... Ecclesiastes 2:26 ...
Cast your bread upon the waters,
for you will find it after many days.

Epiphany 5 – Year A
Message February 07, 2014


When I was a little girl, I did a lot of wondering and pondering. I remember sitting and staring at that girl on the Morton’s Salt Box when my mother and grandmother were baking. The box was blue with the picture of a girl holding a yellow umbrella; she also carried a little Morton Salt box. Over the picture read the caption “When it rains it pours “ I could sit for a very long times, imagining that if I had a strong magnifying glass, I could see another little salt box on the one she was carrying, and another on that salt box and on and on forever. Millions of little bitty salt boxes. finally it may my eyes hurt and my head hurt.

I didn’t know then, but such an activity (pastime) could be called speculation. Something like the ancient conundrum “If angels are spiritual beings without height or weight, how many of them could dance on the head of a pin” Religion can be filled with speculation because so many truths cannot be proven. You can speculate, until your head hurts.

So we might speculate about what Jesus meant when he said, “You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world,” Such metaphors are perfect territory because Jesus doesn’t say exactly what he means, only that we are to BE salt and BE light.

You are the salt of the earth; You are the light of the world…..These words are part of Jesus “Sermon on the Mount” and follow the passage of scripture that we all know so well as the Beatitudes. (that David did not get to preach on last week). Jesus uses two metaphors of how disciples of the kingdom will be known to this world. They will be the “salt of the earth,” and they will be the “light of the world,” a light that will “shine before others.”

So what does all that mean?

We can begin with what we know about salt and light, for Jesus often uses common images to help us understand a deeper truth. Salt, before the days of high blood pressure, was thought to be essential to life. It was salt that preserved food and kept it from spoiling. Salt was traded by caravans just as people traded gems and gold. Nothing could take the place of salt; if it lost its saltiness, it was worthless.

We also know something about light: a dark room can be changed by lighting one candle. A frightened child can be soothed by a light in the hallway. We know what Jesus meant when he said that no one lights a lamp, then puts it under a bushel basket. We do not turn on the light switch to look at a light bulb instead; we turn on the light to see around the room. The light Jesus is talking about is not for its own sake: rather it helps us see something beyond the light.

Salt is something essential to life; light is something beyond itself. Now this is where serious speculation can begin. I wonder….

What does this mean for us today?

I wonder….How can we be the salt of the earth or the light that shines in the darkness.

Perhaps Isaiah gives us one answer. He is trying to get his people to see that something more is needed from them than mere ritual observance. Isaiah sees something very wrong in his society. It is not that people are irreligious, but that they want a pleasant and easy religion that gives them a comfortable relationship with God. However, God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, is asking not for religious ritual but rather --- to loose the bonds of injustice, to share bread with the hungry …to bring the homeless – the poor into our house.

It appears this passage is saying that the True religion of the God of Israel is justice and that our entire liturgy and all our meditation and all our Bible Study are only to forward and enable that holy purpose. Without justice, these activities of piety are only self serving. Isaiah is saying if we keep the true fast, the fast of justice. “Your light shall break forth like the dawn”

Then, in our gospel reading, we hear Jesus telling his followers, including us, that they are the light of the world.

Now I speculate if we have lost some of our saltiness and if our light has grown dimmer and whether or not we can take up the challenge to be the Light and Salt of the world and how do we do this? It is like a question I overheard asked after David’s sermon a couple of weeks ago. How do we fish for people”?

I believe that now in our society and in our church we are being called to search our hearts for the answers to these questions I believe we are now being called to prayerfully search scripture and together as a small faithful community come up with some of these answers.

Society is changing. Cultures are changing…and we tend to ring our hands and fret. We are hearing church-change is often necessary thrilling, grievous, inevitable, hard, promising. You name it.

We are hearing our Diocese/Deanery officials talk about restructuring. We hear the call to look at “How we do Ministry” “What is our Mission”

My problem is, I love it here. I love the people and the Bell, the Word and the sacrament, the politics (well maybe not) and the potlucks, the Book of Alternative Service and the Book of Common Prayer and even some of the committee meetings and I don’t want the church to die and sometimes I don’t want it to change.

But it is changing. However, even if it is dying as we know it, we are hearing today in scripture that we still need to love and serve the Lord our God to whom our dying churches point, however feebly. We need to loose the bonds of injustice. We need to figure out how to do this considering our demographics and our resources.

In our gospel today, Jesus is talking to the crowds on the hill. It is the community as a whole that Jesus is challenging to fulfill its mission of serving as salt and light for the whole world. Such a task cannot be accomplished by independent individuals. It is a task we must work at together. It is in the very dark and unhappy places that light and salt are intended for. In hospices, shelters and nursing homes among the dying, disabled, addicted, prisoners, and mentally ill and those like ourselves who are struggling with how to live a life which reflects God’s light.

We are not given the luxury of practicing our faith only in church and church event with those of like minds and situations in life. We are salt and light but there is a risk that we won’t make a bit of difference if we lose our salt and focus on ourselves too much.

We need to be a team helping and enabling each other – affirming (not criticizing) each other to shine in service to God in our little community in the world.

Salt sharpens flavours. Light sharpens both sight and insight. Jesus is calling would-be followers of the kingdom to sharpen lives by living on the sharp, the cutting edges, the places where new perspectives, new tastes, and new visions are embraced.

Light does not just banish darkness and illuminate corners and crevices. Light also works to provide a new perspective…

Let us come together ponder, speculate until our head hurts and figure our how to BE the salt of the earth and the BE light of the world in our little corner of the universe.