You are salt and light. You, a child of God, are salt to season the world around you and light to illuminate life. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not. You are.
Not just because I say so. Jesus says so, right near the beginning of what we’ve called the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt. 5-7).
I’ve heard many people say that a good preacher always begins a sermon with a funny joke. It gets people’s attention and breaks the ice. Assuming it’s actually funny, I guess. Or understandable or relevant.
Jesus doesn’t. The Sermon on the Mount begins with Jesus telling people they’re blessed. And he names them, all the people who society or tradition or culture or religion – especially religion – might say are anything but blessed, Jesus says yes, you are. You are blessed by God.
What’s more, you are salt and light.
Now, I know what the biblical scholar in you might be thinking: but Robin, the Sermon on the Mount is really just a collection of sayings and teachings that the gospel writer most likely assembled into this format for convenience. We, then, called it a “sermon,” not Jesus.
Okay, but that’s just the point. It’s not just Jesus who knows to prioritize. This is about the Jesus in us. This is an epiphany moment for us.
We’re used to hearing Jesus described as light – the Light of the World – and other things like the Bread of Life, the Good Shepherd, the True Vine, the Way, the Truth and the Life, all thanks to the Gospel of John. But here’s Jesus in Matthew, telling us that we are salt and light. We’re the ones to connect with the world in an elemental, even essential, way.
And, just like being blessed, you already are salt and light. You don’t need to change or work at becoming salt and light, you already are. It’s already in us to be, we simply have to live it out. This is the sharing part of our blessedness, the elemental way in which we live the blessing we are into the world.
And what a way to describe it. Salt was far more valuable in the ancient world than it is today and yet it’s still important now. When used effectively for its purpose, which is to act on other things, especially to bring out their flavour, to add zest and liveliness by acting with other things.
Likewise light, when used effectively for its purpose, illuminates things. It lights the path, enlightens our minds, banishes shadow and darkness and warms our hearts.
We don’t have to become these things, Jesus says, we already are them. But. We have to claim them. We have to be willing to embrace our blessedness and engage ourselves and the world around us in living it out as salt and light.
This is the pivotal moment of the “sermon.” All the teachings that follow – and they form many of the core ethical teachings of Jesus – are built on this: you are blessed, you are salt and light. Jesus didn’t start with “I’m going to teach you how to be blessed” and then keep reminding us that if we just do this and this and this, we’ll get that blessing. No. You are blessed. You are salt and light. Go and share your blessing with others, go and bring zest to life and shine on the world around you.