Jesus calls his followers to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. To be the salt of the earth means a) to bring out the best in other people, b) season the world through acts of kindness, gentleness and compassion, and c) preserve the true identity and character of Jesus.
Speaker: Pastor Stephen “Tig” Intagliata
Main Bible Passage: Matthew 5:13-16
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[a] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Does anyone here know who Charli D’Amelio is? Charli is one of the top Influencers on the social media cite TikTok, with over 100 Million followers, more than any other teenager and I think any individual person.
A few years ago, Charli D’Amelio was just an everyday kid dealing with the trials and tribulations that go with becoming a teenager. And in just a few short years, she has become more popular and more influential than she or anyone else could ever have dreamed of.
She got her start by posting dance videos of her dancing to trending songs on Tiktok. And now she has her own cosmetic line, clothing line, and all kinds of branded merchandise. She is influencing millions of people in all kinds of ways.
Today’s scripture from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is about influencers, of a different sort. Jesus calls them “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world”.
He is calling his followers to be Kingdom influencers in the world around them, being witnesses that the Kingdom of God has come with the coming of Jesus.
We talked about salt with the children, and we’ll get back to that in a minute. Jesus also uses the metaphor of light to talk about the kind of witness that his followers can be to the world around them:
Jesus says that his followers are to be like a city on a hill with all the lights turned on, or lamp placed high on a nightstand.
We are called to let our light shine, so people can see our good works, not to praise us and give us the attention, but to point to God and praise God for who God is:
God, the creator of this beautiful world, the one who gives us breath and life, the one who calls each one of us “beloved” and loves us with an everlasting love, the one who showed us how to live and love sacrificially by becoming a human in the person of Jesus.
Friends, does that list of who God is give us sufficient reason to praise him and to be that city on a hill, to shine our light for others to see, to bear witness to this truly good news that God is in our midst and worthy to be praised?
There are 10,000 or more reasons, as the song says.
If you could put a dollar value to it, it’s a million dollar message that we have, priceless really, and sometimes the Church has bought into the idea that a message as valuable as letting the world know about Jesus can best be spread and shared using million dollar messaging.
Who here has heard or seen the phrase “He Gets Us”. A bunch of Christian groups have come together and come up with a message about Jesus as someone “who gets us”, i.e. understands the average person.
I’ve seen a few clips of it and it doesn’t look too bad. In fact, just last night I saw posts on Instagram and Twitter for He Gets Us. One of them was a picture of a refugee family and the caption said “Jesus was a refugee. He Gets Us.”
And now they’ve invested a whole lot of money in a marketing strategy to put “He Gets Us” ads and videos all over different kinds of media. If you watch the Super Bowl commercials next Sunday, there’s supposed to be a “He Gets Us” ad that they spent 20 million dollars on.
Now Jesus didn’t live in a world of TV, Twitter, Instagram or TikTok, so who knows, would he have used these technologies to share the good news if they were available to him? We don’t know for sure.
I believe that God can use all kinds of strategies, even mass marketing ones to influence people with the message of the good news of Jesus.
But from what I know about Jesus, my guess is that he would have invested in people over slick advertising campaigns to announce the coming of the Kingdom of God.
Just like the best way for God to communicate with us was through becoming a human being that we could know personally, I believe that the best way for us to influence people with the good news of Jesus is through personal, face-to-face relationships with other people.
In today’s world, with people being bombarded so much by technology and impersonal messages communicated from a distance, now more than ever people need to see faith lived out by real people, ordinary people. And if it’s people they know personally, it’s even more authentic and real.
Last Sunday when we talked about the Beatitudes, we saw that the makeup of the people who were closest to Jesus and cast their lot with him were not the kind of people like today’s slick TV preachers or trendy social media influencers.
In the book I mentioned last week, Resilient Faith by Sheriden Voysey, he raises some questions that people in the surrounding crowd might have been thinking:
What effect could this bunch of peasants have on anything? These insignificant ones….These little people. What kind of influence could such people have in a world that favors power and status? Perhaps he’s just being nice to them, saying kind things to lift their self-esteem. P. 52
But in the economy of God’s Kingdom, these are the people who Jesus uses to influence the world.
He chose a ragtag band of followers with little status or standing to be the light of the world and salt of the earth to the world around them.
I love what the Apostle Paul says about the kind of people God chooses as messengers of Jesus:
God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 1 Cor. 1:27
When Sheldon Voysey is talking about this, he says:
The currency of influence in God’s kingdom isn’t power in the world but proximity to Jesus. P. 53.
Proximity to Jesus, not power in the world. Being changed through a relationship with Jesus and people seeing that change in us is the most powerful way to be an influencer for the Kingdom of God.
