Signpost for Sunday 5th February, 2017: Isa 58: 1-9, (9b-12); Psalm 112 1-9 (10); I Cor 2: 1-12, (13-16); Matt 5:13-20
We eat an enormous amount of broccoli in our house. In fact, we’ve been eating broccoli every single day for about a year now. My wife is sick of it. I mention this for two reasons. First, because my daughter, my son-in-law and my granddaughter, who live with us, have gone away for the weekend, so we’re actually not having any broccoli tonight. Second, because after just a week of daily broccoli I started putting salt on mine.
Not surprisingly, I find Matthew 5:13 one of the most strikingly effective images in the New Testament. But because so many people have heard and read it so many times there’s a chance for it to lose a bit of sharpness.
For first century people though, salt was much more than something you asked people to pass down the table at dinner. Historians reckon we have been using salt in all sorts of ways since at least 6000 BCE. In the past it was so important that it was sometimes even used as money. Roman soldiers were often paid in salt. That’s why many of us now work for a salary. Daily life was almost impossible without salt, in fact.
Now I’ve often thought when I read or hear verse 13 that, let’s face it, I’m not very tasty salt. The old guilt trap kicks in and it’s made worse because like most people I thought that salt can’t lose its taste, so the image makes me feel especially useless. But this week I found out that’s not quite true. For one thing, the chemical impurities of salt from the Dead Sea, the likely source for most salt in Galilee, could cause it to decompose and, “lose its taste”. For another thing I didn’t know, salt was (and still is) used in furnaces to keep the fires hot, and it does slowly lose it effectiveness, has to be thrown out, and renewed.
So, I may not be as salty as I once was, or as salty as I really ought be, but at least there’s a chance I can renew my saltiness. I suppose the point is, life without salt, like broccoli without salt, might be good for you but it’s far less interesting.
P.S. Happy new rooster, as they probably don’t say in the streets of Beijing.