Thursday 6 February 2014

You Are

Salt and light.  These are the images with which Jesus addresses the disciples near the beginning of the collection of sayings we know as The Sermon On The Mount.  "You are salt of the earth" and "the light of the world" (Matthew 5:13 and 14) are the familiar phrases we know so well.

Yes, you are.  What he said.  So what will you do with that?

Sure there's lots to explore about salt and light.  The scientist and/or historian could tell you how important salt and light are.  They're valuable and necessary to life.

But they're not much by themselves, are they?  Each needs to act on something to express its value.

Salt flavours.  It creates a variety of chemical reactions.  It's necessary for good health, it preserves, it melts ice.  It's used in water conditioning and manufacturing.  It was so valuable in the past that it was used as currency and wars were fought over it.

But too much isn't good in any way.  It can overpower other flavours rather than enhance them, it's damaging and destructive.

Light is "seen" in what it reveals.  Without anything to act on, refract through or reflect from, it, itself, is unseen.  In the right proportion, it overcomes darkness and shadow to show visually what is around us.

Too much light, though, overwhelms our sight and distorts images.  It can even be blinding.

But that's all stating the obvious that you already know.  And that's the power of the images to describe us.  We can flavour the world and bring zest to life, we can influence the world around us and create "chemical reactions" that produce amazing things.  We can also enlighten others, help to show them their path and inspire their journey.

We can also smother and overwhelm.  We can also distort and blind.

How will we find the right measure?

You are salt and light.  Jesus doesn't suggest that you could be.  You are.  What Jesus begins to teach in the words of his "sermon," and teach as a living example, is how we find the right measure in our lives, the wholeness of relationship.

There's two more images Jesus uses with these: "a city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house" (Matthew 5:14-15).  To me, both these images speak of community, of the power to create community in being salt and light to others.

Since John Winthrop in 1630, american politicians have used the ideal of the "city on a hill" for political gain.  But Winthrop's Puritan ideal was a community as a living example of Jesus' teaching, something all could look to.  That community is only built in relationship, the very relationship fed and nurtured by salt and light.  By you and me.

You are salt and light.  Jesus challenges to be who and what we are, and to encourage others to be and do the same.  Are you?