At the end of one of the very first services I did in a congregation a few years back, I had the round face of a little fellow who was sitting in the last pew (also the one closest to the door) look up at me and ask the question, “Is this the end of the service?” To which I replied, “no, not the end of the service, but the beginning”
Serving Jesus, being in his service; it is a big challenge as well as a big gift. Jesus calls us salt and light and Jesus tells us that we are to go and be world changers for the sake of the kingdom. We have to recognize our true nature as Christian people in this modern society. We are not becoming slat and light, we are salt and light. Thus we need to go into the world to be these things. By implication then, if we do not go and be salt and light, we are the ones in danger of failing to be who we are and thus face having to be discarded, thrown out and trampled on. It is both an encouragement and also an imperative that we go into the world, not just to make disciples, but also to go and be the Church in the world.
What does that mean though, to be the Church in the world? How can we be salt and light, since that is what are? Well let’s consider salt for a moment. Salt in the ancient world was a symbol of purity. It was glistening white, and it came from the sun and the sea. It was considered to be one of the most pure substances on the face of the earth. For us as followers of Jesus then, we need to work at being pure. This means that we need to be willing to uphold moral standards and to be examples of holiness and purity in the communities in which we live. It is in fact how we in our own limited ways, fight the sin and corruption that we encounter in ourselves and in the world. We work at being unstained in this world as we move through it.
Moreover, salt acts a preservative. We know this in Newfoundland: salt meat, salt fish, and ribblets. Salt works in the foods we eat to preserve them until we can consume them. Salt holds decay at bay. If the Church is to be the Church in the world then we are called to be an influence towards purity and good action towards both God and neighbour. Being in the world helps others to be not only reminded of God’s presence but to help people be better people in the long run.
And since I mentioned one of the most important ingredients for Sunday Dinner, let’s take that analogy a bit further. Who would want Sunday Dinner cooked without some short of salt meat in with the vegetables and the pudding in the pot? While I don’t care for the salt meat directly, I do like the taste of the vegetables and puddings when they come out of the brine. The salt gives the meal its taste and to eat it any other way, would cause the flavour to be lost and the meal would taste bland. We need as the Church to rediscover the radiant joy, the fact that we are salt for that has not changed, so that we can have it in our liturgies and take it out into the world. There is no need for us to worship as if it is always a funeral. Nor should we speak like spectres, ghosts of Christmases past to try and get other people’s attention. We are called to bring holy joy, not just to worship but also to everyday life and everyday living so that the world might get a taste of the joy and the hope within us.
If we are not salt and light in this world then the Church are the ones on the way to disaster. We have denied who we really are and we are the ones who will be thrown out and trampled on by others because we have not live out our lives the way that God calls us to. We need to live the kind of life that is going to make others aware that there is a need for purity, there is a need for preservation and that we bring a holy joy; a joy meant not only for the moment but also for a lifetime.
Life outside the salt shaker is not an easy one. We are called to a better standard in terms of how we live and treat God, ourselves and others. It may take time to figure out how we live that kind of larger life and how to bring it to the places and space that we inhabit. But perhaps the greatest gift of all is the fact that we are never salt and light on our own. We are these things together in the working of God’s plan and Spirit. And that makes life in and out of the salt shaker worthwhile. God is here and we are with him. Leaving the salt shaker is not the end, but the beginning.