You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.
Jesus says this to us! Not just the apostles but to all of his disciples. That’s us.
One of my spiritual directors used to love the phrase: “Integrate that!” He wanted me to really absorb and not so readily deflect things in this life. Mostly Good things, as many of us do.
So, Jesus says to you: You are the Light of the World! You are the Salt of the Earth! Integrate that!
What does that mean…
As salt of the earth we are season for one another! Salt is a preservative, brings out flavor, makes things tasty! Working together we can bring out the flavor of our community.
Okay, I know St. Paul’s likes to feed people, but I also mean Feed one another spiritually!
In ancient times salt was also an antiseptic, a healing remedy. The Romans paid their soldiers a salarium which our word salary derives from. This was money paid to them so they could purchase salt among other food items.
To be “worth ones’ salt” is a 19th Century expression, but it came down through the centuries obviously and means to be worthy of one’s responsibilities, reliable and valued for what they do. A doctor who is “worth their salt” is an able doctor. They live up to their profession.
In Today’s Gospel Jesus is asking us to be the salt and the light for one another: to integrate that;
We are often so caught up in our tasks and our schedules, that errands can take on an automated response in us as we try to get things done as efficiently as possible. Often, ironically trying to be “worth our salt.”The World pushes us to be busy and often frustrated and harried. But if we focus on our center, our light, each one of those encounters with another can become light touching light, spirit touching spirit.
Today’s gospel follows the Sermon on the Mount ( which one commentator remarked) is essentially Jesus’ “I have a Dream Speech.” He is expounding on the things that are of the Kingdom, a realm that is “just and right:” A realm that we hope to see on earth one day.
And his proclamation this morning is not a guilt trip, but rather a pep talk! He is saying we can do this: we are salt and we are light!
He makes it very clear that he is not throwing out the old, but doubling down.
“Not one letter of the law will pass away until all is accomplished.”
God’s righteousness is eternal. Our participation will help in this accomplishment. The commandments are our foundation. And our participation in God’s righteousness is more than lip service.
Jesus is not throwing out the law or the prophets, but is riled up about hypocrisy from leaders who speak of righteousness but don’t live it out. He is asking us to live it, or we will never reach that dream; that dream of heaven on earth.
When we hear the word righteousness, we may think of it as moral perfection. But the word in Hebrew is quite complex. We don’t have a word quite like it. In Hebrew it can mean to redeem, to protect, to bless, to be obedient to the law, to be virtuous to others.
In our own spiritual lives we are participating in that characteristic of God. That righteousness. We are joining in and participating in what God is always doing. It is a pattern of life that helps us to keep reaching for the Kindgom of Heaven. That is where endurance comes in… rather than perfection. We are not perfect.
The gospel today and the portion from Isaiah make me think of the famous lyrics by Leonard Cohen…
Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in.
Isaiah claims Our “light shall break forth like the dawn” when we begin to let the the oppressed go free…
Isaiah speaks of the same things that Jesus speaks of in the Sermon on the Mount: feed the hungry, care for the poor, loose the bonds of injustice. And your light will shine. Not only that but, “your healing shall spring up quickly.”
These two things are connected: our healing and our participation in righteousness.
…Sometimes are brokenness allows for new light to shine in places we aren’t expecting, and through community, where we can season one another with the Spirit of love and understanding: where we can heal one another.
How does our Spirituality show our light and our salt?
Paul has a lot to say about our spirituality in his letter to the Corinthians. That community is having a hard time. They are quarreling, and all in all seem to be acting out. They sound like a bunch of teenagers, and it is easy to imagine that getting a new identity and starting a new life in a communal model could have that kind of regressive effect.
And even after all that I’ve said earlier about Jesus not needing us to be perfect, I admit that Paul tends to be somewhat of a perfectionist… but here he is appealing to their spirit.
He says, to know what is truly human is to know the spirit within. He is literally using the Spirit to center them. It is not some lofty or “new age” idea. He is saying what is central in us is this grounding place. It is very serious. Like the commandments, this is foundational for us. This spiritual center, this space that is united with God through the Spirit is foundational.
How can we be salt and light…The healing that brings the Kingdom of Heaven?
There are major figures like Martin Luther King Jr and many others that pave the way… prophets in our own time… but we also have that spiritual center of our own… that center that knows what righteousness is
on a salt level (so to speak); a human level.
Fr. Masud helped break that open for the congregation in his sermon last week that asked us to consider the elements of Micah’s famous passage:
Walk humbly with your God.
What does that really look like, he asked?
And you gave him some pretty good answers!
It is easier than we think. Just offering a smile. A smile lightens a room and shows another person that little piece of heaven. Kindness. When we buy our groceries remembering to smile at the person at the register is healing. It may sound ridiculously small. But each small piece of our Spirit that we give offers healing to another.
Integrate that: That we have the power to bring light into one another’s lives, to season one another’s lives with flavor, preserve one another’s lives through kindness; heal one another through humility and justice as Micah proclaimed last week.
That is how we become “worth our salt.” We do not need to be perfect. How can we?…but we can attempt to walk humbly enough for God’s light to shine through us to others.
As the psalmist sings:
Light shines in the darkness for the upright; *
the righteous are merciful and full of compassion.
It is good for them to be generous in lending *
and to manage their affairs with justice.
For they will never be shaken; *
the righteous will be kept in everlasting remembrance.
That is the everlasting righteousness that is not ours alone; but our participation lightens the arc of the moral universe that bends toward justice.