St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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Epiphany 5 2011 Sermon
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Rev. Joyce Avery

When Jesus left the crowd around him, he went up the mountain, his disciples soon followed him, and Jesus began teaching them.  Last Sunday he taught them the Beatitudes, so now he begins a discussion using imagery about the importance of salt and light and how believers, in a symbolic way, are much like both.

Believers are the salt of the earth and also believers are the light of the world.  Being the salt of the earth is not an easy way of describing oneself.  Salt is used so many different ways.  We all need it in our bodies, for our food, and as a preservative.  Salt was even used sometimes to cure a toothache.  A little bit of salt placed in a tooth cavity would often eliminate the pain.  Again, all the meat sacrifices in the Old Testament required salt.  If salt lost it's flavor it was thrown out and trampled on the ground.

In Bible Study a couple weeks ago, salt came up in our discussion and John told a story about a minister sitting next to a man on the airplane.  The minister introduced himself to the man.  The man answered back and said he didn't believe in God.  The minister asked him if he could describe the flavor of salt?  Well, he said he knew; it wasn't sweet or sour but … The minister said, "then how do you describe God?"  The man was really in a fix then; he couldn't come up with an answer for that either.

Salt, also known as table salt or rock salt, is a mineral that is composed primarily of sodium chloride.  It is essential for life, and sometimes you can have health problems if you take in too much.  Salt was a pricey commodity in the early days.  John even mentioned that when he was in Italy, which was several years ago, it was against the law to grow tobacco and to make or refine your own salt.

I can remember when Lee was still working for Weyerhaeuser, he was sent back to North Carolina to work in the mill there while they were on strike. When he flew in it was late and where he was to stay, there was a small restaurant.  He went in for a bite to eat, and the waitress asked him what he wanted.  He said, “how about ham and eggs.” She wanted to know if he wanted cured ham or country ham.  Lee didn't know the difference then, so he said country ham, and dark toast, whole grain bread. When he got his food, he had ham that was so salty he couldn't eat it, and his dark toast was burnt!!!!  So much for not knowing what kind of ham or toast they serve.  He also got some grits to go with the rest of his meal.

Did you know that there are 25 passages in the Old Testament on salt.  The one in Genesis 19:26 is the passage where two of God's Angels came to Lot one evening and told Lot, his wife & daughters to leave early the next morning as they had been sent by God to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.  "When you leave", the angels told them, "do not look back at the destruction of the city."  Lot's wife did and was turned into a pillar of salt.  I probably would have done the same thing out of curiosity.

I guess when the Lord said that we were the salt of the earth, we didn't realize how important we were in God's eyes. That is, if we did what was expected of us to flavor and season our way of life and also to be a shining light to the ones who need help, care, friendship, or just going by the Divine recipe of "being and doing."  By following Jesus, we flavor the world with Love.  God said that, “we are also the light of the world."

Today's Gospel lesson focuses on light and salt.  In today's passage, it describes how we as Christians are to live our lives out in the world.  Not as we are gathered here in this time, as a worshiping group.  Not the way we gather in our living rooms, around kitchen tables and etc.  God has invited us to go out into the world and be disciples in our workplace, schools, neighborhoods, in our circle of friends.  Sometimes out in the world, it is often dark out there, where it is not so godly. That is where evil things are done in the world.  

Christians are to be the light of Christ.  When you look up and see a beautiful blue sky and bright sunshine, you see the light as a symbol of hope and renewable guidance in the world. Our lives are to be an inspiration to the lives of others around us.  Our lives are to be like a beacon that shows people the way.  Our lives are to be like a lighthouse, guiding other people's lives through storms and turmoil.  We are to be the light of Christ in the world.

In Matthew 5:14-16 the Lord says, "You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden, neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bushel basket.  Instead they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."

Can you just imagine the light shining through and around Mother Teresa?  She must have had a halo or aura of light around her.  She was the perfect saint to help anyone in need or anyone that was a lost soul.  It would be wonderful just to be somewhat like her.  I know that God would be greatly pleased if we could emulate her.  There are many out there that are doing missionary work, that their light also shines on the unchurched people and lost souls in the wilderness.  You could also say that they are the salt of the earth when sharing God's love to those around them.  

God has a plan for us, and it is up to us to carry it out.  In God's eyes, we are the light and salt of the world.  Are we able to live up to God's plan?   Amen 


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