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By Rev. Joan Kessler

Matthew 5:13-20

I begin this reflection today with an admission about myself: I love McDonald’s French fries. I love their salty goodness. When I was recovering from COVID back in October, the first day I was able to leave my house, I went to the McDonald’s drive-thru and ordered French fries. I had a deep craving and need for salt after being ill and I could think of nothing better, nothing more comforting or satisfying or rehydrating than an order of McDonald’s French fries. I know that too much salt contributes to high blood pressure and increases one’s risk for heart attack and stroke and that makes salt kind of bad. But it just tastes so good. Maybe you have a McDonald’s French fry story too. But my point is this, we need it. Too much is not good for us, but neither is too little. We take salt for granted today and would never consider it being in short supply or not immediately available. But this was not always the case.

Salt has been one of the most sought-after commodities in human history. Civilization built itself around salt deposits. Around 6000 BC, the practice of collecting salt water began and wars were fought over the control of this critical resource. The Egyptians were the first to utilize salt for the purposes of food preservation. Sodium dries and draws the moisture from food making it possible to store meat without refrigeration. It was used for medicinal purposes like disinfecting wounds, to check bleeding, to rehydrate, and to treat skin diseases. It was the currency Roman soldiers were paid in and hence the word “salary” is derived from salt. Dogs were domesticated by leaving salt outside of homes to entice the animals to leave the wild and come near. Food was salted to enhance flavor and to meld with other spices for a rich culinary experience.

Our modern-day usage of this crystalline mineral goes beyond food preparation and seasoning. We need salt to melt ice, soften our hard water, and hasten a boil. It soothes a sore throat, rinses sinuses, and cleans wounds. Salt stings and burns and irritates. Salt functions to regulate fluid in our blood cells; helps the small intestines absorb nutrients; it makes for healthy muscle structures in our bodies. Doing this research around salt this week brought me to an interesting conclusion and that is we need salt to live but we have to find it outside ourselves…despite how marvellously the human body has evolved, that which is necessary to life, salt, has to come from a source outside ourselves.

I think Jesus was on to this point also. This morning’s reading is dominated with the metaphors of salt and light. Following Jesus’ sharing of the beatitudes from last week, those words of blessing and inclusion, we hear him tell the crowd on the hillside, those who were the poor and the misfits, the grieving, the hungry that they were the salt of the earth. These ancient world listeners would have been shocked to be compared to such a valuable commodity like salt. Jesus told them they were precious and indispensable. Jesus didn’t tell them they would one day become salt…he told them they were salt! And I am here to remind us this morning that we are salt of the earth and light of a city on a hill. Jesus impresses upon us that we are not to hide away under fear of things that are oppressive but rather we are to live in community with compassion and care for one another.

But what if we didn’t see this need to share our salt and our light? What would our community look like? Just take a moment and imagine with me… We wouldn’t have a choir to sing beautiful and moving anthems to us; we wouldn’t have coffee and cookies after service; we wouldn’t have moving images to gaze upon or Zoom links to click on; a photo calendar to mark our days; flowers and shrubbery and green grass to enjoy; we wouldn’t hear different voices read scripture. If we just kept our salt and our lights to ourselves, we wouldn’t have a thrift store entering it’s sixth decade of service to our wider community. We wouldn’t have any visits or phone calls when we were sick or struggling with a bad day.

I looked at the reflection on this text I shared with you three years ago after newly arriving in your midst. In early February 2020, we were wondering then too about what made us salty and bright. We had Eat Play Love offerings, a child and family staff person, we ate together and we played together. When I arrived, you put on hold the crafting of your mission statement. And then COVID arrived and things changed; we’ve continued to change these past three years too. But we have not lost the desire to say “this is who we are” and “this is what we are here to do”.

Last week you heard me identify the need to recognize the diversity among us and build this as a foundation of our life together. This is what the church, the spiritual community of the future looks like; we are already living into this special identity, and it takes time and discussion and revisions to chart a map forward. We have two important meetings coming up; next week we will focus our attention on our budget for 2023, and then on March 5 we will consider our mission priorities for the next few years. We will balance these priorities out with our strengths and our challenges that we began to identify in our retreat with Kathy Davies. In my humble opinion as your minister, we need to resume eating together, playing together, laughing together, and weeping together. Because you are the salt of the earth my friends – it is in you to share, to enhance life together, to shine our lights to the wider community, at the Thrift Store, the Community Fridge, here on Sunday mornings as you bless and affirm one another. The time is right for us to settle on one or many priorities based on our capacity to live life bright and salty together.

The other important message of our reading for today is that Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Law but rather to fulfill it. The religious authorities of his day were making it impossible for people to live in respect to the law and still know love and grace. The law isn’t going anywhere Jesus tells them. But don’t let it oppress you to the point that you forget your inner virtues, the light that shines out of you; the care and concern you show one another and the effort you go to getting to know one another and share life together. This is God’s covenant: that we are the salt of the earth, the light of the world. God invests God’s creative and nurturing being through us. This is not a doctrinal statement. It’s a statement grounded in the Love and Compassion and Patience we embody created in Creator’s image. It will never change, or fall away, or loose its saltiness. It’s not possible.

Today we are reminded that we ARE worth our salt. That we have light to share, gifts to pull together to use for the betterment of our community. Salt and Light are critical to life, they are necessary, we cannot live without them. They cannot be hidden and stored away for a rainy day. May we share our saltiness and our light lavishly and extravagantly with one another, this day and always.


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