February 2020 Sermon – Salt and Light

Second Sunday of February 2020

The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

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 under foot. “You are the light of the world. 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. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:13-20

Theme: Importance of noticing and doing the small things.

A few years ago, I wrote someone a thank you note after I experienced an act of kindness from them. I don’t remember what it was, but it was a small act, but one that they could have chosen not to do. I was grateful and as a firm believer in the power of hand-written thank you notes, I sent a card. A few days later, the person was on my doorstep, thank you note in hand. She came to return the thank you card. Often, folks will tell me that I don’t need to write them thank you cards for gifts anymore, and I politely say that I probably still will, as it is important to me to practice gratitude whenever I get the chance. But this was a first that someone wanted to return the card. She told me that it was too kind and that I shouldn’t have written it. I was taken aback, and I remember apologizing and she quickly left my porch and walked away. I am often much better at responding hours later then in the moment and this was no exception. It was such a strange event that I have shared this story many times when talking about why teaching people to practice and receive gratitude is so important, and this story illuminates what Jesus is trying to tell the disciples in Matthew today.

We find Jesus speaking to the disciples about salt and light. He shares these metaphors so that the disciples will remember their role when they experience persecution. They must remain strong and firm in the truth they have learned from Jesus and continue to share that truth with others. In ancient times, salt was used to seal agreements, eaten as a sign of fidelity and used not only to season food but preserve it. This metaphor often makes me think about pickles, where salt is used for both flavor and preservation. In New York delis you can find sour and half sour pickles. The only difference is that the sour ones have been fully fermented in the brine while the half sour were removed earlier in the process. They are less salty, and in my opinion, bland. Jesus is warning us to not be half sour, but to be fully rooted in the experience and teachings of the Bible. Jesus is reminding us that the world is a better place when we live into our faith and share it with others. Our bonds are stronger, our world more colorful and all of us will be closer to the beloved community that God has envisioned for us. Being salt is costly, it means doing what we know is right even when it is unpopular.

Being light means knowing and understanding the darkness so that we can invite into becoming light. it means listening, being present and journeying with those things that we find problematic as we participate in its transformation.

I failed at being salt that day holding my returned thank you note. I missed the opportunity to shed light into the darkness of our world that tells us the small things aren’t important, that we aren’t important or worthy of recognition. The reason why thank you notes for very small kindnesses shared is important is became those kindnesses are the ones which can begin overcoming the darkness. It’s the small kindnesses that we share with each other that act as a contagion in our broken and hurting world. When someone gives a big donation, they expect to be recognized…some might even suggest that some people do big donations simply so they can be recognized…but when we do something without hope of recognition and someone notices, it usually means we are more likely to do it again. Salt and light affect everything in their path, big or small. So does kindness, love and gratitude. If we are wanting the world to be different, we do that important work each time we choose to live out our baptismal covenant but especially when we do that in spite of living in a world that often teaches that those things aren’t necessary.

Today, I encourage you to go out into the world and be salt and light. Notice the big things, but especially notice the small things. Celebrate them, give thanks, and encourage them so that the light and the saltiness will spread.

unsplash-logoJoanna Kosinska