Sermon – February 9, 2014
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin
Fifth Sunday After Epiphany
Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world. Matthew 5:13, 14
Please be Seated.
In 2012, you know I studied in the Holy Land. The course was offered by St. George’s College, based in Jerusalem. It was called the Palestine of Jesus. One of the extra trips was a Saturday visit to Masada and the Dead Sea. We were given many instructions the day before. We were told not to shave or we’d be very uncomfortable. We were told to be careful if we had any cuts on our bodies. Pouring salt into a wound is not a comfortable experience, is it?
It was a really hot day, about 110 degrees. Masada is built on a rock plateau in the Judean desert, not the coolest place to be in the heat. I love the water, but wasn’t sure the Dead Sea would be all that refreshing. I thought with all of that heat, it might be like swimming in the Gulf of Mexico in the middle of summer – more like a warm bath. What an experience, though. You simply cannot sink in the Dead sea. In fact, once you are on your back, you almost cannot stand up! That was the hardest thing…standing up after I was on my back.
Salt or Sodium Chloride or NaCl (my daughter the chemistry teacher would be so proud) is an amazing thing. First of all, it has been used by humans for thousands of years. There is one salt mine in Austria that has been in use for 7,000 years. Salt was an early preservative. It draws out water so bacteria cannot grow. It can be used medicinally. In cooking, salt can bring out the flavor of the ingredients and it also mixes in perfectly, dissolving in the liquid. We’ve used plenty of salt this winter to melt ice. And our bodies absolutely must have sodium, which we get from salt, so our hearts beat and our brains work, and our muscles relax.
Pure salt does not lose its flavor, but in Jesus’ time, salt was less pure. The salt would sometimes leach out or dissolve, so what was left had no salt in it. It was then thrown outside on the streets. That’s what Jesus is referring to.
So, we are the salt of the world. We, as Christians are the salt of the world. When we are our best Christian selves, we bring spice and flavor. We bring a different way of living and seeing the world that is essential for survival. Imagine a world without forgiveness, reconciliation and love. Just like the dead sea, the salt known as the Christian community keeps us afloat, even when we don’t know how to swim.
The salt of Christianity…of following Christ… allows us to live. It enhances who we are. Notice what I said, it enhances who we are… it brings out our flavors.
We are so used to looking at what we’ve done wrong. Most of us can list many imperfections, but fall short in listing just as many strengths for ourselves. Unfortunately, most of our evaluation systems are based on the flawed methods of pointing out what we did incorrectly, pointing out our mistakes, rather than building on what we do especially well.
In 1982, researchers at the University of Wisconsin were studying how people learn to improve. They videotaped two bowling teams over several games. Later the members of the teams reviewed their videos in an effort to learn how to improve their performance. Unknown to the team members, the videos had been edited differently. One team saw a video showing everything they did wrong. The other team saw a video highlighting everything they did well. Now both teams improved their bowling scores. But the team that was shown what they did well…where their strengths were… improved twice as much as the team that only saw what they did wrong.
So how does this relate to us being salt? We all are salt to the world just the way we are. Are we perfect? No. Our imperfections are why we need Christ and why we need each other. But God uses the best of us as salt to the world. This morning I ask, how are you salt to the world? What is wonderful in you that adds flavor to the world? What is strong in you that the world cannot do without? Maybe it is your organization. Maybe it is your follow through. Maybe it is your viewpoint. Maybe it is your reliability. Maybe it is your compassion. Maybe it is your sense that we are all loved by God. Take a moment and consider… what are your strengths and your gifts. They are salt to the world….
“You are the light of the world,” Jesus says. What you bring to the world…those same strengths…bring light. You, as a Christian, bring a new way of looking at the world. Look at our Book of Common Prayer. The prayers tell you a lot about the light we bring. Pages 159-261 are filled with prayers, not only for each Sunday of the year, but also for many issues and occasions…for the sick and for social service, for the nation and for the church, for daily work and for peace. Every Sunday we pray for those who govern. Now, it doesn’t say we have to like or agree with those who govern, but we pray for them. We pray that they follow God’s Will and God’s voice and govern with justice.
Our baptismal covenant, the agreement we make with God and each other, on pages 304 and 305, affirms the light we bring to the world. We “continue in the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread and in the prayers.” We “persevere in resisting evil,” and when we can’t resist evil, we “repent and return to the Lord.” We “proclaim by word and example the good News of God in Christ.” We seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving [our] neighbors as [ourselves].” We “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”
What would our world be like without the light we bring? What would the world be like? Can you imagine no forgiveness? Can you imagine no way to return to God? Can you imagine no love, no fellowship, no chance of redemption?
Think about how you live out your Baptismal covenant, bringing light to the world.
We are the salt of the world. We are the light of the world. We do our best…. We build upon the gifts and talents God has given us. We are humble, because we know we are not perfect. We are like the beauty of the moon, which reflects the light of the sun. We are the salt absolutely necessary for life…for heart, for brain. We season and light this community. We season and light this world.