So I want to close with a few thoughts on what I think it could mean to be the salt of the earth in our world today.
We already talked with the children about salt being a seasoning that enhances the flavor of food, and using our words and our influence in ways that build people up.
Along with this, being salt of the earth means to bring out the best in other people.
This month is Black History Month. And as a baseball fan, one of my favorite stories in African American history is about Jackie Robinson. Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball in 1945, and became one of the best baseball players in history.
But he wouldn’t have gotten the chance if it wasn’t for the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey. Rickey had a vision to integrate Major League Baseball, so he scouted black players in the Negro leagues, and when he saw Jackie Robinson play and got to know him, he saw so much potential in him, both in terms of talent as well as temperament. Could he take the opposition he would surely face?
Rickey and Robinson took a lot of heat from people who wanted to keep Major League Baseball segregated, but their courage and determination won out in the end. Rickey also devoted much of his later years to the civil rights movement.
Like Branch Rickey, we are salt for the earth when we help people develop to their potential, find their voice, and flourish in the world. Especially when they are people who are held back or silenced because of things like the color of their skin, their gender, their sexual orientation, or their citizenship status.
Also, like salt, we can enhance and season the world through acts of kindness, goodness, and compassion. This is true in all of our relationships, and I think it is especially influential when our actions are unexpected and surprising, like the way we treat people we rub shoulders with but do not know personally, like people on the metro, or in restaurants and coffee shops, and the grocery store.
It’s kind of like putting salt on watermelon. Any of you do that? I didn’t grow up putting salt on watermelon, and the first time I saw someone do it kind of surprised me. But you know, a little salt really does help bring out the watermelon’s flavor.
Finally, just as salt preserves food and prevents it from spoiling, I believe to be salt of the earth means preserving the character and the true identity of Jesus and the Church.
Yesterday I was at the winter assembly of the Virginia Mennonite Conference which was held at Washington Community Fellowship in DC. Lisa Sullivan was also there as a Spanish translator. Gracias, Lisa!
At the gathering, a pastor shared, actually lamented, that in the past several years in our society, that “Jesus has been dragged through the mud.” He didn’t elaborate too much on this, but using the language in our scripture today, I think it’s like the salt losing its flavor and thus losing its ability to make a difference in the world around it.
To me, Jesus has been dragged through the mud because the Church has distorted the identity of Jesus by trying to fit him into the image some Christians want him to be. They have done things “in Jesus name” to justify their agenda, often to gain political power.
Also, Jesus has been dragged through the mud because there’s such a huge disconnect between who Jesus is and how we who call ourselves Christians live and treat other people.
People outside the Church are getting turned off by our hypocrisy, to the point that they don’t want to have anything to do with Christians and the Church.
To be salt of the earth means we need to preserve the identity of Jesus and the Church by practicing what we preach. That will help clean off the mud that people see on Jesus, and help the Church be more like the city on a hill and salt for the earth.
So I want to leave us with a couple of questions to ponder as we sing our response song. What does it mean for you to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world?
What does it mean for the Church, and Daniels Run Peace Church?
And also, what are the things that we and the Church do that drag Jesus through the mud and cause our salt to lose its flavor in the world, and thus diminish the influence that we can have for Jesus and his Kingdom?
Let’s reflect on those questions as we sing Enviados Somos de Dios (We have been sent by God) #771 in the hymnal.
Jesus said to the people who followed him, “You are the salt of the earth” or You are the salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. (The Message)
That’s a funny thing to say, but to understand it we need to learn about what salt was used for in his day, and also today.
We’re going to watch a short video of a story about salt, then we’ll talk about it a bit. It’s a fairy tale, so it has the kind of people and places that fairy tales often have—a king, his daughters, a prince, an old woman who lives in the forest, etc.
Is there something that you liked about that story?
What does it tell us about salt? Salt makes food taste better. Now some food already has a lot of salt or sodium in it, so we don’t need to add any more salt to it. But one thing I like to add salt to is popcorn.
Just like salt makes popcorn and other food taste better, When Jesus said, You are the salt of the earth, one thing he’s saying is that we should try to make the world a better place.
One way we can be salt in the world is by how we talk- a verse in the Bible says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person —Colossians 4:6
“bring out the best in others when you talk to them; don’t put them down or cut them out . The Message
What are some ways that we can use our words to bring out the best in other people?
At the end of the story we heard, it gave some examples: be kind, be caring, compassionate/loving, gentle.
When we do this, we are being the salt/seasoning of the earth.
I want to give you one of these salt shakers to remind you to be the salt of the earth by how you use your words. You can keep it in your room if you’d like, or wherever you can see it so it helps you remember. Maybe it can be a reminder to other people in your family as well! You can even shake it on some popcorn or anything else you like to put salt on!