I remember when I started here at Wesley a year ago sitting down with Kim Antosh, one of our former ministers who, sadly, is now on long term disability. At the time I could probably name less than 10 members of the congregation and so I was asking Kim about some of the people here at Wesley. I wanted to know what they did, what they volunteered for and things like that. Over and over again Kim would say about this person or that person, “and this so and so, they’re the salt of the earth.” Over and over Kim would tell me that someone was salt of the earth. Kim really loves the people at Wesley.
Of course, “salt of the earth” is a biblical phrase. It was during the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus tells the crowds listening to him that they are the salt of the earth and their saltiness is an important aspect of who they are. It is an interesting metaphor telling us that we are the salt of the earth. It makes you wonder what it is about being like salt that Jesus thinks should be such a compliment.
One of the interesting aspects about salt is how it enhances flavor; we add salt to all sorts of foods not just to make foods taste more salty, even though that is super yummy. But using a pinch of salt when we make something sweet like brownies or bake a cake brings out the flavors of the brownies. It brings out and enhances the sweetness of the brownies. When you think about it, this is really illogical and even absurd. Somehow adding salt to something sweet like brownies doesn’t make the brownies salty but instead makes the inherent sweetness come out. This is counterintuitive to say the least.
Counterintuitive might be a way to describe the story we heard about Abraham and Sarah a few moments ago. Now, the story of the call of Abram and Sarah is the story that Jewish people point to as the first formation of their people. Throughout scripture we hear God referred to as the God of Abraham. The Jewish people looked to Abraham as the progenitor of their peoples. When this covenant was made and God promised to make a great nation of Abraham and Sarah leads the Jewish peoples to claim that Abraham and Sarah are the first Jewish persons.
It is this story of God choosing Abraham and Sarah to reconcile the world that leads our Jewish neighbours to refer themselves as “The Chosen People.” It is easy to hear chosen people as some kind of claim to supremacy; that Jewish people believe themselves somehow to be better than other peoples. And there might to be some truth to this notion that some Jewish folk have interpreted this that they are indeed somehow superior to others, which is troubling to say the least. How can we understand a good God choosing one people over another? It’s kind of like a parent choosing one child over another which wouldn’t portray that parent the best light. Likewise imagining a God who designates a certain people as chosen, imagining God choosing one nation over another is, at best disturbing. This would not be charact6eristic of a loving God.
But I don’t think the meaning of the story is that God prefers one people over another, one nation over another. There is another way took at this. If we look more closely at the text we can see another meaning. We see that God makes several promises to Abraham and Sarah. God not only tells them that they will be a great nation, a great name. God also promises to bless them and the God says, and this is the part that I want to focus, that, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” What is happening is that God is choosing Abraham and Sarah to be a blessing for everyone, a blessing for the entire world. Being a chosen people doesn’t mean that the chosen ones are better than anyone else. Rather being a chosen people means that God has somehow initiated a relationship with the people of Israel so that they can be a blessing to the world, so that the world can be saved through them.
Remember that I am trying lift up the notion that God is trying save the world. So in choosing the Jewish people God is trying to reconcile the world through the Jewish people. The important part of being chosen is not attaining some special status in the eyes of God. Rather, the important part is that God is trying to save the world through Abraham and Sarah and through them the Jewish people. Let’s not focus on some kind of competitive status but instead let’s of focus on what on what God is trying to do when God chooses Abraham and Sarah. And what God is trying to do is save the world, is reconcile the world, so that instead of world based in selfishness and violence and greed we might transform the world into a world based in love, kindness, equity and well-being for all. Being chosen does not confer some special status but rather calls us to action that will participate in the salvation of the world. Being chosen is a call to look outward not inward.
This call to look outward not inward is something we need to hear today. In these days of anxiety about decline of mainline Protestantism and shrinking congregations and shrinking budgets we need to remember God’s call to look outward and not inward. It is our calling as Christians to be a blessing for the world. As Jacqueline E. Lapsley writes, “The church is not just about perpetuating itself, maintaining its own survival; it is about being a blessing to the world and a blessing for the world.”
Again this is not to confer some kind of special status on us because we are Christians. Being Christian does not make us better than anyone else or anything like that. Being Christian doesn’t mean that God chose us as some kind of special people or that we have a special relationship to God. Instead being Christian means that means that we are committed to the salvation of the world, that we are committed to loving our neighbour that we are committed to the well-being those our considers last and least that we are committed to building a world based on love and compassion. Being Christian means that we choose to be chosen, that we choose be a party of God’s plan for the reconciliation of the world. Being Christian is a choice and we choose to be chosen. And in choosing to be chosen we choose to be a blessing for the world.
And I think this is what Jesus as telling us when he said we are the salt of the earth. As salt gives flavor to food we are to be a blessing for the world. We are not here to dominate the world but to blessing for the world. As salt releases flavor into food we are to release love and compassion into the world. Being the salt of the earth means that we are committed to be a blessing for the world right here, right now, in this time and in this place. When we choose to be chosen we are committed to be a blessing for the world, for Canada, for Regina for the neighborhoods of Hillsdale. We can be the salt that releases love and justice into Hillsdale that spreads to Regina, to Saskatchewan and to the entire world. If we choose to be chosen we can be the salt that participates in the salvation of the world.
And if we, here at Wesley United Church really choose to be chosen we can be the salt that releases love, compassion and justice into the world. And if we choose to be chosen it is that very release of love, compassion and justice will grow and build the community here at Wesley United Church. The well-being of our community in a practical, day to day kind of way will be more likely if choose to be chosen. Our health as a community will be enhanced if we commit to being the salt of the earth, if we commit to being a blessing to the world.
And I have complete confidence that we have the resources here at Wesley to be such a blessing. When I stand up here and speculate or preach or blather away or whatever you want to call what I do up here, but when I stand up here and look out I see so many gifted, passionate committed people that I know that we can be that blessing that can change the world. There are so many talented people who are imbued with love and compassion that I know we can be the salt of the earth that release love and justice into our neighborhood and into to the wider world. We have the resources right here. All we need is to choose. All we need is to choose to be chosen. Amen.