Has anyone ever told you that you are a pile of manure? Did it ever occur to you that according to Jesus they might be right?
Jesus said, You are the light of the WORLD, something we should find flattering, because Jesus also refers to himself as the Light of the World.
But what are we to make of Jesus calling us salt of the EARTH – not salt of the world mind you, but salt of the earth. The translation is from the Greek Words tes ges, of the earth. The word for earth here literally means soil. Jesus opens this week’s gospel by saying we are salt for the soil.
From many pulpits all over the world this coming Sunday, I’m certain congregations will be hearing sermons about salt’s primary use in the First Century as a preservative and as a symbol of purity. Here’s an excerpt from a popular sermon website on one of their sermons for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany:
In Jesus’ day, salt was often connected with purity. The Romans believed that salt was the purest of all things. As salt of the earth, we can help prevent spoiling and corruption wherever we find it. As followers of Jesus, we are committed to preserving Christian principles that keep ourselves and others from going bad.
What is it they say? Just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true.
Does the rest of Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of God sound at all like an admonition for us to go out and become the Sodium Benzoate of the earth? In a Kingdom that is most often described by metaphors of seeds sprouting, fig trees blooming and leaven rising, do we really feel called to out into the world to help to keep things the way they are?
Do you feel called to go into the world and preserve things, to keep them as they are, to perpetuate the status quo? Jesus didn’t say you are the salt of the meatloaf, he said you are the salt of the earth.
Given Jesus’ thorough blasting of the burdensome purity laws of the First Century do we really feel called to go out as icons of purity into an impure world? I suspect not.
But what if what Jesus really said was, You are the ‘Miracle Grow’ for the earth. Go forth into this rising, sprouting, blossoming Kingdom of God, and feed and nurture God’s people until they rise tall, and bloom and blossom right where they stand. You can do that by sprinkling around just a little bit of the salt of the earth such as simple gestures of love that help others to believe in their worth and in their worthiness.
The fact of the matter is, Miracle Grow has never improved the quality of a single ounce of soil without first opening the bag. Church is where ordinary fertilizer becomes Miracle Grow, and then we go forth to love and serve the Lord, by sharing our saltiness with others. Church just might be, for Christians anyway, where the bag gets opened.
A little boy and his mother were sitting in the front pew of a large Presbyterian Church. They were looking straight up at the preacher who was in one of those large wrought iron pulpits that had bars and nearly resembled a cage. The Preacher was preaching with great excitement, and was very animate and loud.
With a bit of trembling and fear in his voice, the little boy leaned over to his mom and whispered, What will he do if he ever gets out of there?
Being salt and fertilizing the now post-post-modern cultural barrenness, means getting deep beneath the hard-baked surface and causing significant movement. We have to stop preaching for a moment and go out into the world and start fertilizing!
We are in good company. In the Book of Genesis we are told that God knelt down and toiled in the soil in order to fashion you and me. Being Miracle Grow for the Kingdom of God goes back a long way.
But are we ready to turn in our stained glass image of the church for one more earthy? Are we really ready to consider the honored place which the church has been called to inhabit, namely on top of the compost pile?
Some years back there was a sign that used to hang in a locker room that read, Cause Something to Happen. It even has its own website that can be found at causesomethingtohappen.com. My prayer for each person who calls themselves a Christian, in fact no matter what they call themselves, is that they might have the courage to become the Salt of the Earth, the Miracle Grow for others; to know that our gracious God is always in the garden with us; to have the courage to spread thin and to sink in, and to cause the Kingdom to rise, sprout, blossom and grow so that our Gentle God might finally rule.
YOU are the salt of the earth!
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