Salt & Light (Janet Taylor)

Jesus say that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world; like the disciples, we having grabbed hold of Christ, determined to follow, and Jesus is telling us who we are – we are salt and light – and he’s telling us what we are to do.[1]

We are the salt of the earth. It’s not that someday, in some perfect future, we will be salt. It’s now. It’s here. We are the salt. And it’s not just in our congregations. Not just for ourselves. We are the salt of the earth. That’s a big mission field. That’s why we support churches struggling in Africa, and inner city missions. We are salt for the whole earth.

In Ancient Israel, salt was an important preservative. It was a symbol of covenant[2] in Leviticus Chapter 2 when God tells the Hebrews “Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings.” It’s used to purify sacrifices in Exodus and Ezekiel. It’s used by orthodox Jews as part of the process for preparing meat under dietary laws to this day.[3]

Laying aside contemporary concerns about high blood pressure and salt intake, it’s the flavour of salt – it’s saltiness – that gives it identity and purpose.[4] Without the saltiness it really isn’t useful for anything.

Only one thing can make salt lose its saltiness, and that’s dilution.[5] If I put four tablespoons of salt into a glass of water and dissolve it, it becomes undrinkable. If I put three grains of salt in a glass of water, I won’t even know it’s there.

How do we, as Christians, dilute the Gospel, and in so doing, render ourselves flavourless? Doug Hare offers this warning: “Any church that adapts itself so completely to the (unchurched) world that it’s distinctive calling is forgotten has rendered itself useless.”[6] When do we fail to bring our zest to situations? Equally importantly, why? Jesus knew why, and he addresses it in his very next sentence.

Jesus goes on to say that we are the light of the world. What stops light? Solid objects. Bushels. Bowls. Walls. Barriers. Our unique flavour and zest, given to us by the Gospel, not only gets diluted – we hide it.

Just as Christ said we are salt, we are light, and again, the mission field is global. We shine in our small corners and Christ gives us a brightness in our daily interactions with others. Light. Science tells us that light moves the fastest of anything on earth, and even in a vacuum, it doesn’t dissipate….its waves and particles keep on traveling.[7]

Light is the energy which helps plants grow. It can be focused for specific uses.[8] It gives everything in the world colour. All the colours of the rainbow are contained within white light, which bounces off or is absorbed by different objects in specific ways. Then the human eye and brain together translate the bouncing light into colour.[9]

In this place, and definitely in this time, it might be tempting to dilute our saltiness or dim our light. Identifying as a Christian can be uncomfortable for us and for our congregations. It’s not easy to choose the way of light in the workplace. We risk judgement, or attack, or insult. It’s challenging to maintain our distinctive zest by being ethical consumers. When we shine light on injustice or pain or greed there can be backlash. That’s frightening.

And yet…. it is salt that stimulates thirst.[10] God will use our flavour and zest to stimulate thirst in those around us. “Where are these living waters that you speak of?” asked the Samaritan Woman, and was given Jesus Christ.

And it’s light that turns the seasons, changing trees from bare, vulnerable emptiness to vibrant and life-giving abundance. God will use our light to fill barren places with hope, and bring lost people home to him.

As we travel toward Advent, preparing for the coming of Jesus into the waiting world, may our proclamation be made through our saltiness and our light.

The Rev. Janet Taylor
Braeside Church, St Albert, Alberta

[1] Ronald Allen. Feasting on the Word.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Isaac Klein. A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice.

[4] Craddock, Fred et al. Preaching the New Common Lectionary.

[5] W. F. Albright & C. S. Mann. Anchor Bible Commentary – Matthew.

[6] Douglas Hare. Interpretation – Matthew. (I have replaced the word “secular” with the word “unchurched”


[8] Marcia Riggs. Feasting on the Word.


[10] Charles Cook. Feasting on the Word.