I am a big fan of salt. I tend to like a lot of it in my food. I almost always prefer salty over sweet. But one thing that is pretty gross is if I accidentally over-salt my food, if there is just too much salt in one place. In those instances, the salt is actually failing to do what it is supposed to do. Rather than adding good flavor to my food, instead it is making my food overpowering and undesirable. Salt is not meant to be densely concentrated in an one area on my plate. Instead, it is supposed to be lightly sprinkled in various places in order to make everything the tastiest it can be. I remember a couple of different salt shaker pranks where the end result is that some poor unsuspecting person ends up pouring way more salt on her food than she was bargaining for. Not too tasty, and in fact very unappetizing! Likewise, my food doesn’t taste as good to me if I do not add any salt to it at all. If I just leave my salt in the shaker in the cabinet then I am also missing out and my food is not as flavorful as when I would sprinkle a little bit here and there. All of this is to say that salt that is not being sprinkled and spread out is not doing its job. Salt that stays in the salt shaker isn’t doing its job either.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his followers, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt loses its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.” Basically what Jesus is saying here is that salt has a particular purpose: salt is supposed to add the right amount of flavor to food, to preserve and season. Salt that does not fulfill that purpose is totally worthless.
Let’s think about how these words of Jesus direct us today. He calls his followers the salt of the earth. Here in the church, we are trying to be his followers. In a sense, the church is kind of like a giant salt shaker. We are supposed to be the seasoning for the world, sprinkled out, spread out, making the world “tastier,” and a more desirable place. The other day I wrote about living like a church without walls. Today I am playing with this image of the church being a salt shaker. As a salt shaker that is (hopefully) filled with flavorful salt, we are doing absolutely no good if we are just staying lumped together in the salt shaker sitting in the pantry. If we don’t live like a church without walls, then we are more or less being a salt shaker that is just sitting there. Or, if we keep going forth solely on an attractional model of mission (let’s do lots of programs here and draw people in), that is more or less having the same effect of the poor, unsuspecting prank victim who ends up with too much salt on her food. Too much salt in one location is missing the point! It’s missing its purpose!
The challenge for us is to look for people and places in our lives that could use a little salt. The challenge is not to be the church in “here”, but to be the church out “there.” In fact, the real challenge is to stop thinking about church as something that happens in a location and instead to recognize that we are the church and that the church goes with us when we leave the building. How do we make this shift? In staff meeting yesterday and during one of the Bible study sessions, I said that at The Well I am going to start giving the weekly challenge for each person to find three other people (not members of the church) that they could bless during the week. Maybe it could be a co-worker who needs someone to listen to them. Maybe it could be an elderly neighbor who could really use a little help doing some house cleaning or cooking. Maybe it could be a single mom who just needs a child-free hour to run some errands. It could be anyone we know, or anyone we don’t know (yet). It’s not much, but it’s a start. It’s a way to begin looking for people and places in our community that might need a little salt.
Jesus tells us that we are the salt of the earth. It’s time for the salt to leave the salt shaker and get sprinkled around.