Saturday, 5 February 2011

Sunday February 6th

Salt & Light
There is a word used in my native Yorkshire which I still use quite a lot, as I have never found a satisfactory equivalent. The word is ‘sloughed’ – it has a sense of disappointment, of being down of feeling crushed and despondent. I wonder if it has its roots in John Bunyan ‘Slough of despond’. Even if you don’t use the word, you know the feeling. Sloughed.
It’s a word which could easily be applied to many churches in our country at the present time. We’re not what we were – there are too many other options for things to do on a Sunday, there are too many people who think churches are just for weddings, baptisms and funerals (& maybe Christmas) and can’t see why you want to go at other times. Even a former President of the Methodist Conference has said “we used to be someone, once”. How can we keep our spirits up – how can we make an impact on the world around us?
Jesus says to his followers “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.”
Not you could be.. or even you should be.. you ARE.

‘But if salt loses its saltiness… but if the light is placed under the bushel basket.’
Is Jesus warning them that they need to keep themselves ready and able to salt and light – as salty & light-y as possible? Is Jesus warning them that they could lose their edge as disciples, that they could get sloughed? No, I don’t think so, I think Jesus is trying to underline that his followers already are the salt and the light this world needs.

We’re used to Jesus’ little joke about the camel & the eye of the needle, and some of you might have heard me say before that the parables are full of the ridiculous and the cartoon. I think here’s another example.

‘You are the salt of the earth – but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?’.
Here’s a bag of salt from my cupboard. It’s moved house with me at least twice – possibly three times – it must be 7 years old – possibly more. And…it’s still salty. I have never thrown away salt because it’s not salty anymore – it just doesn’t happen. It’s ridiculous to say ‘if salt has lost its taste…’ and I think that’s the point Jesus is making. His followers are the salt of the earth and nothing can take away that saltiness. In fact, of course we add salt to enhance the taste of things which might otherwise be bland, and far from going off itself, salt stops other things from going bad. You are salt & will always be.

‘You are the light of the world…No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket’. Because not only would you not be able to see the light – you would probably set your basket on fire. Ridiculous.

So you ARE salt & light.
Don’t believe me? – or not sure what it means, or feel that it’s a bit ‘un British’ to blow your own trumpet? Here are some real life examples…

Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday (Feb. 3), President Barak Obama explained that his daily prayers centre around three themes - petitions for strength, humility, and a desire to walk closer with God. He said
"The challenge I find then is to balance this uncertainty, this humility, with the need to fight for deeply held convictions, to be open to other points of view, but firm in our core principles. I pray for this wisdom every day. I pray that God will show me and all of us the limits of our understanding and open our ears and our hearts to our brothers and sisters with different points of view."

I’ve also been asking friends on Facebook to let me have their examples of being salt & light:

One wrote ‘When I was at Uni in the 80's I didn't want to hang about with the CU as they weren’t my kind of people. I was a sweary, beery, sarcastic student who was also warm and caring, I'd like to think! I went to church on a Sunday (occasionally in the first two years and regularly in the final one). On our Graduation day loads of parents told mine how glad they were that we were friends and what a good example I had set. To be honest I was a bit disgusted at the time as I had tried my best not to be singled out as different but actually I think that by not being part of the CU I was able to be more of a "normal" Christian and possibly even a tad salty!’

Another told me about her daughter “When she was in Year 1 at school, Zoe was learning about light sources as a science topic. They'd had homework where they were to look round the house and draw light sources that they see, so she'd drawn light bulbs, the television, clocks, oven light, 'fridge, candles, etc.
When we went to parents' evening, her teacher said she loved Zoe's ability to think "outside the box". They'd been discussing the light sources they'd found at home in class, when Zoe put her hand up and said "Jesus is my light source".”

Another mum wrote “K carried the candle into the candlemass assembly on Wednesday and with all her classmates was the light of the world for that day! Proud mummy tears but also recognition that they all really understood the message of Jesus as the light....a touching moment.”

Finally, one friend told me of a young woman standing up in front of a whole youth conference which was debating who should be welcomed by the church – one young man said he doubted that they should welcome single mothers. She strongly made an impassioned case for being welcoming – as she is a single mother. But the real ‘light’ moment came when she was able to thank everyone for their contribution to the weekend – even those with views which hurt her.

This same friend pointed out that it was easier to think of examples of others being salt & light than to claim it for yourself.

So here’s the challenge – hear Jesus saying ‘You are the light and the salt of the world – and ask yourself how you can bring life an dlight and joy to everyone you meet this week.

To the glory of God. Amen.

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