Week of Proper 5: Tuesday, Year 1   8 comments

Above:  Corinth,  Greece

What Kind of Salt and Light Are We?

JUNE 13, 2023


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


2 Corinthians 1:18-22 (An American Translation):

As surely as God can be relied on, there has been no equivocation about our message to you.  The Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed to you, Silvanus, Timothy, and I, you have not found wavering between “Yes” and “No.”  With him it has always been “Yes,” for to all the promises of God he supplies the “Yes” that confirms them.  That is why we utter the “Amen” through him, when we give glory to God.  But is God who guarantees us and you to Christ; he has anointed us and put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts, as his guarantee.

Psalm 119:129-136 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

129 Your decrees are wonderful;

therefore I obey them with all my heart.

130 When your word goes forth it gives light;

it gives understanding to the simple.

131 I open my mouth and pant;

I long for your commandments.

132 Turn to me in mercy,

as you always do to those who love your Name.

133 Steady my footsteps in your word;

let no iniquity have dominion over me.

134 Rescue me from those who oppress me,

and I will keep your commandments.

135 Let your countenance shine upon your servant

and teach me your statutes.

136 My eyes shed streams of tears,

because people do not keep your law.

Matthew 5:13-16 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued:]

You are the salt of the earth!  But if salt loses its strength, how can it be made salt again?  It is good for nothing but to be thrown away and trodden underfoot.  You are the light of the world!  A city that is built upon a hill cannot be hidden.  People do not light a lamp and put it under a peck-measure; they put it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house.  Your light must burn in that way among men so that they will see the good you do, and praise your Father in heaven.


The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


The Christian congregation at Corinth contained some difficult personalities, to state the case mildly.  This remained true for some time after the apostle’s death, unfortunately.  For evidence of this, read St. Clement’s (first) Letter to the Corinthians, written around the year 100 C.E.  As a reading of the 2 Corinthians 1 makes clear, Paul had planned to pay a second visit to Corinth but had delayed it.  The tension in that church was so high that Paul, as he stated the matter, did not want to visit in grief.  In his absence, some Corinthians were saying that Paul was not reliable, not faithful to his promises.

This context is essential to understanding 2 Corinthians 1:18-22.  Paul was not vacillating (verse 17).  Furthermore, God is faithful, that is reliable.  Likewise, Paul’s word to the Corinthians has always been “Yes.”  And God’s answer in the context to all divine promises has always been “Yes.”  In fact, the answer has been “Yes” through Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, active among people, guarantees the trustworthiness of Paul’s message to the Corinthians.

Here we have a statement of a glorious truth:  that God is faithful, and that we see this reliability in human form, the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  Jesus is the Word of God, as the Gospel of John (written after the death of Paul) reminds us.  So God is far more reliable than we are.

This day’s reading from Matthew 5 contains familiar passages.  There is a potential danger in reading familiar texts.  One might nod one’s head and think, “Yes, I know this passage well.  Next!”  This is an excellent time to slow down and read the text with fresh eyes.  So consider the following information:

  • People used salt not only to make food taste better but to preserve food.
  • Salt was a valuable commodity.
  • Most Judean houses were dark, lacking many windows.  So a good source of light was essential.
  • Relighting such a lamp was not a simple task.  So, for the sake of safety, people covered a burning lamp when they left their house.

So, if we Christians are to be salt and light, we must do the following:

  • Emulate the example of Jesus
  • Have lived faith which is evident to all who are paying attention
  • Bring glory to God, not ourselves
  • Give positive flavor to the world, or at least our corner of it
  • Preserve goodness

And we cannot do this if we are spreading rumors and slanders, and questioning groundlessly the motivations of others.  Such activities do not quality as keeping God’s law.  No, the summary of the law of God is to love God with everything one has and is, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself.  There is regulation in divine law against such deeds.

There is an important lesson for Christian communities here.  Will we act out of love, or will we withdraw into pettiness and bitterness?  It is indeed a rare church that lacks any feature of the Corinthian congregation, but what is the personality of any given assembly?  Without naming any churches, I can rank churches I have known on this scale.  Perhaps you can, too.

And, as individuals, do we contribute to making our communities and neighborhoods better than we have found them?  If we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem.

Think about this:  Jesus came, in part, to leave the world better than he found it.



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