July 26, 2020

“You ARE Salt and Light”

Matthew 5:13-16

A sermon for Hawaii Kai UCC by Janice Ogoshi

July 26, 2020 (Pentecost +8)


One of the things that I have missed during our time of staying safer at home is our Andrew & Phoebe lunches and other shared meals.  We have a lot of good cooks and bakers in our congregation, don’t we?  I’m sorry that we couldn’t have one last Andrew & Phoebe together.  I will always think of Judy when I eat Chinese Chicken Salad.  And I will think of Irna when I have miso soup.  I will miss Gail’s baked treats, the Ganirons’ nachos, and the Men’s Fellowship making hearty and delicious Mother’s Day breakfasts.  I will remember our themed lunches and how creatively you all answered the call for international dishes, finger foods, or healthy salads.  I remembered thinking that while “healthy” was very broadly defined, deliciousness was always guaranteed.


Salt is an important seasoning in cooking.  We know when it’s missing or when there’s too much of it.  Jesus was brilliant in using salt and light as a metaphor for the way his followers should be in the world.  “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.  You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” (v. 13-14).


Salt has many possible functions.  It flavors and enhances the taste of food.  It's a preservative.  It melts ice and makes water boil faster.  It is used medicinally to soothe sore throats, rinse sinuses, ease swelling and cleanse wounds.  Our bodies need salt.  Without enough of it, we die.  But if we have too much of it we die too.  Salt is an important part of our lives whether we realize it or not.


Light is also important to our lives.  Lamps, candles and lighting have allowed us to extend the day so that we can be more active for longer hours.  Light has also allowed us to see things and places so that we can live better lives.  Doctors need lights to examine us and find out what is ailing us.  Light can give warmth and bring healing.  Light is an important part of our lives too.


So when Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world,” he’s saying that we have an important and varied role in the world.  He is enlisting us in his ministry of redeeming the world.  Yes—us!  And when he says, “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world,” he’s not telling us to become salt or light.  He’s saying that’s what we are.  We already are salt, we are light.  Given the fact that we are children of God, we are salt and light.  Think about that:  You are here in the world to give it flavor, to illuminate it.


This past month we read the Beatitudes, which immediately precede today’s Scripture reading. 

Jesus had just declared that the poor in spirit, mourners, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted were blessed.  These were not people who would have been considered blessed then or now.  Who really wants to be poor in spirit or mourn or meek?  That’s who the crowds were.  They were not A-list people.  In fact, they were not celebrated but ridiculed or worse, not even given a second thought by the movers and shakers.  And yet Jesus said to them, “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world.” 


Jesus says the same to us.  We are not A-list people, we are not perfect, but Jesus says we are salt and light.  We are salt and light not because we have done anything to earn it, but because God has loved us and called us to be God’s children.  By drawing near to God, you are salt.  By seeking relationship with Jesus, you are light.  By embracing our beloved status as children of God, we salt and light the world.


Jesus encourages us to be salty and to shine our light.  Unsalty salt is not salt, is just dust.  Light that doesn’t shine isn’t really light, doesn’t fulfill its purpose.  It would have been ridiculous to put a burning lamp under a bowl.  The light would get snuffed out and it would be useless.  Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (v. 16).  When we are salt and light, we bring attention and glory to God.  When others taste our salt and see because of our light shining, they give glory to God.


HKUCC has been, and is salt and light:

·       You were salt when, for our 20th anniversary, we decided not to throw a fancy party at a banquet hall for ourselves.  Instead, we decided to throw a party for the community, and have a fair with free food and a bouncy house and a movie night so they could get a taste of God’s goodness. 

·       You are shining your light as you support a large number of mission partners with not only finances, but prayers and hospitality. 

·       You are seasoning for the wider church, serving on Association and Conference committees, and allowing me time to serve as well.

·       You were light when the Men’s Fellowship rallied to aid Bob in his last days, arranging for hospice care and helping to sell his car and pack up his apartment and bringing his daughter here.

·       You have flavored the lives of the clients at the River of Life Mission, cooking hundreds of pounds of shoyu chicken and serving up worship and dinner.

·       You bring light to all the children among us, especially the Little Ones.  All who grow up in this church have ready access to the love of so many aunties and uncles, embodying the idea of being the family of God together.  The many, many camps over the years, but especially during our early years served to establish strong relationships among the generations.

·       You have salted our life together by offering your gifts and talents.  There has always been someone to do what was needed.  Ministry team leaders, worship leaders, behind-the-scenes people.  The church just works together—no flash, just hard work.

·       You have sought to bring light to the life of our church by learning to discern, to seek God’s will.  As a result, we trust that in God’s own time we will have a facility.  But our task, our assignment is to build the body of Christ.  And more importantly in the discernment process, you have followed through on whatever God has spoken to you collectively. 


These are just a few examples of how Hawaii Kai UCC is salt and light. And as a result, God is glorified in this church.  Others can see the goodness of God in our life together.


I wanted to preach on this passage on my last Sunday with you because I am certain that God is using and will continue to use you to provide salt to the world.  You don’t need me to be salt and light.  Jesus is in your hearts, so you are the salt of the earth and you are the light of the world.  In fact, you have helped me to be more salty and to shine my light more brightly for Christ.


I am so grateful to God for the opportunity to serve with you all these years.  You have seasoned my life, my family’s life with salt.  And you have reflected Jesus’ love into our lives.  I love you all and will miss you.  I am certain that we will continue to be joined together in God’s mission--just in different places. 


If you continue to keep Jesus in your hearts, if you strive to follow him, you will naturally be adding your salt to your relationships.  Because Jesus is the light of the world, and he is in you, you will shine God’s light wherever you go.  You will be the body of Christ.  You will reveal the kingdom of heaven to this community.  You ARE salt and light.  And You glorify God!  Thanks be to God!