During a recent period of snow and ice I announced to my family on Saturday morning I was driving to the church to check on how clear the sidewalks and entryways were, and to see what needed to be done for Sunday. My youngest son, Walter, who is not old enough to have the teenage loathing of traveling five minutes with a parent, said, “I want to go!” Happily, I said “Sure, come on…”
As we drove to the church together, to Walter’s chagrin I was spending our time together rehearsing sermon ideas on him based on a portion of the Scripture reading assigned for Sunday’s service. He had not bargained on that — I could tell by the way he sunk lower into his seat. But like many clergy during sermons, I continued on anyway. To his credit he listened politely.
The passage of Scripture that I was using as my text was in the Gospel according to St. Matthew (Chapter 5, verse 13) :
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”
I preached at poor Walter about how we are called to not just talk about living our lives as Christians, but that also our lives were to be lived out as examples of Christian faith and practice. It is not enough to “talk the talk,” but we must also “walk the walk.” People should be able to read from our lives the advantages of living life according to the Gospel message of hope and transformation. We should be able to speak volumes without uttering a word. The life we live should be the best evangelism tool we have. We as Christians are to bring spice to life, bring zest, and show others by our lives how much better a life lived in Christ is, as opposed to a life lived without him.
I went on to say, salt not only adds savor to the taste of food, but it also preserves it and keeps it from going bad, stops the decaying and ruination. Likewise we are called to awaken people to the gift of the Christian life and its properties. A relationship with Jesus, and with other Christians, is a wonderful and life giving — life sustaining — gift that empowers us to share God’s grace and love with others, that we may be as salt for them, enriching their lives.
I also told my son that if we stopped living our lives as Christians should, and stopped being the agents of God’s message of reconciliation and love, then we lost our purpose, and lost our ability to be the salt of the earth, and were of no good to anyone. He asked me, “So, if we are not living as Christians ought to, or like all the other Christians say we should, then God stops using us, He just turns away from us, judges us and throws us away?” I answered, “That is what the passage seems to say…”
Walter said, “Dad, I think that God can use us when no one else thinks He can, when everyone else would throw us away.” I said, “How’s that?” He said, “Well, we are going down to the church to throw down salt on the ground, so that other people won’t fall … so even the salt that is thrown down, that people trample on, has a purpose and meaning, and can be used to the glory of God, right? To help other people walk without falling.”
We sat together in quiet for a moment, just looking at beautiful, “Old Trinity Church” — the lawn and buildings covered in snow, but without a drop of snow or ice on the sidewalks or around the entrances. Walter said, “I just don’t think God is going to throw any of us away, he has a place for all of us, a purpose, he loves us all.”
All I could think of was, thank you son! You have added beyond measure to my understanding. How beautiful a child-like faith is, and how I hope I never get so cynical on one hand, or self-righteous on the other, that I lose the deeper meaning of life by looking for formula answers, or for ways to justify my condemnation of others or my own hypocrisy. Lord , let me worry about my own saltiness, and not the saltiness of others.