2023-02-05 Epiphany 5
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Salt and Light. Besides air and water, there is possibly nothing more universally important to everyone on the planet. Everyone needs them both. There wouldn’t be life on earth otherwise. It’s no doubt really as to why Jesus uses salt and light to illustrate the Kingdom of God in the lives of His people. When you think about salt you automatically think of the bad press it gets in the media. Gotta cut out salt if you have high blood pressure. Too much salt will kill you. But so will not getting enough. It helps nerves and muscles work properly and it also helps regulate our water content. Wars have been fought over salt. Salt served as wages for soldiers over time. Many of Napoleon’s troops died in their retreat from Russia because they lacked salt. Their wounds couldn’t heal properly. Before refrigeration, salt was the key food preserver. Not to mention everyone’s favourite flavouring agent. And, in Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous painting of the Lord’s Supper, Judas is painted with an overturned and spilling salt shaker before him!
Likewise with light. It makes plants grow which give us the air we breathe and the food we eat. Without light energy our world would be a whole lot colder than it already is, especially in Saskatchewan where it’s already too cold. Of course it also makes vision possible and prevents us from bumping our toes on furniture. It makes us feel safe, especially when we are surrounded by darkness. It shows us colour and beauty in our world. And above all, it makes photography possible. And without photos, it would be harder to brag about how great you and your family are on Facebook. So it’s easy to see that both salt and light truly are essential to life on earth.
This “essential” nature is what Jesus is getting at with His words today. Salt and light are so needed that without them, life would easily cease to exist. I think about what doctors often tell you about healing cuts with salt and warm water. If you get your ears pierced, the same remedy may also work. So the very nature of salt is that it is a healer and a cleaner. Certainly it can sting but it can also draw out all the bad stuff too so that healing can take place. So too with light. Just as the sun can burn if exposed to it too long, it also has the power disinfect with it’s UV rays. Jesus tells His followers that they are salt and light for this reason. For our Lord has come into this world not to condemn the world or to judge it, but rather to heal it and cleanse it. The words of Jesus come upon us so that we can be cleansed of our sin and healed from all that plagues us.
Now much like salt in a wound, there is a sting. The words of Jesus tell us that we are sinners. They reveal that there is sin and sickness in the world, in our hearts, in our minds, in our mouths and in our hands. They reveal that we have sinned in thought, word and deed. None of us is immune from this. We are all in need of our Lord’s cleansing. Through the confession of our sins, our Lord heals our infirmities. His powerful Word draws out all the sinful rot within us so that we can be cleansed of our sins and not have to live with guilt and regret. And as we are cleansed from our sin by the salt of God’s Word, we too by God’s grace become salt, just as Jesus says. And in this way we also bear within us our Lord’s healing power. Instead of anger with one another, we have our Lord’s forgiveness. Instead of the toxic rot of sin eating away at us, we have our Lord’s healing mercy that we may heal others. What once only stung with pain and discomfort now heals and restores with life and heavenly comfort that surpasses all understanding.
I watched a documentary a while ago that was all about old fashioned country hams. Back in the good ol’ days, the old boys would take a pork leg, salt it up thoroughly and let it cure for a whole year. The salt would draw out the water, effectively killing bacteria with dehydration. The salt would work its way into the meat and allow the pork to slowly change into a delicious, flavourful ham that will keep Bubba coming back for more for good long while! Salt has this amazing ability to change and preserve. Spiritually, in this same way, the salt of God’s Word has done this for us. It’s changed us from being plain old ordinary pork into amazing country hams! That is we realize that God has come to us and changed us from a people obsessed with themselves and pursuing sin into a people who now seek to serve their neighbours and help others who are in need.
Now Jesus’ warnings come with these words too. Specifically, “if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (MT 5:13). If salt looses its essence, what’s it good for? If it looses its ability to heal or to preserve, it has lost its true essence. It gets chucked outside and trampled into oblivion. This word of warning is meant to encourage all of Jesus’ disciples to keep on following Him. For our Lord is the salt which makes us salty. So if we fall away from Him, we lose the source of our saltiness. It’s highly recommended that we don’t do that. Country ham is infinitely more delicious than pork roast! We need to cling to Christ Jesus in His Word and Sacraments. As we do, the righteousness and goodness of Jesus come into us and enable us to be the salt of the earth.
Jesus says the same thing when He talks about us being the light of the world. A brightly glowing city on a mountain can’t be hidden. It can be seen from a long way off. Just like if you have to goto Regina at night. You can see the city lights shining in the sky from Belle Plaine! You can tell there’s a city over there. You can see the light. Just like people don’t light a lamp only to cover it up or snuff it out. It completely defeats the purpose. Instead the light should be put in a stand so that it can illuminate the whole room. What good is a hidden light that nobody can see? In our day and age it would be much like having a light socket with no bulb. What’s the point? Light is meant to be seen. It is meant to be shared. It is meant to give sight. It is meant to give comfort in the face of darkness.
The Lord Jesus is the light of the world. And likewise, those who follow Him and put their trust in Him as their saviour also exude that same light to the world around them. But it must be allowed to shine for it to be of any value. Our Lord is calling you to do this. To shine that same heavenly light of forgiveness, life and salvation that you have received to all of those around you. As you do, more and more people will see the heavenly light of the cross and will hopefully receive it for themselves. We do this boldly at our Lord’s invitation knowing full well that this world is indeed a dark place, loving the darkness more than light, loving the rot of sin more than the cleansing of salt. We can fully expect opposition just as Jesus did. But the Lord Jesus has overcome this world of darkness through His cross and resurrection from the dead. And as we trust in Him we too will overcome the world with all of its fears and evil. The added benefit is that of more and more people receiving the healing salt and light of God’s Kingdom for themselves. You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. How truly awesome this is that God includes us in His mission to seek and save this world. Thanks be to God now and forever. Amen!