Thursday, 6 February 2014

A healthy pinch of salt

The 5th Sunday after Epiphany
Year A                      
Matthew 5:13-20

As with many of the parables and pronouncements of Jesus he takes something well-known and gives it a twist.  That salt and light are necessary and good is the truism in this Sunday's passage from Matthew's Gospel.  Of course this is the case:  Without a healthy pinch of salt all the flavours in the dish are understressed and hidden.  Without light the colours and contours of the room are hidden and one would be excused for having missed them entirely.  The absence of salt and light keeps the world hidden and unremarkable.

The twist in this passage is Jesus' claim that his newly gathered band of followers is that salt and light for the world.  In Luke and Mark, as here in Matthew, the Sermon describing the blessedness of his followers and their vocation in the world appears almost immediately following the call of the disciples - when they bear very little with them to the hillside.  They were fishermen or householders once - once upon a time they were far more implanted in structures of human community than they are now.   Now they are (merely) followers - part of the first community Jesus has built around himself.  Here in Matthew's version the followers' effect on the world is described using the dual metaphors of salt and light.

Moses abandoned his father-in-law' sheep to see why a bush was burning on the hillside.  The prophet Amos turned away from the cultivation of figs.  David was summoned from the back forty.  The great turns in Salvation history are usually applications of human freedom at the impulse of God's word.  As proud as we may be of having held to a steady course for the sake of our families and our treasured networks it will be those curious and sometimes costly about-turns which we find to be necessary or right or which we feel called to undertake in the midst of life which will give our life's story it's ultimate sense.  Our example of discipleship (and not just rigorous consistency) points the world to the value which must be discovered like a treasure in a field and not merely chipped from a quarry.  Our children could be concerned - let them be concerned!  Our abandoned co-workers might well cock their heads and wonder at it.

Every day need not be the same.  Life can taste and look that good.