Grace to you and peace, from God our Creator and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
I’d like you to ponder a question today. Who are you?
As an armchair sociologist, I really love this question. It seems to me that “who are you” can only be answered in community. Who we are changes based on who’s asking? And when we ask ourselves, our answers can go in any number of directions.
So, who are you?
You probably answer this question all the time. Perhaps a simple name is enough. Maybe your occupation helps round out the answer. In some circumstances, your age and pronouns might be appropriate.
But who are you?
We can also think of this question as a group – who are we, in this congregation? We might answer by rattling off the mission statement, or by simply stating the obvious: we are children of God.
But really. Who are you?
Earlier in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus lists all those who are blessed in the kingdom of heaven. If you are poor in spirit, you are blessed. If you mourn, you are blessed. If you are meek or hungry or thirsty or merciful, you are blessed. It’s almost like an Oprah episode – YOU’RE blessed, YOU’RE blessed, EVERYBODY’S blessed!
But it only takes a week for us to forget. So here we are a week later, pondering our identity once more.
So I ask you again. Who are you?
Today, Jesus continues telling us who we are in two special ways. Who are you? You are the salt of the earth, the thing that makes the world flavorful and unique. Who are you? You are the light of the world, the thing that makes the world bright and vibrant.
It might seem absurd that these are Jesus’ words for us today. Salt and light, two common and ordinary things that are all around us and, if we’re honest, seemingly insignificant. But I think it’s important to notice how mundane these words are. He doesn’t use lofty, fancy theological examples to tell us who we are. No, just salt and light.
And I think it’s important to notice that he doesn’t say “You are the Za’atar of the earth,” or “You are the Hungarian Hot Paprika of the earth.” No, but common salt – an ordinary and abundant spice that, even in Jesus’ time, was used to season and preserve food. And likewise, with saying “You are the light of the world.” Common, ordinary light – that abundant thing by which we see the whole world.
Who are you? Easy, right? Salt and light.
But if we’re honest with ourselves, we needn’t look too far. Check the headlines, listen to the news, read your social media pages – the world is rife with divisions and conflict. And we need not look out in the world, but within this very congregation: uncertainty about the future, perhaps some anxiety about calling a new pastor, not to mention fewer people in the pews and bucks in the bank. It is so easy to imagine that “who we are” is simply a shadow of “who we used to be.”
But really. Who are you?
Notice that Jesus isn’t saying, “You should be the salt of the earth and light of the world.” Or, “You have to be,…” let alone “You better be,….” But Jesus is saying, you are. As in you already are. Even if you don’t know it yet. Even if you once knew it and forgot. Even if you have a hard time believing it. You are salt. You are light.
Who are you?
The world is full of people who will answer the question for you. You are nobody. You are nothing. You are not enough. And I would be willing to bet that sometimes, in our bland and dark lives, we might be willing to believe those voices.
But today we have Jesus’ words reminding us that in spite of what the world says of you – you are somebody. You are something. You are enough. You are valued in the kingdom of heaven.
And remember that Jesus’ words aren’t prophetic. He’s not naming the things that we might be called to become – no, he is declaring what we already are through the waters of baptism. And Jesus is telling us that we are exactly what the kingdom of heaven needs. You see, salt cannot lose its saltiness. Light cannot be contained under a bowl.
So now what? If we are salt, we ought to be salty – spicing up the world around us. If we are light, we ought to shine brightly – illuminating the dark places around us. Because the bottom line is, God uses each and every one of us, just as we are, to bring about justice and peace in a world that hungers and thirsts for righteousness.
So, who are you? You are salt. So, be salty. Who are you? You are light. So, shine brightly. Who are you? You are child of God. Amen.