May 10, 2015 Rev. Dawn Hyde

Salt and Light

Scripture: Matthew 5:13-16

Jesus says,
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Sermon

On Instagram, Madison Holleran’s life looked ideal:
Star athlete,
bright student,
beloved friend.

But these photos hid the reality of someone struggling to go on.

Madison was a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania when she chose to end her life.

She had always been a high achiever – succeeding in school and in sports. Her family and high school community were used to seeing her name in the newspaper – a beautiful photo with stats of how many goals she had scored or track awards she took.

To the outside world, it appeared that she could do no wrong. She succeeded in everything that she did.

But on the inside, she was crumbling to pieces.

On January 17, the last day of her life, her dad called her and asked if she had found a therapist at school. She said, “Not yet.” As her biggest supporter and close father, he knew she struggled with perfectionism and finding happiness in herself. He was proud, but worried, too.

When news spread of Madison’s death, her family, friends and sports community rallied together – wishing they could breathe her back to life, to somehow communicate to her that they loved her simply for being Madison, not because of her achievements, or looks, or success.

In reflection on the disconnect Madison experienced between her online image and her inside one, five of Madison’s friends decided together that they would begin to share their unfiltered lives online.

“Intentionally, they peeled away the filters (literally and metaphorically) from their social media accounts to disclose their true feelings during shared moments in their lives.”
 Source – (http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/12833146/instagram-account-university-pennsylvania-runner-showed-only-part-story)

They use the hashtag #LifeUnfiltered with the message – “It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to let people know that you’re not ok.”

#LifeUnfiltered is an invitation to be more real in the image we portray online.

It’s an invitation to be vulnerable with our insecurities, failures and fears and find support in others.

It’s an invitation to find peace in who we really are instead of the image we feel like we have to create to fit in…

John Steinbeck once said, “and now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”

Now that you don’t have to be perfect…

You can be good…

You can be who God intended you to be.

* * *

Today’s scripture passage is so important because Jesus tells us who are to be. He gives us our identity.

Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth.”

“You are the light of the world.”

What does he mean?

You are the salt of the earth.

I’m going to pass around salt and I invite you take a piece. Hold it in your hand. Consider it.

…..Salt is a catalyst for change.

We use salt to enhance or change the flavor of our food. We put it on all sorts of things – vegetables, fruits, meats, chocolates. And the salt changes the flavor of the food.

I invite you to put the piece of salt in your mouth. Feel it dissolve. Taste how it changes the flavor of your mouth.

Consider the change one granule of salt has on your mouth.
The change is noticeable. It fills your whole mouth!

Salt is an important resource to us.

We use salt to preserve foods.
It creates a hostile environment for certain microorganisms, keeping them from spoiling our food.

We also use salt to change the substance of our food.
—-My favorite example is the use of rock salt to create ice cream.

Salt also has played an important role in our history by being a sort of currency.  The word “salary” was derived from the Latin term “salarium” which was the name for a soldier’s pay in the army of ancient Rome. The pay included a large ration of salt, which was a spice of high value and also a medium for exchange; thus the origin of such expressions as “salt of the earth” and “worth your salt.” 
Source – http://www.food.com/about/salt-359

So what is Jesus trying to tell us by saying WE ARE the salt of the earth?

(long pause)

He’s saying that we are good. (pause)

Theologian Dietrich Boenhoeffer points out:

Jesus doesn’t tell us that we WILL be salt or that we CAN be salt.

But that we ARE salt. Right now, in your very being: “You are the salt of the earth.”

Jesus is telling us that we are good. Simply because we are of God. We are created by God… we have all the goodness we need to change the world around us.

Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth” and he’s saying that you are worth something. You’re worth a lot!  To God, to yourself, to the world.

Not by anything that you are doing or becoming, but because of who you are.

* * *

Jesus says, You are the light of the world.

Again, we are a catalyst for change. Light changes things. Makes them better.

If we think of a completely dark room, and then one candle lit….we are aware of just how much change one flame can have.

Light gives us vision. It allows us to see things that we otherwise could not see.
It gives things color.

Light is also a kind of energy.
Light allows vegetation to grow.
Light can be captured as solar power for electricity.

Light is an energy, a power, a catalyst for change and growth.

Later in the gospel of John Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.” Christ’s life and ministry among us brought us out of darkness and into a path of light. The light that provides warmth and direction and comfort.

So the fact that Jesus is including US in this identity is significant. Jesus is the light of the world. And we, too, are the light of the world. We, as disciples of Christ, have the light of Christ within us…. a light that can change the world.

* * *

These identities sound pretty good….

They are given to us as our identity in Christ and we don’t have to DO anything to be them.

But… there is something at risk.

Jesus goes on and says that we can LOSE our saltiness. If we lose sight of who we are.

If we put our light under a bowl instead of on a stand… our light will go out.

If we lose our identity –

not only are WE no longer good, but we no longer have the ability to add flavor and light to the world around us.



* * *


Jesus is making an important point for us that we have to accept our identity as salt, as light, so that our lives and discipleship will benefit the world around us.

We have to accept our identity, our goodness, and through it allow God to create change through us. 

We are the catalyst, God is the movement. It seems straightforward, but the implications are huge.

When we truly claim our identity in Christ… Salt. Light. We can not hide who we are. We cannot seek to become something other than ourselves.

Like Madison, the star athlete, successful student – we have to find our identity and our worth in our being. In our one identity as people of God and NOT in the identities uplifted by our culture. Not in other people’s perception of us or of who we should be or of who we think we need to become.

Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth.”

So, be the salt of the earth. Be good.

Be the light of the world. Don’t hide true self, but bring that to the forefront… to your online image… so that Christ’s light may shine through you.


* * *


There’s a classic movie, often played around Christmas time, called It’s a Wonderful Life

In it, there’s a main character George Bailey, a business man who has given up his dreams time and time again to help others. On Christmas Eve, George learns that a deal has turned sour and that there will be a warrant out for his arrest. In despair, he considers the worth of his life. 

An angel in the form of a man named Clarence distracts him by drowning in the river. George saves him and Clarence takes the opportunity to show him the impact his life has had on particular people and his town.  He shows George what life would be like for the town and all the people George loves had he not been born.

His brother, his uncle, his wife, the poor in his town – all would have had negative experiences, had it not been for the one life of George Bailey. The one light of George Bailey.

The movie puts into perspective for us what really matters. It’s not the exquisite dreams of stardom and fame. It’s not the perfect life portrayed in instagram feeds.

It’s the goodness we share in our very existence. The light Christ shines through us simply in our being.

* * *

The challenge of discipleship today is getting back to our identity. Pushing away the expectations of the world, of other people, of ourselves…. to find the expectation of Christ.

To accept and simply live our identity.

To BE THE salt of the earth.
The Light of the world.

This identity will shape our daily lives and relationships.

And our light will shine. Our light will allow others to see the good deeds of God. Our light will give glory to God.

So, let your light shine. Stay salty. Allow the goodness God created in you to change the world.

Amen.