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.Matthew 5:13
Developed from a sermon preached at Felpham Methodist Church, West Sussex, on 5th February for their Vision Sunday. The full audio recording of the sermon is available below.
Compost for the vegetable patch
When we moved into our home, the garden was a mess. the bushes and weeds hadn’t been pruned regularly, and so it had all become rather overgrown. but one day, as we cut back some of the overgrown bushes, I was delighted to find a compost bin.
That compost bin now sits proudly on the corner of the vegetable patch, and in it we collect the grass cuttings, vegetable peelings and the occasional mouldy orange – and over time the worms do their thing and it all becomes compost, which has helped to boost the soil and grow great plants and crops on our veggie patch.
In the last weeks, all the autumn’s offerings have meant the compost bin has been overflowing, and I recently had to dig out some from out of the bottom to make space for more to be added.
Compost is great for the garden, but only when it is used. My compost will never serve its purpose if I leave it in the compost bin. it needs working into the soil to fulfil its purpose.
Jesus’ words ‘you are the salt of the earth’ in Matthew 5 are often understood as calling us, as salt, to flavour the earth, the world, will God’s goodness. But sometimes this can also lead to seeing the world as other than ‘us’, and something to not be directly engaged in, for fear of being tarnished by an unsalted world.
But, while the idea of being people who bring the flavour of God to the world can be a helpful metaphor – I find another interpretaiton equally helpful, if not more so.
Because in Jesus day, I don’t think they had table salt as we do today. So the word we read as ‘salt’ might have meant something slightly different to Jesus first hearers.
In the dead sea area of Palestine, minerals we now know as phosphate were plentiful, and used to fertilize the ground and were spread and dug into the land.
So when we read Jesus saying you are the salt of the earth, could Jesus actually have been saying you are the minerals of the soil? The compost for the vegetable patch?
In many ways I find that a comfort and encouragement. That might seem odd… why would I find encouragement in being told I am a mouldy orange or pile of potato peelings?
But for me, I find that an encouragement because it reminds me that despite my own self-doubt, my imperfections, my brokenness, my humanity, my own feelings that I can never live up to what God wants for me – God says you have great potential.
Even in the mess of my life,
there is goodness and fruitfulness to be discovered.
Jesus doesn’t want perfect human specimens, stored up in a salt cellar of equally human specimens, looking out on the world.
Jesus wants us to be real. Human.
Jesus wants us, calls us, loves us, warts and all…
And invites us to be salt of the earth,
the mineral for the soil,
potato skins, banana peels and grass cuttings – compost for the veggie patch, with great worth, purpose, potential and goodness.
So Jesus invites us to get out and live on the earth, dug into the soil of the world. Getting stuck in and living as people of God.