[Jesus said:] "You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.
[Matthew 5:13 NRSV]
We are in the season of Epiphany, which is traditionally known as the season of light. In our reading from the Gospel according to Matthew for this coming Sunday, the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Jesus presents a different image when he calls his disciples, "
the salt of the earth."
I used the following illustration in a sermon I preached several years ago, when this reading last came up in the lectionary: Greek aristocrats had a custom of buying their slaves with salt. If the slave did not meet the purchaser's expectation, that slave "was not worth his salt." From which we get the expression, "He is not worth his salt."
The next time you're at a social gathering and want to impress others with your vast knowledge of useless trivia, dazzle them with this little nugget: Salt was a vital element in the Roman imperial economy. Roman soldiers were paid in salt rations-hence the word "salary."
You are the salt of the earth. You are a valuable commodity. You are of precious worth in the eyes of God.
But in his book,
THE COURAGE TO LOVE, Dr. William Sloane Coffin, shares, "God's love does not seek value; it creates it. It's not because we have value that God loves us - it is because God loves us that we have real value at all."
Out of that relationship of love and grace, and because you and I are the salt of the earth, Jesus calls us to
BE salt - to do good works, salting the earth. Salt has a powerful influence. Salt is a great preservative for things like ham. Road crews use salt to melt snow off the highways and provide for safe travels for motorists. Salt seasons, salt heals, salt preserves. The world needs us, in particular, the most vulnerable: the poor, the starving, the homeless, the prisoner, the immigrant, the refugee, and those suffering wars. It needs to see that we are-in fact-all related and that our relationship is one of peace, of God's righteousness and God's love.
I look forward to visiting with the good, salty people of Martin Luther Lutheran Church in Youngstown this coming Sunday, February 5.
May God bless you and preserve you in the coming week.
+Bishop Abraham Allende