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Matthew 5: 13-16
13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
The gospel reading today is part of what is known as The sermon on the Mount.
The earlier section known as the Beatitudes or Blessed sayings are about The Kingdom and both form part of the teaching of Jesus to his followers. The section today is an aspect of that and the teaching Jesus gave to his disciples. It is specifically designed to encourage and to challenge them.
Like so much of Jesus' teaching when he used everyday occurrences, objects and situations, it is full of pictures and powerful imagery to enthuse and inspire them to live out their daily lives as witnesses to God.
Jesus uses everyday objects as metaphors for the witness of his disciples. Such objects tend to easily become anonymous, taken for granted. However they are all, at the same time, essential for well-being and the vitality of all.
Salt is one with which we all associate with the various habits and the superstitions relating to it. The importance of salt, it's scarcity and expense at one time, still invades our language today. For example - "He is worth his salt"
One which is no longer frequently heard well at least I hope not is - "He sits below the salt" one being of lower social standing or worth.
Salt frequently gets a bad press in modern society when related to one's diet or eating habits.
There is of course the famous example of bad press in Leonardo Da Vinci's painting of The Last Supper. If you look carefully you can see that Judas has knocked over the saltcellar and it is lying spilled on the table in front of his forearm.
So - thanks to Judas Iscariot spilled salt is associated with treachery and lies. So should you spill salt it is traditional that a pinch is thrown over your left shoulder, supposedly to blind the Devil waiting behind you.
Here is Matthew Jesus says that the disciples are called to be salt. a vital ingredient in any household at that time. For salt has two major characteristics. It preserves and it enhances the flavour. Preserving food at that time was vital for good health.
This does not necessarily mean "adding a little spice to the world" though I believe there is nothing wrong with this idea of itself, provided of course that my remark and this idea is taken "with a pinch of salt" - sorry I couldn't resist that!
So, the disciples are called to preserve and to enhance the goodness of the world, meaning that they are to be witnesses of the way in which God is at work in the world.
Then there is "The Light".
The disciples are also called to be a light, or rather, they ARE in fact - Light.
Last week the preacher, The Bishop of Lincoln, said of light and darkness that many things in life and situations that confront us are often neiether black nor white, but grey.
Things in life and decisions that face us might indeed be so, but here the disciples are told that they ARE Light.
We as Christians might face things and decisions that are not clear cut - greasy, but we are not to be that way, not to be dull and grey but in fact - to be light.
The disciples must ensure that they shine in the world and not cover themselves up or allow others to do so.
I believe this is pertinent in this day and age and at a time when there seems to be a reticence about being Christian, or talking of Christian values in a multifaith society such as ours.
The purpose of light in the room is to enable others to see. It would be ridiculous to light a lamp and then leave it totally covered up for the rest of the evening.
And the light shines not only for its own sake but to allow others to see. Thus the disciples were encouraged to let their light shine so that others may see it, be guided by it, give praise to the Father.
In St. John's Gospel, the light has a simple feel and purpose. It shines as a beacon, and moves on through the darkness.
In this simple but direct and down to earth way Jesus stresses the need for his disciples to be witnesses.
They are not irrelevant to and in the world. They are essential and vital to the world, as indeed is both light, and salt.
The light must shine:
The Christian life is and always should be a visible one.
The Church too, like a light should be set upon the hill to be shining in the darkness, speaking out if and when that is what is needed.
So as we hear the words of the gospel today, may we continue to preserve, to enhance, and to illuminate the glorious nature of God in our time and in our own way, as we are continually strengthened by God so to do.