I have to be honest, I have a hard time relating to this morning’s portion from the Sermon on the Mount. Growing up, my paternal grandmother taught the evils of salt. Salt was the enemy and caused hardening of the arteries. At Sunday dinners, when we would gather at the table, my grandmother would reinforce the evils of salt by announcing how she did not cook with salt and so if the food tasted bland, there was salt on the table. ” But remember,” she would say, “salt causes hardening of the arteries and it would be better if we all learned to live without it.”
If my grandmother was not enough to convince me salt was the enemy of life, right around my fortieth birthday, I developed high blood pressure, which as we know can be caused by too much salt in one’s diet. So my doctor sent me to a nutritionist, who put me on a low salt diet. So when Jesus tells his followers they are “the salt of the earth,” in my mind, he may as well be telling them they are the death squad of God.
In ancient times however, salt was not the enemy of life, it was actually the opposite. According to historians, it was only after humanity learned how to use salt as a preservative for food that civilization as we know it was able to form. By the time of the Roman Empire, salt was so valuable, it was used as a form currency. It is actually believed Roman soldiers were paid in salt wages. (A good soldier was considered “worth his salt”). In the Old Testament, God commands Israel to pour salt over their sacrifices, because salt was not only used to preserve food, it it was used purify it as well.
So when Jesus tells us, his followers, we are the salt of the Earth, he is offering highest praise, and telling us how valuable we are to him and to his divine mission.
But, he goes on to tell us, if we have lost our saltiness, or flavor, as valuable as we were, we become valueless.
In essence, what Jesus conveys in this early part of the sermon is, as his followers, each of us has an essential role in bringing about the reign of God. However, if we are not passionate, if we are not enthusiastic about the reign of God, we are useless to Christ.
Christ’s mission, Christ’s primary focus throughout his ministry was to proclaim that the Kingdom is at hand and those he called to follow him, like you and me, were called to be part of this mission.
A few weeks back, I told a group how the hope of personal salvation may get many in the door for a while, it is,however, our ongoing work towards the kingdom that gives us the reason to stay for a life time. This is what keeps the Gospel alive and relevant. Our belief that this world can be so much better than it is allows the Christian message to transcend time and space. It is our expectation of the world to come that gives us, as the Church, a sense of direction, and more importantly, a purpose that will carry us until the end of time.
As I look at the Church today, I believe our biggest enemy is apathy, the lack of passion for who we are and for what we can accomplish in the name of Christ. I also believe apathy is the greatest challenge we as a congregation face as well. It seems despite all the good we do in the name of Christ, as a congregation, we do not appreciate the impact we are making within our own community.
I realize it is hard to be passionate when church membership in general continues to drop, when we continue to see our young families leave the area, when it feels as if Central New York will never emerge from its ongoing economic difficulties.
Despite all these challenges, we, as a congregation, have not lost our flavor. We are still important and valuable, if not more important and more valuable to this community than ever before. I am not sure this is something we, as a community, fully appreciate and celebrate.
The good news is. . .others do. Just speak with Marie Cullen, the Director of the St. Charles’ Food Pantry. She can’t speak highly enough of what St. Luke’s is doing for her organization. Just ask her and she will tell you how she knows she can count on St. Luke’s to help restock her shelves when supplies are low. She will tell you about the wonderful volunteers who deliver our food to her and help make the lives of many who live in our area a little easier.
Or speak to Sue Matheson, the President of the Board of Directors for Echo Meals on Wheels. At their last board meeting two weeks ago, she could not say enough about the efforts of our Outreach Committee, how we are continually seeking new and exciting ways to help care for our elderly neighbors and the financial generosity they have received from our community. What made her words more meaningful, it was not until Sue saw me at the end of the table that she made the connection between me and St. Luke’s.
Yes, we are the salt of earth, and we have not lost our flavor but I am not sure if our light shines fully in this community. Beyond Marie Cullen, the people of St. Charles’ Pantry, and beyond the Board of Directors for Meals on Wheels, does our light reach the rest of the community?
Often times when I am asked which church is St. Luke’s, people identify us as the “A” frame shaped building across from Friendlys. I would love to see the day, when St. Luke’s is not just known for its building, but for the generous heart we have as well.
Each and every one of us has the opportunity to help increase how we are known in this community. Five weeks ago, our wardens announced that our major fund raiser this year is a raffle. They asked the each family to sell a minimum of ten tickets with a goal of selling a total of 1000 tickets. If we meet this goal, we could raise $10,000, this would more than meet the financial challenges we face this year.
But we are not planning on keeping all the money, despite our fiscal situation, half of our proceeds will go to Meals on Wheels. Why, because Meals on Wheels is our primary outlet for outreach, and our partnered agency. And, because we trust God will provide in abundance.
The financial advantage is but one benefit of the raffle. The greater benefit of selling raffle tickets, is how it will allows us to let our light shine throughout the community. Think about it, every time we approach someone to buy a ticket, someone new now knows about St. Luke’s, the work we do in the community and, they now have a face connected with this congregation. Every time someone is approached to buy a raffle ticket, a new opportunity for evangelism is created; a new opportunity to tell someone how you are part of a community that believes this world can be so much better than it is and as a people of God, how we seek ways to help make this happen right here in Camillus.
Yes, we are the salt of the earth, we still have flavor and a light to shine. So let’s go and shine our light all over Camillus. . .and beyond.