Salt? Light? Who? Us? Yes!

Subtitle: Seeing reality as it really is

A sermon, based on Matthew 5.13-20 and Isaiah 58.1-12, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on the 5th Sunday after the Epiphany, February 9, 2020.


“You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.”

Jesus tells us that we are exceptional. And that we have wonderful, indispensable work to do. And that our labor is for the sake of the life of the world. We are salt that seasons and preserves the earth. We are light that dispels darkness.

If anyone else said this, we might accuse the speaker of hyperbole or flattery. But this is Jesus, our Lord and Savior, talking. Therefore, taking him seriously, let us seek to see ourselves as he sees us.

To do that, let us review his prologue to his astounding declaration of our identity and ministry. The Beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those persecuted for the sake of righteousness.”

Of many ways to interpret them, the Beatitudes are Jesus’ descriptions of human reality.

To be poor in spirit is to know that our wealth, material and spiritual, notwithstanding, we, in one way or another, in some ways or others, never are self-sufficient and always in need of something, someone, God

To be mournful is to walk day-by-day, step-by-step with all others toward the valley of the shadow of our dying, thus, with an ever-deepening compassion for our fellow-pilgrims…

To be meek has nothing to do with human docility, but rather everything to do with godly hostility; that is, to be angry about all that angers God, chiefly hatred and injustice…

To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to hear and respond to the cry for justice from anyone, anywhere, anytime…

To be merciful is to be kind to others, to do kindness with others, even those who hurt us, thus, forsaking the self-interest of resentment that would hold, withhold from others our resources of substance and of self…

To be pure in heart is to wrestle and win against our constant inner tension, sometimes turmoil of being true to our values and sacrificing our integrity for the sake of expediency or safety…

To make peace is to stand in the breach of conflict, seeking, making reconciliation…

To be persecuted for the sake of righteousness is to stand up for a just cause and not stand back in self-protective silence.

Through the lens of the Beatitudes, Jesus calls us to see reality. His reality. For because of who he is, he practiced what he preached. Reaching out to all, especially the least, last, and lost with the open hands and heart of unconditional love. Challenging the injustices of the self-serving political and religious order, leading to the cross of his death where, even then, he, mercifully, begged God to forgive his murderers.

Through the lens of his life, Jesus calls us to see our reality. For because of who he is and who he is for us, we are salt and light.

Now, Jesus doesn’t tell us what it looks like when we do the work of salt and light. He doesn’t tell when we do it, how we do it, and for and with whom we do it. He does tell us “I have come not to abolish (the law and the prophets), but to fulfill them.” Therefore, let us hear and heed the word of the prophet Isaiah. To be salt and light is…

To loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
to break every yoke…
to share bread with the hungry,
to bring the homeless poor into (our) house…
to cover (the naked).

As we do these things, “then,” Isaiah declares, we are “light (breaking) forth like dawn.”

In the light, proverbial and literal, of this, I recall the words of the Persian poet, Hafez:

All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,

“You owe me.”

What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.

My beloved sisters and brothers, we are salt and light. May we, in our being and doing, in our living and loving, light the whole sky.


Endnote: Hafez is the pen name of Khwāja Shams-ud-Dīn Muḥammad Ḥāfeẓ-e Shīrāzī (1315-1390).

2 thoughts on “Salt? Light? Who? Us? Yes!

  1. Paul,

    YES, US!!!!!

    Here’s my favorite part “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.” And this….
    “Jesus tells us that we are exceptional. And that we have wonderful, indispensable work to do. And that our labor is for the sake of the life of the world. We are salt that seasons and preserves the earth. We are light that dispels darkness.”

    Remember at the beginning of the year when I said I was learning so much more about people because I was being more intentional in my relationships? Well that has continued and allowed me to learn so much more about how people I’ve known for years are really the salt and the light!! Wow the contributions these folks are making to making the world better that I never knew about!! It gives me hope!!

    And I learned each day how much people believe that I give them light and hope. A coworker wrote me on Friday asking about a work class. After I gave him the info he needed brought up my book and how much it had helped he and his wife handle his mother-in-law with the disease! What?? You read my book I thought to myself. Completely forgetting that I had signed and mailed him a book in 2014. He went on to say how I was changing so many lives and probably didn’t realize it. That’s how I feel about people I’m getting to know better!! There’s great work being done in this world!! We just have to keep it up but I have more hope!!

    Thanks and Love!!


  2. Loretta, I’ll open my response to your words with what and how I oft end my communications with you: Carry on!

    As usual, during the preaching of the sermon this morning, a thought occurred that hadn’t prior to the moment. I digressed, adding, “Note that Jesus doesn’t say, ‘You are like salt and light’ or ‘You are to act like salt and light,’ but rather, again, ‘You are salt and light,’ which is to say, you are the thing itself! Hence, for us, Jesus’ followers, to be true to our beingness, who and what we are, we do what salt and light do!”

    Again, I say, Loretta, salt and light: Carry on!



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