Salt & Light 

Salt & Light

4th Sunday of Lent
Rev. Cathy Victor March 10, 2024 Lent

Popcorn, French fries and eggs.

These are things that I see as requiring salt.

I know that sometimes we are told to cut back on our salt intake, but if possible these are items that have to be worked around in my opinion. Salt in our world brings to mind perhaps a salt shaker on the table or depending on the weather or where one lives,something to scatter on the ground if it’s icy. But it wasn’t always so. I want to explore the back story of salt and light today, and see what is behind these words that hold such significance and power in our faith.

Long before Jesus was born, salt was a significant part of Hebrew life. Covenants and treaties required salt – a couple of scriptures from Old Testament – or Torah.

Leviticus 2:13 You shall not omit from your grain offerings the salt of the covenant with your God; with all your offerings you shall offer salt. Numbers 18:19 All the holy offerings that the Israelites present to the Lord I have given to you, together with your sons and daughters, as a perpetual due; it is a covenant of salt forever before the Lord for you and your descendants as well.

Sacred promises were always sealed with salt. It was a highly valued commodity.

There were different kinds of sacrifices made in the Temple: Animal, grain, food, wine… incense. All had salt added to them. For the animal offerings it was the fat that was burned on the altar, but with salt. The meat itself was eaten.

A lot of salt was used in the Jewish temple .All these sacrifices or offerings were a sign of a reliable and lasting promise; holy vows. Salt was valuable and very precious.

To eat salt together became a sign of loyal friendship and so when eating a meal together salt was shared too. It made it sacred. It consecrated what was offered, be it a meal, a promise between friends or nations or simply a friendship to eat salt with someone signified a bond of friendship and true loyalty. You will remember the famous painting of the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. If you look closely on the left, and look by Judas’s hand there is a knocked over pot of salt, spilled on the table. A visible sign of something evil about to happen and that a bond is about to be broken. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve looked at or studied that painting, but this was a new aspect of the painting I had never been aware of until recently.

Salt as a chemical compound can’t change. – although there are different kinds of salt. Nevertheless – Sodium chloride, NaCl, is essential for life in general. It has inherent purity, which is worth noting when sacrifices are meant to come from a pure heart. So whether you feel like it or not, you are still salt.

In Rabbinic custom, the Torah – was likened to salt, not only providing flavour but a reminder that neither you or the world could live without it.

The Dead Sea and the nearby salt pits were a huge source of salt. It was used to season food in cooking of course, as well as in sacrifices and meals together And also in preserving food such as fish. It was a disinfectant – used to care for wounds too. Have you ever gargled with salt water? It’s healing properties were important. Newborn babies were rubbed with salt – more of act to keep evil away, but also in hopes of good health.

Salt has been used to ward off sickness and evil- by scattering it in buildings, churches, homes and children’s pockets.

Salt has had great value. Roman soldiers were paid salt money so that they could purchase salt and thus stay healthy. You’ve heard the expression, that someone wasn’t worth their weight in salt? That goes back to being paid in salt. It was called a Salarium- thus -salary. Salt was a unit of exchange. Many monasteries were built by salt mines for their revenue. Salt meant purity, precious value, sacred promises, loyalty and healing. Salt is never bland.

Salt makes you thirsty. If we are indeed salt, do we make others thirst for God? Jesus says WE ARE the Salt of the Earth.

You are precious and bring healing to others because you are Salt.

Those Temple sacrifices were called Korban which means they were a way to express love and gratitude to God and were a way to come closer to God. They were a connection to the Holy.

God works in us and through us. You are the salt of the earth, connecting others to what is holy.

Wars have been fought over salt. It’s been taxed, kept in locked containers and used in trade.

The tradition of the salt covenant found its way into the Christian Church. It’s been used in the consecration of churches and is contained in Holy water. And did you know that the word salt is the root of the word salvation?

Salt is incorporated into many rituals in many Christian denominations as a sign of Gods protection; keeping evil away.

The salt by the Dead Sea was rock salt, and the outer layer had impurities and little flavour so it was thrown away.

Dead Sea water would be evaporated in order to obtain the salt, but it would be contaminated with sand and other particles so what was left was thrown back onto the earth. This in turn served as a fertilizer to help things grow. Too much salt isn’t usually good for crops, but in some cases it’s helpful.

There is actually a thing called a salt index to measure the amount of salt in fertilizer.

Helping others grow and flourish can get messy, just like growing plants. When others are enabled to grow and flourish that is a sign of God’s covenant and grace. It’s about creating new life. It doesn’t take much sometimes. A few words, a hug, as God sprinkles us where salt is needed. No matter where salt is spread or sprinkled it always transforms what it touches. It brings out the best in a flavour. And not to be forgotten. You are the light of the world. In a world long before electricity, providing light in the darkness could be life saving. There are many biblical stories about light, but one that Jesus and his followers would have known and celebrated was the Festival of the Lights, or what we know as Hanukkah. Hanukkah means dedication and it remembered the time when the Hellenistic empire had been ruling. Antiochus IV had instituted a different religion and there was a huge rebellion. In the year 164 BCE they were able to return to the Temple in Jerusalem to rebuild and rededicate it. Usually in the temple the Lamp of the Eternal light would be always tended and always burning. But the lamp was gone. So the story went that there was just enough oil to light a lamp for one night while they waited for more oil. But the light lasted 8 nights and the celebration is marked every year with the lighting of a menorah and by much joy. Let there be light!

In Jesus’ time, the Roman Empire saw themselves as a light to the world, so it was a concept that people knew. And a concept that Jesus turned on its head. I am the light of the world, he said. Light can expose things we might not want to see. Maybe discovering a need in the world around us might challenge us to act. There is so much darkness in our world. And light – It can show us the way. It can shed light on something we may have misread, misunderstood- and redirect our path.

You are the light of the world, Jesus tells us. Not by imperial domination but by being servants of God.

There is a quote of Martin Luther King’s where he says, “Returning hate for hate, multiplies hate, adding darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”

As Christians , we remember the light of a star that led the wise men to Jesus. Just a star. It was a light to guide. Remember that you are light too. Those wise ones would have sat around the light of a fire I imagine. The warmth of the light and the friendship around that light must have been strong. God’s light shines in and through you.

You are light that cannot be hidden.

You are the salt of the earth, bringing out the best in others.

Preserving, healing. Not you ought to be, or could be or should be. This is who you are. You are all worth your weight in salt…Stay salty my friends.