You wouldn't want to live without salt or light.

"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor,
how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be
thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill
cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under
a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are
in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they
may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

                                                                  Matthew 5:13-16 NKJV

                                                 Salt and Light

I woke up this morning, knowing I messed up badly yesterday. It was
a running-around day with my husband. But I had my mind on writing
this page and would rather have been at the computer typing away.
Which means I wasn't much living the present moment; I was
somewhere else. And it showed. When we stopped at the library
where my husband wanted to read the newspaper, my anger exploded
inside of me. Why did I have to waste my valuable time while he
checked out what was happening in the world! My gosh, it was a library--
wouldn't you think I could find something worthy of my attention!

But no, I was impatient and wanting to get on with the day's agenda.
Just get it done so I could go home. I wanted to write about being
the salt of the earth and the light of the world! Isn't that ironic,
even laughable! Such a disconnect.

Are you talking to me, Jesus? Telling me about salt and light?
I've just been through an awful day where I bungled my selfish way
along, bringing more discomfort to the people around me than
anything of a positive nature. When we retired for the night, we
were in the same bed but we were many miles apart.

Regrets. What are we to do with them? If I could just go back to
yesterday and start over and get it right this time. As I was waking up
this morning, I was glad to have new day, another 24 hours, in which
to attempt some damage control and try to make up for the waste
of yesterday. I need to learn again and again the lesson of living in
the present moment. I have learned and relearned a million times to
value and appreciate the people or person I am with at the moment.
And still I forget.

When I got home from work today, I pulled out my cell phone and
called him. "Honey, I'm out in the driveway. Just called because I like
to talk to you over the phone. . . . Love you. I'm coming in."

Salt seems a simple thing. You can't see the salt in the soup, but you
know when it is absent. The salt Jesus talked about was used to
preserve meat and other foods, to clean wounds and prevent infection,
and to add flavor and zest to meals. It probably came from the Dead Sea,
and was easily contaminated with clay and grit. Over time it became
diluted to the point of not being effective. Then it was thrown out the
window and into the street. Good, pure salt was a treasure that was
hidden away, covered and protected.

Workers were often paid in salt. Our word "salary" comes from the
Latin salarium, which literally means "salt-money." You wouldn't
want to be known as a person "not worth their salt."

Today we've found another use for salt. It melts ice and prevents
injuries. We know too that excessive sweating causes the body to
lose salt. Hence the Gatorade to restore the balance. Salt is useful,
helpful and necessary. It makes the earth livable.

Light is also most appreciated when it is absent. We take the
daylight for granted, and turn on the electric lights at dusk. Only when
the power fails and we find ourselves in total darkness, do we realize
the importance of light. Light is the difference between safety and
harm, confidence and fear, life and death. Light is useful, helpful
and necessary. You could not live without it.

Dirty salt and concealed light; both are useless, they help no one.
Salt does no good if it sits unused in its container, just as light serves
no benefit under a basket. Purity gives salt its potential, but it must be
applied in order to achieve its purpose. For objects of illumination,
it's the placement of the light which allows it to shine brightly with
maximum effect.

Let your light so shine, Jesus said, so that others will see some
goodness in the world and God in heaven will be praised. The word
for "good" which describes works, is kalos. It means attractive,
beautiful, lovely. A good, steady light will shine from the lamppost
so everyone can see the kind and gracious hand of God.

The people Jesus spoke to were mostly poor, their country occupied
by Rome. With these images Jesus showed them how valuable and
necessary they were to him and to the world. You who hear my
words. You who really listen. You who believe and put into practice
what I am telling you. No matter where you are in life. No matter
how much money or how little you have in your pocket. You are
the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.

With these words Jesus lifted them up and out of life as they knew it.
He took them from their zone of protection and stirred them into
the stew. He lit their lamp and placed them on a lamppost. No room
for feelings of inferior status, such as being trampled underfoot and
suffocated by restrictions. Jesus gave them a new name. This is
who you are--salt and light to the world.

Images of good salt and unrestrained light gave those disciples a
sense of purpose, and a mission to fulfill. Individually they would fail
many times; collectively they would triumph. It is the same for us.
We are his disciples now, and the images remain unchanged--
into the mix of the soup pot, up high on the light post, maybe even
a lighthouse. . . . 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.


Icebreaker: Share a brief story about someone you consider to be
                   the salt of the earth.

Describe a time when you had to go without salt or light.
            What can you learn from that experience which would help you
                        understand what it means to be salt and light for God?

Salt and light are both very common images. What are some practical
and specific ways that we can be like salt or light?
            How can we express our faith in a manner which is
                        helpful to others?
            What do you do to make the world a better place?
            Are there negative uses of salt and light which we should avoid?

Later on in this Sermon on the Mount we read that Jesus faulted
religious people for appearing pious in public and repetitiously
performing rituals.
            How is that kind of piety different from being a light to the world?

If you think you won't be appreciated until you are gone, don't worry.
It's not about you anyway. It's about bringing honor and glory to God.
            What does it mean to you to be honored and praised
                        for doing good?
            How do our good works translate into praise and recognition
                        for God?

How do you feel about the quality of your salt?
            What is it that makes a person pure and effective?
            How do you prevent the build-up of grit and dust?
Think about the "Out of the shaker and into the stew" scenario.
            Are you eager or hesitant for such an adventure?

Is your light steady and shining where needed?
            How far does it reach?
Jesus expanded our horizons when he said the salt of the earth
                        and light of the world.
            What do you think he meant by earth and world?

Where do you have the most success with being salt and light?
            Home, workplace, school, church, community,
                        around the globe?

Are you proud to be a child of God?
            If you don't like the word proud, what other word
                        would you substitute?
            Under what circumstances do you talk about your
                        relationship with God?
            When do you hold your tongue and remain silent?
                        Is that hiding your light? Being wise? Or what?

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