Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pass the Salt

Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.  You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.  James 5:4-5

Fear not when a man grows rich, when the wealth of his house becomes great, For when he dies, he shall take none of it; his wealth shall not follow him down. (Psalm 49:17-18)

“Everyone will be salted with fire.  Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid, with what will you restore its flavor?  Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.”  Mark 9:50

You are the salt of the earth
But if that salt has lost its flavor
It ain't got much in its favor
You can't have that fault and be the salt of the earth!
(From Godspell by Steven Schwartz)

“Pass the salt.”  When you share a meal with others, how many times have you heard or used that expression?

Salt is something we might be tempted to take for granted. It is plain, cheap, common, simple and…well, salty.  We pour it on like the little girl under her umbrella – “When it rains, it pours.”  Salts over-use in modern society is equated with hypertension and other health problems.  However, salt has not always had such a bad reputation. 

Before there was refrigeration, salt was essential to preservation of food and fish – and therefore for health and life.  In addition, salt added taste.  Not only does salt season and preserve, but salt heals.  It has antiseptic properties. People used to go to the ocean to bathe in the waters for healing effects.  A lot of people go to the beach to sit in the sun.  I go to swim in the water.  Even today, we might soak our sore feet in warm water and salt. 

Salt also irritates.  Did you ever get salt in a cut?  It burns.  In that way it is like fire (another element that has good and bad properties in how it affects life.  Finally, salt penetrates.  Did you ever add just a pinch of salt to food or drink?  A small dash of salt added to a gallon of hot or cold water changes the taste of the entire jar.

The pairing of this simile of salt with the condemnation of the indifferent rich gives us cause for pause.  Common salt is set in opposition to the isolating and selfish effects of wealth.  Everything that heightens our senses and makes us more aware of our surroundings is good.  Everything that isolates us from our neighbor, everything which deadens our awareness of others may lead us away from just solutions.  Think Lazarus and the rich man.   Throughout sacred scripture, we are reminded over and over that “You shall not exploit your neighbor. You shall not commit robbery. You shall not withhold overnight the wages of your laborer.”  Ignore these warnings at your own peril because just as we brought nothing into the world, we shall not be able to take anything out.

Are you living a bland, boring life?  Are you subjected to the bland leading the bland?  What seasons your life?  Communities dedicated to social justice are often referred to as “salt and light” because they try to spread a sense of justice to penetrate, activate and change life. They also may irritate the powerful. 

Salt is good.  But we do not want to become hoarders keeping salt warehouse or its beneficial wealth for ourselves like some rich person in the Bible or on Wall Street.  Instead, Jesus wants us to become salt shakers adding spice to the lives of others around us.  Imagine if the rich man had shared a little of his salt, his food and his money with Lazarus at his gates.  He would have been spared from the irritating and burning fires of hell and would have been the example to save his family before he was condemned. 

Never lose your saltiness.  Our lives and our communities would become good for nothing.  “If salt becomes insipid, with what will you restore its flavor?  Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.”

Every sacrifice we offer – and the days of Lenten sacrifice are only a week away – must be salted with salt.  The purifying and preservative use of salt in food and the refinement of fire are comparable to the spiritual life of the disciples of Jesus.  Our engagement in piety, study and action are meant to add spice to our lives.  And our spiritual life is not something that exists separate and apart from the rest of our life.  

What will salt your experience today?  How will you be made more aware of the plight of the poor surrounding you? How can you be the salt shaker sharing the experience of the Good News with others?   

Pass the Salt.

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