Thursday, August 11, 2016

11 August 2016
“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.”  Matthew 5:13 (NRSV)
“You shall not omit from your grain offerings the salt of the covenant with your God; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.” Leviticus 2:13 (NRSV)

            Good afternoon. We come now to Matthew 5:13-16; the salt and light passages. Today we consider what it means for us to be salt, tomorrow light, and Saturday we will see how and why our good works should glorify our Heavenly Father.
            Jesus was a master story teller, adept at making metaphors from common, everything things to make His point in ways his hearers could easily understand. Therefore, it is important for us to remember when and to whom Jesus was speaking; they would understand things a little differently than we do today. Take, for example, salt. Today we use salt primarily as a seasoning. When we need some we go to the store and buy it. Salt is also used as a preservative, although not nearly so much as in Jesus’ time. Salt also has healing properties. For example, dentists will recommend a salt water rinse for patients who have had teeth pulled. One element, three uses-seasoning, preserving, healing.
            Similarly, in Jesus’ time salt had the same three functions. But there was also a spiritual, symbolic side Jesus’ hearers would have understood. Salt was required in all offerings and sacrifices made to the LORD. To share salt with someone in a meal was to make a covenant of sorts; partaking of the hospitality and deriving sustenance from the host implied an obligation to look after and protect the host’s interests. The Levitical sacrifices were considered the meal of God and were shared among the one presenting the offering, the priest and God Himself. When Jesus told His listeners they were the salt of the earth, He was telling them they were responsible for looking after God’s interests. As stewards of the New Covenant, they-and we-would preserve Jesus’ teachings about the nature and character of God for generations to come. They would provide healing for the ravages of sin in a broken world.
            Salt in Jesus’ time was abundant but not always pure. The salt around the Dead Sea area tended to be, on the surface, impure and prone to chemical changes causing it to become bland-the salt that lost its flavor; looking good on the surface but impure and tasteless underneath. The warning would be against becoming one who looked good on the outside but without spiritual depth-useless; unable to demonstrate God’s saving presence or healing power.
            So what does this mean for us? Jesus will be revealing what life in the Kingdom looks like. Our task is the same as the original disciples-to learn His lessons well and pass them on; to preserve His teaching and model life with Him in His already present but not yet Kingdom. This will require a deliberate willingness on our part to allow God’s transforming grace to work in us; a decision to place ourselves before God, to be at His disposal; to consider what it means to represent His interests rather than ours; knowing He has had our interests at heart since before we were born.
            One more thing. To be seasoned with salt required rubbing-close contact. This of course implies close contact with God but it also means contact with others. Real, person to person contact. The next time you sit down to eat, consider what a covenant meal really means. If you are eating alone, you really aren’t-invite God to share your meal. If you are with others, invite Him anyway. Take some time to discuss the covenant nature of eating together. Either way, alone or with others, God greatly desires your company.

May the Lord bless you and keep you this day. JRG

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