Epiphany 5A/2014 Matthew 5: 13-14
Jesus says, “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. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 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.”
Salt and Light. We are salt and light. Basic elements of earth and creation itself. Basic elements which somehow make us who we are: a body that is made of stardust and is something like 60% salt water. The first element God calls into being is Light – what some now call the Big Bang was, we are told, an incredibly hot flash of light that within 3 seconds began to cool and form what are called light elements such as hydrogen, helium and lithium. These elements eventuated into stars, stars which go supernova and send elements throughout the universe and eventually coalesce into atoms that make up things like you and me.
As I sought to learn how much of our body is made of stardust I discovered this:
“…the amount of stardust atoms in our body is 40%. Since stardust atoms are the heavier elements, the percentage of star mass in our body is much more impressive. Most of the hydrogen in our body floats around in the form of water. The human body is about 60% water and hydrogen only accounts for 11% of that water mass. Even though water consists of two hydrogen atoms for every oxygen, hydrogen has much less mass. We can conclude that 93% of the mass in our body is stardust. Just think, long ago someone may have wished upon a star that you are made of.” http://www.physicscentral.com/explore/poster-stardust.cfm
I am not saying that Jesus knew any of this, though in some theological extrapolations of the fourth gospel’s opening hymn it could be construed that he did, since John credits Jesus with having been the Word, the logos, that was with God in the beginning and is God. But setting that all aside, we are made of light wrought of the first moments of creation.
It makes for a great metaphor of what forms the essence of our Being. For Jesus it is somehow connected with the specific gifts and purpose in life with which each one of us is endowed. In the language of our catechism in The Episcopal Church (TEC) we say, “…and according to the gifts given to us we are to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world.” (BCP 851).
Although we are all made of a similar proportion of saltwater and stardust, we are each as unique as snowflakes of fingerprints in terms of what gifts and purpose with which we have been endowed. Like the yin-yang of Taoism, our gifts are complimentary: the gifts you have been given compliment the gifts I have been given. All together we make up a great mosaic of gifts, talents and purpose which, if combined, contribute to maintaining planet earth and everything and everyone therein.
Jesus is saying that this entire enterprise called earth needs all of our gifts to be on display. My light needs to shine so that your gifts and purpose may be seen. Your light needs to shine so that my gifts and purpose may be seen. Together we can bring life and light to the world.
No one is asked to do any more than what each has been uniquely gifted and purposed to be. Conversely, for all of this to work and be illuminated with light and life, we are expected to do no less than what each of us has been uniquely gifted and purposed to be.
Salt gives zest to food and preserves food. We can be those people who bring zest to life and work to preserve and enrich life. Light makes the incredible diversity and beauty of creation and others visible, and sustains us with further basic elements such as vitamin D.
It is funny how things are turning out. After centuries of turf battles between science and religion it is beginning to become more and more apparent that both disciplines of human endeavor are at long last coming to the realization that both are seeking basic elemental answers to the same questions, and from uniquely different perspectives coming to similar conclusions – conclusions that continue, nevertheless, to raise even more fascinating questions!
Jesus was about reconciliation – which in some sense means putting things together, resolving differences. We are called to become reconcilers – those people who bring people together not tear them apart. We are made of salt and light – elements that metaphorically call us to bring zest and life to the world, to each other and to ourselves. May our light shine forth and illuminate the glory of this world, this fragile earth our island home in a vast universe teaming with light and life the likes of which we have only begun to understand – and at the same time use our diverse and complimentary gifts in such a way as to bring things together, resolve differences, and so become co-creators with the Word, the logos, that was, is, and ever shall be the seedforce of life, abundant life, for all persons everywhere in all of time. Amen.