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Matthew 5:13-20

I love to cook! My mom taught me how to cook when I was 9 years old. She was working in the factory and on a different shift so when I was young, she left me the recipe and ingredients on the counter with instructions. I started out following her instructions to a “T” and when I followed them, the food turned out well and it meant we had a good dinner for my Brother, dad and I to eat that night. If I missed a step or miscalculated the instructions, we had some rather creative failures. As I continued to mature in ability, I began to take creative liberty in my cooking. Growing up in Southern Illinois, I was a member of 4-H and competed once at State Level and won the Beef Cattlewoman trophy for the Beef BarbeCup recipe. Somewhere in storage I still have that trophy with a cow on top- it was definitely a fun accomplishment in my younger years.

Whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner ,making up my own recipes or following recipes inspired by my favorite cooks, cooking is one of the ways I love to de-stress, unwind and to show others they are loved by making tasty food to share around the table. Most of my cooking is for my church family on Thursday nights as we do our free meal before worship. I also cook for my husband and guests we entertain on a regular basis. One of my favorite things to do when I cook is to play around with my spice cabinet. I may not always like spicy hot food per se, yet I do appreciate the various combinations of flavor I can come up with when creating a dish.

Each dish I create may be different based on the ingredients I have or different due needing to improvise but flavor is always there and I always make sure what I’m fixing passes the taste test before it goes to the table.

Bland food is a disappointment. Bland food sets a person up for expectation only to be let down. When the food looks appealing on the plate and the first bite is taken and it’s bland… it’s often spit out or more flavoring is added if possible. Sometimes bland food is just because there’s not enough spice and other times it’s important to get to the spice cabinet to check the spice expiration dates because they may have lost their flavor and become dull. When cooking, it’s important to be aware of the right spices, using the right combinations and making sure that what goes in the dish is what is necessary to make it a success.

Christian witness is powerful and comes with both the acknowledgement that our commitment to living under the law and love of Jesus requires us to live responsibly and requires us to follow as disciples in a way that reflects His teachings to the world around us in a way that brings honor and glory to God.

Jesus had previously addressed the disciples and the crowd on the mountain with a series of blessings known as The Beatitudes. Hearing these blessings may have sounded contrary as “poor in spirit”, “mourning, and “meekness” don’t sound like the things that lead to a prosperous benefit up front. After all, blessings are normally meant to stand out as something exciting or good to those who would hear or receive it. Each blessing is connected deeper to one’s relationship and encounter with God and can bring forth transformation in both the individual and corporate lives of people of faith.

The text this week provides some challenge from Jesus to the hearers of this message. Simply hearing and absorbing these blessings is not enough. Jesus is desiring to drive His point home by the example of living this message as a daily reminder and commitment to following Him.

Salt and light are tangible examples that the hearers would have understood when this message was being given. Salt has many valuable uses as it can be used to flavor, preserve or purify. It was even used as a method of payment in Rome as it was a necessary commodity. Though it is average and a naturally occurring mineral, the value of salt in Jesus’ time was not to be underestimated as it served a function in many aspects of daily life.

For Jesus to call those who are listening “The Salt of the Earth” meant that He was referring to them as a vital function in many aspects of daily life. Each person hearing this message was given value and also presented with an expectation of what it means to follow the teachings of Jesus. With expectation comes responsibility and each person was being challenged to go deep in the teachings of Jesus and to preserve them in a way that when lived out, was of appeal to the world around them as a distinctive taste. Just like when someone takes the first bite of a dish, if the taste is appealing and right, they’ll want to continue to engage it and enjoy it. If it is lacking, or bland it becomes less tolerable and eventually discarded.

Jesus also calling His listeners “The Light of the World” also indicates the nature of the reflection we bear. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are walking in His Light and reflecting His light to those around us and should not be living in ways that dim that light or compromise that light. We don’t want to have a light that blinds or is so obnoxious that a bowl should be over it to tame it, yet we should live with the openness and honesty of the work of Christ in our lives that it shines and reflects in all that we do. Just like bland food, too much light shining in the wrong ways is just as frustrating and unappealing as not enough light.

Jesus is calling those who hear this message to discipleship- a commitment to growing in understanding and living out the principles of the 8 blessings he mentioned just before laying out the expectations and the costs of such a life lived.

The law is important and to be honored, yet the way it is to be lived and fulfilled is the focal point of this passage. Jesus is asking us to look to Him and how he fulfills the law instead of us trying to take creative liberty in what we think ought to be happening. Our righteousness comes solely from our connection to Jesus Christ, not from our own efforts and initiatives.

In our current cultural climate- we have great division in the church. There are people who are too spicy or too bland, too blinding or not reflecting enough light. Too Republican or too Democrat, conservative or liberal that these labels are overshadowing the seasoning and light we desperately need to be exuding in our daily lives. Somehow with our intentions we have gotten to a place we may not have originally sought or intended. Sometimes our own creative liberty has proven to be just what God needs the least. The expectations Jesus is laying out for discipleship in this passage revolve around obedience and seeking to live topsy-turvy into the blessings he previously mentioned through the posture of the Beatitudes.

We need to ask ourselves individually and corporately as the Body of Believers what exactly it is we are trying to produce, preserve or expose. Our call and responsibility to be the Salt of the Earth and the Light of the World goes deeper than our politics and systems- those will disappoint or oppress every time because we do not live in a perfect world or system.

However, we do have the perfect, pleasing Word of God that is worth embracing, teaching, preaching, exposing and preserving and when lived well and reflected well, it is anything but bland or dim.

Prayer: Lord, help us not to get so wrapped up in how we think things ought to be, but to be so focused on love for you, for your Word and for your redemptive plan for this world that we are just the right amount of Spice and Light to those we encounter. Amen.