5th Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A, February 5, 2023
Rev. Misa Furumoto
“You are the salt of the earth.” “You are the light of the world.” These punchy metaphorical phrases of Jesus come right after the Beatitudes spoken in the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. Many people, including myself, love these sayings. I wondered why? Maybe, a part of the reason why they directly come into people’s heart so straight and strong is that they are said in an indicative mood instead of an imperative mood. Jesus neither says “Become the salt of the earth” nor “Become the light of the world.” Instead, “You are the salt of the earth.” “You are the light of the world.” We, follower of Jesus are already the salt, a city on a hill, and a light amid darkness of the world because Jesus has called us and we have responded to his call. Jesus is just telling us to remember what we are and manifest what we already are.
So, what is salt? Salt is an essential part of our diet. But it is not a food in itself. It is merely a seasoning to bring out the best flavor of the ingredients. We would be very disappointed if our miso soup didn’t taste any salt, or if our grilled fish were served without salt. And also if we sprinkled a little salt on our watermelon, it would bring out its sweetness and make it very tasty. Did you know that? On the other hand, too much salt will ruin any dish.
The right amount of salt makes all kinds of dishes taste good and impresses people who eat them. The meaning of ourselves being the salt of the earth as followers of Christ is that we are responsible for improving the feast of this world by sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and letting people know the master chef who created it. If the salt loses its saltiness, that is, if the gospel or the faith that is to be communicated from that person slips away, it is of no use. It will just be thrown outside and trampled on by people.
Light is for illuminating the world. The sun regularly illuminates the earth so that we can live. But even if there is a star shining alone in a corner of the universe, if its light does not illuminate anything and is only for its own sake, it is meaningless.
The light of the world shining in the darkness originally is Jesus Christ. But the world cut off from God and in total darkness, did not recognize Jesus when He came as the true Light, even though we were in need of salvation. As Christians, we live in the world as bearers of Jesus’ salvation. Therefore, we must testify of our faith without concealment. Even though we have received the grace of salvation and our hearts are burning with the light of Jesus, it is meaningless if we keep that light under a box, in an enclosure that cannot be seen from the outside.
Let your light shine before people not so that you may be seen as great. But reveal your light so that the people of the world may glorify God the Creator. This is what Jesus says.
I think being the salt of the earth and the light of the world are in a sense the same thing. It means to live not for oneself but for God, to realize the Kingdom of God in this world. Like salt that improves the taste of food by melting itself, like a candle that illuminates everything in the house by shortening and melting itself, it means to use one’s life to show God’s glory. To live in this way is to follow Jesus who atoned for the sins of all mankind on the cross, and that is the way we as Christians are called to live. It may be very difficult. It may even be terribly painful. But God will send the Holy Spirit to help us so that we continue to be the salty salt, the light that illuminates this world.
The purpose of our lives is to help God to make the feast that he created as His masterpiece, this world, even more delicious, and to continue to shine the light that each of us has been given by God so that his works are well seen and illuminated. Yes, Jesus is the light of the world. However, we should also remember that not only is he the epiphany of God, but the Christian community and each one of us has to be the epiphany of Christ in the world.
In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.