Scripture for this Sunday: Isaiah 58.1–9a; Psalm 112.1–9; 1 Corinthians 2.1–12; Matthew 5.13–20
Between Torrevieja and Alicante there are huge salt flats and large piles of salt waiting to be used for – what? Food and icy roads? In the ancient world, salt’s primary purpose was for preservation – to stop things going bad – with a lesser role in healing, which is also to stop things going bad.
Jesus spoke of salt, expressing in metaphor God’s vision for Israel, to stop the world going bad. In first century Palestine, salt came from large deposits near the Dead Sea, where there was also gypsum, which was like salt that had “lost its taste,” and was therefore useless.
Salt dissolves, and Jesus’ desire was for his followers to dissolve themselves in servant leadership. All too often humanity does not want to dissolve quite so readily – less like Sodium Chloride (very soluble) and more like Calcium Sulphate, or gypsum (not so soluble).
Jesus also spoke of light, reiterating the prophet’s call for Israel to be a light for the nations, words that Simeon repeated about the infant Jesus at his presentation in the temple. Jesus, through his words and way of life shows how to be such a light, living the words of Isaiah: to loose the bonds of injustice, to let the oppressed go free, to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, and to house the homeless.
That sounds a long way from rejecting the refugee. As Bishop David Hamid reminded us at Synod last week, many of the migration challenges facing the world can be traced to failure to follow this.
Fortunately, God can work with gypsum and flickering lights, working productively through flawed people. But Christ fully dissolved himself in servant leadership, offering his life on the cross. To follow him is to know the freedom of obedience to the author of the law, who calls us to a life lived for others, that our light may indeed shine and that we may be a part of the salt that prevents the world from going bad.