On Sunday February 9th our deacon David Hunt led worship at Wesley Chapel. We began worship by singing, ‘Be thou my vision’. David explained that he was going to do a sermon in 2 parts so he could concentrate on the themes of Salt and Light from the Beatitudes, Matthew 5v13-20. 1Corinthians 2v1-12 was read too after the opening prayers. We sang ‘May the mind of Christ my Saviour’, before David began the first part of the sermon.
It was the challenge of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus had withdrawn to teach his disciples only, not the large crowds who usually followed him. David had a lit candle on the altar to symbolise light and some table salt. He couldn’t find any hymn on the theme of salt but plenty with the theme of light. Jesus called his disciples to be salt and light. He instructed the disciples and it was recorded for future generations of followers of Jesus and it still applies to us today. Jesus does not say you will be salt but you are salt. We are the community who follow Jesus and we are salt and light. What do salt and light mean? What kind of Christian influence do these images suggest? We are to make a difference to society.
Salt had many uses at that time and in that hot climate. It was used to preserve meat and for healing illnesses as it cleansed wounds or inflammation. A mixture of salt and sugar was given to children when they had sickness and diarrhoea to prevent dehydration. It was also used as a disinfectant, as it killed bacteria. Salt also flavoured food. As it was so precious a commodity it was even used for offering to God. Those disciples who first heard that they were salt would have known its properties. Salt is essential for the very existence of life. Our Christian influence on society is essential as we can bring different perspectives and against injustice and moral decay. Healing and renewal will be found.
How can salt lose its saltiness, is that even possible? In our experience nowadays we stockpile salt for preventing icy roads and it doesn’t go off. In the time of Jesus salt was gathered from the edge of the Dead Sea and was mixed with sand and dirt. Salt was used for toilet cleansing, when it was shovelled and sprinkled; but it would dissolve in rain and lose its saltiness and therefore its disinfecting property for cleansing the toilet area. If moral values are contaminated by society, when justice is no longer sought; salt has lost its saltiness. It is important to stay connected to Jesus so that we do not water down his teaching and forget to stand up for the vulnerable. Salt needs to be used so it is not good leaving it on the table. We need to be in the midst of society bringing healing and support and not withdraw and be unseen, but be visible standing up for justice.
Then we sang ‘The spirit lives to see us free walk, walk in the light; he binds us all in unity, walk, walk in the light.’ In his second talk he reminded us of how in Jesus’ time they only had candles or oil lamps and those lights were crucially important and brought light into their darkness. Jesus in John’s gospel described himself as the light of the world. Jesus here was telling his disciples that they are the light. The first words of creation was ‘let there be light’ or life would not exist. There were dark places and still are dark places in the world. The people who walked in darkness were those who did not have any knowledge of God. We are to be shining examples in the world as we bring light into wherever we live, work, in our community. If each of us projects the light of Jesus wherever we are, just think of how many can be influenced and grow to understand peace and justice.
Jesus is being humorous when he describes hiding the light, as the purpose of light is to shine in the darkness. If we live in the light of Jesus we should not hide it, but shine his light into the world. Many people have been salt and light in the community for years but can no longer do it; David urged them not to feel regret as the salt and light has been given out. Jesus was not only talking to the disciples at that time but to the church of the future to shine its light out to the world. Let us shine out in the world as Christians to share our God encountered love; and may Wesley Centre bring light and salt to our world. We then sang ‘Longing for light we wait in darkness’ before the intercessions. Our service concluded when we sang, ‘The Spirit lives to set us free.’