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Salt of the Earth The Light of the World

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The Old Testament

Isaiah 58:1-9a, [9b-12]

Shout out, do not hold back!
Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet day after day they seek me
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness
and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments,
they delight to draw near to God.
“Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?”
Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day,
and oppress all your workers.
Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

[If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.]

The Gospel

Matthew 5:13-20

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The Sermon

Have you ever been to someone's house for dinner and the food offered had a kind of bland taste? When that happens to me (after a first bite of course) I say those familiar words, pass the salt please.
It usually helps.

Salt is very useful. It can be used to enhance flavor. It can be used as a preservative. It is a substance we need in moderation to maintain our health. Salt in ancient times was not as abundant as it is today. It was a mineral much sought after. Roman soldiers were known to be sometimes paid their wages in salt. Hence the term that someone is “worth his salt”. Jesus called his followers the salt of the earth. It was a fitting metaphor then as it is now.

When Jesus referred to his followers as the salt of the earth he was telling them how important they were. They would enhance his mission on earth. They would preserve Jesus' message to the world and with their efforts his mission would continue to stay healthy and thrive.

Jesus also called his disciples the “light of the world”. He told them no one hides a lamp after it has been lit but they use it to shine light on all that is around them. He tells them to “let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

In last week's gospel reading, Jesus gave us a framework on how we should conduct ourselves when he talked about the beatitudes. This week he is telling us to not hide those good works but to do them out of love for God. He is telling us as Christians to lead by example.

Finally, Jesus says he has not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. He wants to give a deeper meaning to the law. Today’s reading from Isaiah says something very similar. The prophet tells us that fasting for fasting sake does not draws God's favor and neither does rolling in ashes. God wants us to loosen the bonds of injustice. He wants us to let the oppressed go free. He wants us to do something substantive with our lives.

God wants us to be the salt of the earth, the beacon shining on a hill. He wants us to express our love for Him and our neighbor in a meaningful way. That, brothers and sisters is our call as Christians.


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