Some time ago I must have got myself on some pollsters’ database. Because I end up with three researchers at various times, turning up on the doorstep. The longest to answer was a health survey. During it, I was asked about how much salt I put on or into my food. Now, I am used to feeling virtuous about not smoking and even on the right side of the angels on alcohol but salt!
Salt then seems essential to life but in only small quantities; a bit like Church of Scotland ministers!
That’s why Jesus calling us salt is a mixed blessing. So, let us pick apart this metaphor and find out what it tells us. For it may put salt in our spiritual tails.
Now salt in common with other additives must be used with moderation. Yet a pinch of salt can make a whole pan of food far tastier. And my point is that a few us also can make a huge difference. We can allow others to taste real living with the risen Christ. We can bring out the best flavours of humanity. We help people discover spiritual sustenance for good and bad days alike.
So how do we turn ourselves into a veritable salt cellar?
Well, that brings us to the next few lines from our lesson- that of being light. Since the odd thing about light is that it is invisible, we only see when it is reflected off or emitted by something. We too can use our Christian practice to reflect the unseen Holy Spirit. We too can emit the values of Jesus’ teaching on the Mount.
In simpler terms, our living should make Jesus visible to people no matter what direction they are looking.
Does that mean we go around telling out Jesus parables?
Does that mean we give our own testimony of the fruits of faith?
Do we reflect the essence of the law which Christ reinterpreted for the whole of humanity?
Since Jesus made clear he was not inventing a new religion. Quite the reverse, he was going to the roots of God’s law and make it live. Or, if you like, he was dusting off timeless regulations to make their spirit relevant for his changing times.
Here then is a message hugely important to us as working Christian today. For we have the Church’s theology, traditions and practices forged over centuries. Each has so much to offer beyond our doors. However, other aspects of them are past their sell-by date and are no longer palatable even healthy. Therefore, we need to reflect on what is essential and what is not; want is valuable and what is not; what is faith-affirming and what is faith hindering.
Nevertheless, that moniker of salt has a warning for us. No more so in this era of popular news, fake news and plainly daft news. For, Matthew warns us that if we lose our saltiness, the games a bogey. Now salt does not in itself lose its saltiness. Instead, it lessens its flavouring powers when it gets adulterated even contaminated.
That means we need to be careful what we chuck out just because doing so will win votes. It means truly determining God’s will in what needs the rust knock off it. It means deciding what are the red lines in our community and then defending them with our hearts and souls.
Will that mean we will always be popular?
Will that mean we may be the subjects of criticism or even worse?
Will it mean that we will be the salt, light and bearers of the law for living life in all its fullness.
Yes, yes and again I say yes!
For that is nature of witness since time immemorial.
With the death of the film star Kirk Douglas this week, we have had endless repeats of his scene from Spartacus. Well, another commentator recently related another scene of risky Christian witness. It took place in Stalinist Russia where literally millions were being shipped off to labour camps for no other reason than being alive in the Soviet Union.
Here is what he wrote:
You probably do not remember the name Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin. During his day he was as powerful a man as there was on earth. He took part in the Bolshevik Revolution 1917, was editor of the Soviet newspaper Pravda (which by the way means truth), and was a full member of the Politburo. His works on economics and political science are still read today. Well, there is a story told about a journey he took from Moscow to Kiev in 1930 to address a huge assembly on the subject of atheism. Addressing the crowd, he aimed his heavy artillery at Christianity hurling insult, argument, and proof against it.
An hour later he was finished. He looked out at what seemed to be the smouldering ashes of men’s faith. “Are there any questions?” Bukharin demanded. Deafening silence filled the auditorium, but then one brave man approached the platform and mounted the lectern standing near the communist leader. He surveyed the crowd first to the left then to the right. Finally, he shouted the ancient greeting known well in the Russian Orthodox Church: “CHRIST IS RISEN!” En masse the crowd arose as one man and the response came crashing like the sound of thunder: “HE IS RISEN INDEED!”
Well, today we are the salt of the Risen Christ. Let us then flavour this age with God’s laws of compassion, concern and justice. Let us reflect Christ’s light of his teaching, preaching and healing into the darkest places on this earth. Above all, let us have the courage to stand up for the laws of the coming Kingdom and have the valour to discard their gaudy but unimportant packaging. For as the Russians say – a feast without salt is spoiled.
Let us then flavour the feast of living with Jesus.