Sermon: Sunday February 5, 2023 Fifth Sunday after the
Lessons: Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12)
Psalm 112:1-9 (10)
1 Corinthians 2:1-12 (13-16)
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Song from Godspell: (with the light use a flashlight; with
salt use a container of salt.)
You are the light of the world. You are the light of the
world. But if that light is under a bushel, it’s lost something
kind of crucial. You’ve got to stay bright to be the light of
You are the salt of the earth. You are the salt of the earth.
But if that salt has lost its flavor it ain’t got much in its
favor. You can’t have that fault and be the salt of the earth.
(End song) That song is from Godspell, my favorite musical
from when I was a teenager. That shows you how old I am!
Now, if you recognized that song, I am not saying anything
about how old you are!
Now, while we consider salt to have an extremely stable
shelf life, and that it can’t really lose it flavor, or saltiness,
or taste, did you know that during the time of Jesus salt
could lose its flavor? Salt in ancient times wasn’t pure like it
is today, because of the methods of production in ancient
times. It would have been rock salt or salt from the sea, and
it was likely mixed with other minerals and things, so it
would not have been pure. The salt could lose its flavor due
to humidity, or when it was infrequently used, or not used at
Salt was often used in religious ceremonies throughout the
ancient world. The ancients saw it as a way to purify and
transform. We also know that besides adding flavor to food,
salt was used as a method for its preservation. Salt is
essential for the lives of both humans and animals, so it was
quite valuable before and during the time of Jesus. Salt was
used as a type of currency. Our modern word salary comes
from the use of salt in this way. The history of salt is
fascinating, and those who first heard Matthew’s Gospel
would have implicitly understood the value of salt and its
many important uses.
Similarly, those who first heard Matthew’s Gospel would
have understood the importance of light. Light would
disperse the darkness. Light would keep the wild animals at
bay. Light, via fire, would cook food. Light would show the
path that one was to take at night with a torch or oil lamp.
Light would help to keep the thieves away. Light was
essential, and we can perhaps understand the importance of
light a bit more than the fuss about the importance of salt
that is emphasized in today’s Gospel.
Indeed, how can we forget the great freeze of a couple of
winters ago when the lights were out for days? Have the
lights gone out when you were in the middle of something,
and you had to scramble for a flashlight or candles and
matches? Or has the flashlight ever gone out when having to
change a tire at night? We have a sense of desperation at
best, or a sense of panic at worst. People’s lives can be
jeopardized when the lights go out.
Today’s Gospel lesson from Matthew is a continuation of
the Sermon on the Mount from last week. The Sermon on
the Mount goes on for a couple of more chapters in
Matthew, and even though it does not contain the familiar
blessed sayings we have come to know, Jesus is still
teaching us. Jesus continues His teaching by moving us from
what may seem like He is only talking on the individual
level in the blessings to a focus on community and who and
how we are to be in the world.
So, how are we the light of the world? Light is reflected.
Our way of being and acting is a reflection of the Light of
Christ in us to the world. How are we to act as the light of
the world? Today’s Psalm 112 gives us an indication of
what that means. We are to be gracious, merciful, and
righteous. We are to deal generously with others and
conduct our affairs with justice.
While generosity with money is very important, it doesn’t
just mean doling out money like it is candy to others.
Generosity of spirit also comes to mind. Instead of yelling at
that driver who cuts us off at the last minute in the passing
lane, or grumbling about the person who beats us the
parking space, or complaining about the crabby person at the
bank who is be hind us, we give them the benefit of the
doubt. Perhaps we can find out through a dialogue, then or at
a later date, what difficult situation might be behind how
that person acted. Perhaps, in some small way we can help
alleviate that with a kind word or gesture.
(Talk about growing up in a family owned business.) My
sister taught this lesson many years ago concerning
generosity of spirit. She waited on a particularly difficult
customer and was extremely kind to the woman. I asked her
how she could be so nice. It was obvious that it just wasn’t
good customer service. She said something like, “do you
know what difficulties that person may be experiencing in
their life? Give them a break.” She said it just like that, and
she was scolding me. That lesson has staying power. While
we may be far from perfect in practicing it, this attitude is a
reflection of the light that Jesus talks about, and the spirit of
the generosity that Psalm 112 talks about.
Light also has a way of seeping into unexpected places,
where it is present and available to all, like God, like Jesus,
like the Holy Spirit. That is something for us to keep in mind
as we ponder today’s Gospel.
But let’s not forget salt and its importance! Salt adds flavor,
vitality, and transformation to food. Salt is necessary for our
well-being. We, as followers of Jesus Christ, show our
transformation in Christ to the world by being the salt of the
earth. We, the salt of the earth, are part of God’s loving plan
for its transformation, for what Jesus came to preach, the
Kingdom of God.
And how are we the salt of the earth? Do we use our
saltiness frequently so we don’t lose our flavor as Jesus’
followers, or do we use our saltiness infrequently or not at
all? Recently, my husband and I made tamales for
Christmas. I put all of the ingredients into the masa or the
dough, but I forgot to put the salt into the masa. The filling
was great! It was really tasty, except the masa was flat, and
if I had just put the salt in, the salt would have transformed
the dough. What were ho hum tamales would have been
great, even exceptional tamales with just a little bit of salt!
If salt transforms, how do we, as followers of Jesus show
that transformation to the world? Can we ever be too salty?
Why or why not?
Yes, we are the salt of the earth. (show salt container) Let’s
not have that salt lose its flavor! Let’s use it. Yes, we are the
light of the world. (Shine flashlight) Let’s not hide that
under a bushel. But as we shine and transform, How do we
reveal by word and example the Good News of God in