Matthew 5:13-16 “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.“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.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.In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
My Dear Students,
You are precious to me, and I am so thankful for all that we have learned about God together. You have been attentive and have participated well in your learning. Your questions have helped me grow as your teacher. Christian education is discipleship and discipleship does not end with a graduation. Discipleship is ongoing.
As you embark on this new endeavor, this new opportunity, all that you do, will be used toward remaking the world. That is the task of a disciple of Jesus Christ. Though your study, your work, may not at all be religious, you are on a path that both will serve to preserve as well as expose new ways of thinking in our world. Thus, you will be both salt and light as Jesus teaches in the fifth chapter of Matthew.
Salt makes food taste good. You are the salt of the earth, you have the capability to do good on earth. Whatever you contribute to this world can make a positive impact for our society, culture and environment. Our best work may be something we did that we don’t even know about, something we offered to impact another’s life that did not cost us anything it all, it happened simply because of who we are. That is when God’s grace truly becomes real. Often we don’t recognize those who help us to grow until years later. One woman who was salt in my life at an early age, was Mrs. Goddard. She was the music director at the church in town, and she knew our family. I think she saw us four little girls as a gold mine for her choir. So every week, she would pick us up for choir practice. On Sunday’s during church, I remember that the priest would have the children whose birthday it was come forward for a blessing, It must have been about my sixth birthday and I was in awe, fearful of the holiness of God, and too nervous to approach the priest, to get that close to the altar, the holy space for God. Mrs. Goddard sensed my pounding heart and she held my hand all the way through that blessing. Today, the hymns that I know by heart are the hymns she taught me as a child. One in particular is “Jesus Calls Us”… little did I know and little did she know the impact she was making on my life. You see, God uses people to make His grace real. People who are salty, bring flavor to our lives.
Salt also makes us thirsty. If the only thing you can find in your heart is a desire to know God, that is enough. It is the intent of your heart that will lead you to further knowledge of Christ. There are two ways to acquire knowledge of God, one is through study. Read the scriptures, all the scriptures, read the church fathers, read from Christians like Martin Luther King, Jr. Study with a small group, to bring further perspective. You will find others who are as thirsty as you are. The second way to acquire knowledge of God is to simply practice your faith; pray, worship, offer your service to others, these practices turn your knowledge into experience. Experiencing God’s love and grace happens with increasing awareness the more we step out in faith to do the difficult, yes, if it is easy, we tend to rely on our own abilities to perform, but when it is difficult, we have to rely on our faith in God, remember that and don’t be afraid to practice faith. Practice often, yolk together with other Christians, and practice together.
I want you to be aware that salt, can fail to do what it is intended to do, it can be useless. Not everything you learn will be useful, and some of what you do, will also be cast aside. Apathy and anger are both ways that salt looses its ability to be useful. There is a way to retain salt in your life, always measure what you do by the love you offer others. Love is the single most power that redeems the world. Love is not always saying yes, saying no can also protect and preserve life. Discernment is done through prayer, asking God for direction and inviting the Holy Spirit into your heart will guide your most challenging faithful responses. When you find the rich place of saltiness in your life, you will have found love and it will preserve, protect and promote life for you and others. On every exam you take, remember that love is always the right answer.
Everything you build that will last, that which is eternal, is built on love. When things come tumbling down, they only fall to the level where love is exposed. Always look for love in the brokenness of your life. When your relationships fail, do not be dismayed, for there are riches found in forgiveness and especially taking care to be forgiving of your own mistakes. Later on, rich opportunities will come your way to be the forgiving presence for someone who has not yet experienced that blessing. Saltiness is revealed as we grow spiritually and personally, we change and we persevere, increasing our saltiness.
Jesus also said, “You are the light of the world.” There will be a public dimension to your life, thus do not put your light under a bushel. Your lamp will light up the hill for others. Our Christianity should be visible to everyone, visible to your new professors, visible to the checkout at the grocery store, visible to the child on the playground, visible to your employers, visible in the way we park our car, or in the language we use at a ball game. Jesus did not say you are the light of the church, he said, “You are the light of the world.” Archbishop William Temple is famous for saying, “The church is the only institution on earth that exists for those who are not its members.”
A light is a guide, like the lighthouse that guides ships into shore, your light guides others to solid ground. Discipleship is not a secret, privatized act but leads us to public ministry that reaches and includes others. Good works are the light that point beyond themselves toward God. Putting your light on the lampstand lights the whole house. The scriptures say, we the church are the light on the hill, we light the whole city!
Consider the things that we rely on light for today. Plants and trees grow because of sunlight. We now have solar panels that can transform light to electricity. Small beams of light, lasers can be used for healing. In the same way, disciples of Christ are beams of God’s light sent to bring vitality and energy toward life, to offer growth and understanding, and bring healing works that glorify God.
On those days when it seems like there is a lot of darkness, remember that Jesus said in the gospel of John, 9:5 “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Look towards the light and you will find Christ. Yes, like the early disciples, whatever work you are called to will at times put you in places where others will revile and persecute you. Unlike the salt that loses its capacity to season food, your light cannot be hidden. The darkness can never overcome the light. Understand that. Darkness can never overcome your light. Sometimes we are to go to places of darkness to bear light. Author Annie Dillard writes, “ You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary.“
The best part of what your faith will do as you move out into the world is engage you in the wonderful mysteries of God, how every ending is a new beginning, how the last things become the first things. You will find that your greatest weakness becomes strength. You will receive through giving. You will be most free when you are bound in service to others. You gain your life through losing it. You will find the eternal spring not outside of yourself but deep within, where God will refresh your life, and give you life each day and in every circumstance. Remember that in the heart pounding moments of your life, you are not alone. God is with you shining light to lead your way. Neither salt, not light are given for your own personal enjoyment, they are to be carried into the world, go and be salt and light for others.
I will remember you in my prayers, even better, Christ who is sitting at the right hand of our heavenly Father is interceding for us all. Go forth in faith and in love, for you are blessed to be a blessing in this world.
Signed, your pastor, friend and sister in Christ. Amen.
 Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk, Expeditions and Encounters, (New York: Harper Perennial, 1992) 43.