chloride – has helped to shape the world as we know it.
In our Gospel reading this morning, Jesus tells us that we are salt and calls us to remain salty…
He also says that we are light and tells us to shine brightly…
This “you are” language implies that it is part of our identity…
Being salt and light is part of who we are as followers of Christ…
When Jesus says, “you are,” it doesn’t sound like we have much choice…
For good or ill, we are salt and light
We need to accept that reality and do our best to shake it and shine it
in a bland and dark world
Let us pray…
Lord, help us to better understand what your kingdom requires of us.
May the words of my mouth be your words and may the meditations of our hearts
be your thoughts…In Jesus’ name…Amen
A little boy asked: “What is salt?”
The answer: “Salt is what spoils the potatoes when you don’t have any.”
I think this is what Jesus is getting at when he uses the salt metaphor to make his point…
The world is like a pile of potatoes that will be better or worse off because of the salt or lack of salt that we provide…
Salt can spoil the taste of food if it isn’t there – at least I think so –
I’m pretty partial to salt.
Our witness can enhance the world when it shakes out in the right amount,
or it can spoil things if we don’t shake it at all.
When you think about it, salt isn’t very useful in and of itself…
Its value comes in its application to other things…
We wouldn’t eat a plate of salt, but salt applied to almost any food makes it taste better.
The long list of uses for salt are all about mixing it with something else or applying it to something else to achieve a desired result…The salt just sits there until we use it.
When Jesus calls us the salt of the earth, could he be telling us that our true value is
in how we interact with others?
Salt enhances flavor, it brings out the best in food…
That’s what those who love Christ should do – bring out the best in people…
We should bring some zest to life and enhance its flavor…
Of course, we can’t do it alone – Only Christ can help us…But, I have to ask…
Are we enhancing the flavors around us?
Are we making others better?
Are we doing what salt should do?
Did you know that salt is made up of two poisonous elements – sodium and chlorine –?
Sodium bursts into flame when put into water, and chlorine is a green noxious gas that can poison a whole community if it leaks from a tank car.
But when these two evil substances combine they make beneficial salt…
I wonder if this tells us that Jesus can take somebody with a couple bad habits and turn them into something useful…
If we put the dangerous, poisonous elements of our lives into God’s hands, he can transform us into something beautiful and beneficial.
Interesting how God can do amazing things with ordinary folks like us
We need to remember too that we can’t live without salt…It is part of our system…
A certain amount of salt is required to regulate the balance of fluids in our bodies and it aids the transmission of electrical nerve impulses; it helps our cells process nutrients and it’s part of the process of muscle contraction and relaxation.
Without the eight ounces of salt most of us carry around with us,
we would most certainly die…
Jesus says: “You are the salt of the earth.”
Christians are essential to God’s world…
You are vital to someone’s life…
As followers of Jesus, our salt – our witness – is something the world cannot live without.
What good is salt if it stays in the shaker and never gets out? Has it done anything?
If you have salt in your shaker, you are called to shake it out…let it mingle with the world, adding flavor and making things better.
Another thing salt does is make you thirsty…
When you get a box of salty popcorn at the movies you can’t help but buy a soda to go with it…The salt is going to make you thirsty…
In the same way, when we shake some of God’s salt into the world, we hope that it will make people thirsty for more Jesus…
We want the salt to draw more people to Christ.
OK, so maybe we’ve taken this image as far as we can today…
But, I didn’t make it up – Jesus did…
The point is that we want to enhance other people’s experience of God…
We want to help others find their way into a relationship with God…
And, we don’t have to be heavy-handed about it – like salting your food,
you want to be subtle – not over-powering…
When you salt popcorn just right, you think, “Mmm, now that’s good popcorn.”
It’s not about the salt, it’s about the popcorn.
In the same way, we want to enhance the perception of God through the subtle flavor of His life lived in us.
It’s not about us, it’s about God.
We can take Jesus’ “light” metaphor and apply the same characteristics to it…
Light, in and of itself, isn’t very useful – It’s value comes when it is used to illuminate something else…
Without light, the world would be a pretty dull place to be – we couldn’t see and enjoy any of the wonderful things God created…
Light is made up of two elements – electrons and protons – that aren’t very useful just sitting around by themselves doing nothing…When they come together and begin to vibrate, the electromagnetic waves they create cause light…
Interesting how God can do amazing things with ordinary stuff.
Light is essential to our life too…Light fuels many of the complex chemical reactions that sustain life.
Light makes it possible for humans to see..
In the dark we grope around struggling to find our way…
Light allows us to see clearly…
Jesus’ use of this image also tells us that our light is not simply to allow others to see whatever they want to see, but it is so they may witness the acts of justice and mercy that Jesus’ followers perform in his name.
Jesus is clear that our light should help others recognize that what we do
is for the glory of God.
It makes perfect sense that Jesus would tie these two images together…
Salt and Light are vital to life itself…
When Jesus calls us “salt” and “light” he tells us that we are vital to the life of God’s kingdom here on earth…
He lets us know that our salt and light isn’t about us, rather, they are all about God…
The people sitting around Jesus that day on the hillside understood these images clearly…
More importantly, they got the context of these images…
Who are the salt of the earth?
They are the humble, the ones who mourn, the meek,
and those who hunger and thirst after doing what is right in the world…
Who are the light of the world?
They are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who suffer abuse for standing up for what is right.
Think back to last Sunday…
Blessed are you who don’t have it all together…
Blessed are you who ache because of how severely out of whack the world is…
Blessed are you who stumble, trip, and fall at the same place,
again and again and again…
Blessed are you because God is with you…God is on your side…
You are the salt of the earth…
You are the light of the world…
You are the one that God can use, in spite of all your faults and flaws…
You are the one that others see and you give glory to God…
Amen.
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