Encouraged to Be the Best We Can Be

Encouraged to Be the Best We Can Be

Salt and Light
“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. People do not light a lamp and put it under the bushel basket; rather, they put it 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.

MatThew 5:13-16 (NRSVUE)

Last week we heard Jesus begin his Sermon on the Mount, and we heard him teach about the Beatitudes, those statements that often turned the world’s understanding upside down. Do you remember? Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Well, this week, we hear a little bit more of that sermon on the mount as Jesus teaches his disciples–those who had gathered on the hillside that day, and all of us–that we are the salt of the earth and we are the light of the world. Sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?

Now when you hear someone described as the salt of the earth, what are they usually like? Honest and humble, maybe they have a strong work ethic, and moral integrity, you know, someone gentle and kind, with their priorities in order. Now, you don’t have to say their name out loud, but when you hear the phrase “salt of the earth,” is there a person who comes to mind? Can you think of someone like that, someone who is honest, humble, and kind, with a strong work ethic and moral integrity? Well, I want you to think about them for a minute. Think about their personality and the way they live their lives. Think about how they treat others and how they respond in difficult times.

Folks, earlier, we said that in sharing the Beatitudes, Jesus was turning the world’s understanding upside down. Well, encouraging us to be salt and light is no different. Because today, if you ask the average person what they want to be, their answer is: successful, wealthy, well-known, popular, someone who is looked up to by others. After all, most of today’s role models are professional athletes, TV personalities, musicians, actors, successful investors, and people that influence others. But a person that is described as the salt of the earth doesn’t usually focus on popularity or success; they’re just humbly being the best version of themselves that they can be.

A few weeks ago, I found a wonderful letter on my Neighborhood app. (For those of you that don’t know what a Neighborhood app is, that’s okay; it’s just a social media thing.) Well, I held onto the letter because I knew that we would be talking about salt and light today.

A woman wrote about a local plumber and how she thought he was the “salt of the earth.” The letter was not used as an advertisement or to bring attention to the plumber because the plumber was never actually named, but the woman wanted to share with the community what she saw in this man. Her letter read as follows:

There is a man in our community who is a plumber, and I believe that he is the salt of the earth. I have met a lot of plumbers in my day, and I have operated and managed several service businesses in the last 25 years. I met this plumber 11 years ago, and this is what I have observed. He treats his all of his customers, even the women of each household with respect, kindness and patience. When a customer questions something, his answers and explanations are not condescending. He is honest. And seems to truly care about his customers. I see what he charges, and if he wanted to, he could charge a lot more. I see what happens when factors out of his control disrupt the budget or deadline. And I watch how he acts and reacts in emergencies. He is responsive and never uses it to his advantage financially. I see how he treats the men and women who work for him. I see how he supports immigrants and supplies them with fair and consistent work and wages. I see that his motives are selfless. I see him do small tasks for customers many times not even billing them. I’ve seen him fix things for people never expecting anything in return. I would 100% describe this plumber as salt of the earth. I don’t tell you this to promote him or his business, to be honest he would be embarrassed if I told you, his name. I just think that the world be a better place if we all were a little more like him. Humble and kind focusing on the good of our community, instead of the size of our bank accounts. Improving the lives of everyone we meet, not just our own. And being kind and gentle, rather than bullying and condescending. Thanks for listening and if you made it this far in the letter without rolling your eyes and scrolling away, I have a feeling you might be salt of the too. So, thanks!

Friends, the truth is, here in Oldtown, our church does not exist to bring light to itself; it exists to serve the world, just like that plumber does. And as followers of Jesus, we are no different. We are not here for fame and fortune; we are here to love our neighbor and to make the world a better place by being salt and light for others.

Now when many people hear the words “You are the light of the world,” in the back of their minds, they think, “Look at me; I am the chosen one!” or “Everyone look at me as I shine brightly!” But the kind of light Jesus talked about is different. Aside from neon lights in Vegas, most lights aren’t meant to draw attention to themselves. They shine to reveal the beauty of other things in their path or to help guide someone’s way through a dark place. To be honest, we don’t actually look at the light itself, we only notice the objects that it enlightens. So, if you think about it, light is like an invisible helper, bringing attention to the things around it.

And the same goes for salt. Though some of us can be a little heavy-handed with a saltshaker, salt is meant to accentuate and bring out the flavor of food, not overcome the food with its own flavor. When used properly, the salt itself should barely be tasted, if at all. Rather, it should serve to bring out the best in the food we’re eating.

Friends, it is so easy in the world that we live in to put ourselves first and to think we are the smartest and the best and that things should always be done our way. But when we look at ourselves and the world around us that way, we tend to look down on others. That’s when, whether we mean to or not, we start to bully and say things we shouldn’t. We start to judge others who are different than us and talk about people behind their backs. And I can assure you that’s not what Jesus calls us to do! Jesus calls us to love our neighbor. Whoever our neighbor might be. No matter how annoying or controlling they are. No matter who they voted for or who they love. No matter where they work, what they do, or how they understand the world around them. Friends, we are never called to bully or hurt or hate anyone. We are never called to take advantage of another person or boss them around. And we are never called to be unkind or to judge or talk about others behind their backs.

Every day, since my kids were very young, when we go our separate ways, leaving for school or work, to a party or on a vacation, or just hanging up for a phone call, I have always told my kids that I love them, and to make good choices. The truth is, every minute of every day, it is up to us to choose how we will treat the people around us because we are in control of our actions. We are in control of what we do, and we are in control of what we say and how we treat others. Now I know we are all human, and sometimes our emotions try to get the best of us, but the choices are still ours. Friends, how we treat others, and how we live out our faith is up to us!

There is a poem that I often read at funeral services called “The Dash” by Linda Ellis, and I think it is one we all need to hear every once in a while.

I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone
from the beginning… to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
they spent alive on earth
and now only those who loved them know
what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars… the house… the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard;
are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that still can be rearranged.

To be less quick to anger
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile…
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.

“The Dash” by Linda Ellis

So, Brothers and Sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, I would encourage you to think about your life and the way that you treat others. Think about the way that Jesus calls us to live, remembering that it’s easy to talk about the lives we want to live when we are here in the sanctuary, but it’s a whole other thing to actually go out and live them. So go out and be salt and light for the world because the world really needs someone like you!

My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!


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