BIBLE READINGS: Isaiah 40: 1-5 Matthew 5:13–20
Once upon a time, (which means this is a fairy tale, a made up story from long ago, containing great truth) –
Once upon a time, there lived a rich man who had three daughters. He was a little insecure and needed some reassurance one day so he called each of his daughters into his counting house (where he counted all of his money, of course,) and asked each one of them, “Dearest daughter, how much do you love me.”
The first to visit his counting chamber was his oldest daughter and she replied, “O Father, I love you more than all the gold in the world.” The father knew that there was a great deal of gold in the world so he was happy with this answer and he gave her some gold coins to spend as she wished.
The second daughter came in and was asked the same question. She replied, “O dearest most loving and special Father, the best father ever, I love you more than all of the silver in the world.” And the father was pleased with this answer. He gave her some silver coins so she could order some new dresses which she had been wanting.
The third daughter came in and when she was asked the question she paused and then replied, “Father, I love you more than fresh meat loves salt.”
The father exploded in a rage and ordered that the daughter be thrown out of the great house and not allowed to return. The servants threw her out of the house with nothing but the clothes on her back and she was left to wander in the woods. She decided to disguise herself so she made clothing out of the rushes she found in the nearby swamp. She knocked on the back door or a large mansion, owned by one of her father’s friends, and asked the servant who answered the door for a job so that she could eat. She would not tell them her name so they called her “Cap O’Rushes” because of her clothing. She was given a job washing the pots and pans and keeping the house clean. She worked very hard and everyone liked her work, but she seldom spoke.
One day the servants were all abuzz because a great party was to be given. There was food to prepare, room to clean, silver to polish and lots of other things to do. Cap O’Rushes discovered that her own father was invited. She convinced the cook to let her prepare the meal for her own father, though of course they did not know he was her father.
She prepared all of his favourite dishes, but did not use any salt at all. (Remember, this was back when people used a lot of salt and well before blood pressure had been invented.) When the food was brought to him and he began to eat he was most unhappy with the meal and the host ordered the cook be brought to apologise to his guest. The cook brought Cap O’Rushes and explained that she had cooked the meal for this particular guest.
“What is the meaning of this”, he demanded. “You have embarrassed me. He says his food is bland and tasteless. Why have you done this to me and to him?”
She turned to her father and said simply, “I love you as much as fresh meat loves salt”. He father recognised her and wept in sorrow as he asked for her forgiveness. His other daughters had been nothing but a trial to him and were always wanting more and more fine clothes and jewellery and he realised that this daughter had really loved him a great deal.
In the ancient world salt was more valuable than we can really imagine. The expression, “not worth his salt” comes from Roman times, when salaries were paid in salt. In the early 20th century in India a tax on salt was one of the “sore points” which fed the independence movement. In the spring of 1930 there was a mass march to the coast and the marchers broke the law by making their own salt from seawater, thus saving the tax.
In our Gospel for today Jesus’ teaching is made up of a couple of a little odd and seemingly disconnected teachings. But we need to take the images in the context of the verses which follow and see that the command to be salt and light are a transition between the beatitudes and the teaching on righteousness. They all answer the question, “what are we as Christians to be doing in the world?”
When Matthew was writing his Gospel there was a lot of division about the purpose of faithfulness and the purpose of faith communities. The Gospel of Matthew remembers Jesus' words and sees them as guidance in a frightening and uncertain world.
Is faithfulness a private matter? Is the purpose of faith communities to be set apart from the world and to remain pure so that when the “day of the Lord” came, they would be found to be faithful, to be righteous. “Keep your nose clean by avoiding doing wrong” could be seen as their mantra. Their entire focus was on a future which would remove them from the trials of this life and prepare them for heaven.
Jesus teachings, on the other hand, were taken by some to be saying that the “reign of God”, the “day of the Lord” had already arrived and that their responsibility was to proclaim this to the world. So they were to show that the love of God, in Jesus gave flavour to life, just as salt is essential to flavour food. God’s love in Jesus lit their path through life, just as a light is put on a stand in a house and not hidden. It’s hard to see in the dark or with dim light - so don’t hide the light you have.
You are salt. You are light.
We are salt. We are light.
During WWII people in the United States had been ordered to hang blackout curtains on their windows so that any enemy bombers who might be overhead could not as easily see the cities and towns.Servants were making blackout curtains for the White House, and president Rosevelt imagining what the white house looked like from the sky, said that a few black curtains on the windows was going to do them so good at all. The White House, by its very architecture and nature, proclaimed itself. The church by its very nature; Christians buy our very nature are to be about giving light to those in darkness and flavour to the life of the world around them.
When we see injustice taking place, do we shine the light of God’s love, or do we keep quiet and hope there will not be too much hurt or that they will not turn on us.
Every time we take a stand for justice against hatred, intolerance and oppression, we are taking the basket off of our light and letting it shine.
We are called to make a difference. We live in a world that values power, profit before people and the concept that “might is right”; we as Christians are called to present a different point of view. We are called to shine the light of God’s love in Jesus into the dark corners of fear and to spread the salt of God’s love in a world where hatred and indifference to the needs of others seems to hold sway.
Let us shine and flavour the world with the salt and light of God.