First Person: Why the church needs to take everything with a pinch of salt
BEFORE the winter began, I was invited by Lincolnshire County Council to bless the county’s gritting machines and those who drive them.
I also saw the huge store of grit or salt. I don’t know how much of the grit is actually salt but I guess it is quite a high proportion.
For us, salt is an everyday thing, but that has not always been so.
In Jesus’s time, salt was a rare and precious commodity with a very high value, much like the value we would place on fine gold today.
MAYFAIR ESTATE AGENTS
IF WE CANNOT FIND YOU A TENANT WITHIN ONE MONTH WE WILL FIND YOU ONE FOR FREE, YES FREE, YOU WILL PAY NO FEES.
Terms: TERMS & CONDITIONS APPLY.
Contact: 01472 355 553
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
It was a medium of exchange; it’s where we get our word “salary”. “Salt money” has become salary – hence the phrase: “he (or she) is worth their salt”.
Less than 100 years ago, Gandhi’s salt marches were a turning point in the struggle for Indian independence from the British Empire.
Those marches influenced other civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King.
Salt, then – a prized and expensive commodity – was the thing Jesus chose to describe the way of being to which his followers should aspire. Towards the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes his followers as “the salt of the earth”.
That phrase doesn’t seem strange to us now – it features regularly in our everyday speech – but at the time of Jesus it would have sounded very strange indeed.
There is no earlier record of the phrase and it may be the first time it was ever uttered.
Salt does several things. First, it preserves. Nowadays we have the luxury of fridges and freezers to preserve our food, but obviously that has not always been the case. For most of history, precious supplies of food had to be preserved, often by using salt, if a family were to eat through the long, harsh months of winter.
Similarly, you and I have something very precious to preserve, and that is the knowledge that God’s love is for every human person, wherever they are and whatever their circumstances.
Salt also seasons and flavours.
One of the things the church can do for the wider community is to help us to look at things honestly from a faith perspective, and can teach all of us how to be better citizens.
Add the right proportion of salt to a dish and it can bring it to life. When it comes to flavouring, of course, a little salt goes a long way.
A few grains can make all the difference. The difference may not be terribly visible or immediately obvious at first, but can be seen when a few grains of salt are dropped into a saucepan of boiling water.
The grains quickly disappear, but the water is changed forever.
Salt preserves, it seasons and flavours; it also irritates.
That is part of the vocation of the Christian Church – to get under the skin of society.
Sometimes the churches get into trouble because they irritate those in power.
Knowing when to challenge and when to be supportive – these are how people of faith can be supportive to the ways of the world.