category: Musings, Sermon Starter

Salt… Salt… and more Salt…

By Rachael Keefe

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth.” He wasn’t kidding or exaggerating or trying to make his disciples feel better. Salt that has been ruined and can’t be used any longer is only good for trampling under foot. I’m wondering if this isn’t exactly what has happened to …

Salt… Salt… and more Salt…

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth.” He wasn’t kidding or exaggerating or trying to make his disciples feel better. Salt that has been ruined and can’t be used any longer is only good for trampling under foot. I’m wondering if this isn’t exactly what has happened to the moderate to progressive branches of the church. Over the years, we have lost our saltiness. As we have rejected the doctrine and dogma of our more conservative siblings, we have failed to claim our saltiness. We have, in effect, allowed ourselves to be trampled nearly to death.

When I was fourteen, I stopped adding salt to foods. For decades I did not add salt to anything (except French fries). I didn’t cook with it or bake with it. The same blue canister of iodized salt sat on my pantry shelf for years. My reasons for not adding salt began with an eating disorder and an irrational fear that eating salt would make me gain weight. The behavior continued because I didn’t think about it; avoiding adding salt had become a habit. However, I had to change that habit a couple of years ago.

After a lifetime of health challenges I was diagnosed with POTS/Dysautonomia. I had to make several changes in my daily routine to help mitigate symptoms. One of the adjustments was a high sodium diet. All of a sudden I was adding salt to everything which unexpectedly made me crave more. Where once I had a lonely canister of unused salt in my cabinet, I now have several kinds of salt – flavors, textures, mixes – just so I can keep a higher level of sodium in my body. I never knew just how important salt could be.

Jesus knew the importance of salt. He knew it was needed for flavoring, for preserving, for healing. He knew how connected salt was to the Covenant God made with people of God. Salt was precious, necessary, and good. Everyone knew that. However, I’m betting the disciples were a bit surprised when Jesus told them they were salt. They weren’t to become salt. They didn’t have to cultivate or harvest anything to be the salt the world needed; they were salt. In that moment, they were salt. Wherever they went, they would be salt. Whatever they did, they would be salt. They were precious, necessary, and good. And they had work to do – enhancing the flavor of life with hope and grace, preserving relationships with forgiveness and mercy, and healing the broken and wounded places. Salt is vital for survival.

Now would be an excellent time to reclaim our saltiness. If ever there was a time when the world could use something life-giving and life-sustaining, it’s now. The Mainline church isn’t ordinary table salt and it shouldn’t be road salt either. Even though these things have their usefulness, if we’re going to be the salt of the earth in this present age, we need to pack in all the nutrients we can manage.

Let’s be pink Himalayan salt that surprises people with the minerals of advocacy and justice. Not all Christians are out there demanding an end to legal abortions. Not all Christians are out there crying for end LGBTQ+ rights. Not all Christians are out there upholding the racist criminal justice system.

Maybe you’d rather be applewood smoked sea salt. It has a punch that shows up unexpectedly, deepening the flavor of a dish. What if we showed up in those unexpected places asking for gun reform or healthcare reform or increasing minimum wage or fair housing? Would the conversation change with a compassionate Christian presence?

My personal favorite is salt infused with habanero peppers. It’s all about the saltiness and then comes the flavor-changing heat. This is a salt that can’t be ignored or overlooked. I’d like to be this kind of salt in the world. What if the church could bring this kind of power to it’s justice work? What if we could be all about life-changing presence? You know, feeding those who are hungry, liberating those who are oppressed, healing those who are sick… the kind of things that Jesus did. This would be some serious saltiness that would mitigate the flavor of hopelessness and despair that permeates the world.

It’s time we stop being afraid of the gifts we have been given. We have remained on the pantry shelf (or trampled underfoot) for far too long. What will happen if more of us publicly display the fact that we are the salt of the earth, we are the Body of Christ, we are the hope and healing of the world? What will happen if we trust what we have been given and follow Jesus? Maybe the world will start to crave more… Salt is precious, necessary, and good. Salt is vital for life. We are salt. The church is salt. Maybe we can live as if we believe this is true…

RCL – Year A – Fifth Sunday after Epiphany – February 9, 2020
Isaiah 58:1-9a, (9b-12)
Psalm 112:1-9 (10)
1 Corinthians 2:1-12, (13-16)
Matthew 5:13-20

Photo: CC0image by Susanne Jutzeler

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About Rachael Keefe

Rachael is an author, a pastor, a teacher, and a poet. Her latest book (The Lifesaving Church - Chalice Press) is on faith and suicide prevention. She is currently the pastor of Living Table UCC in Minneapolis, and has launched a spiritual direction practice.

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