‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill-top cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine in the sight of men, so that, seeing your good works, they may give the praise to your Father in heaven.’
Chinese New Year this week, celebrated with firecrackers, liondog dances and the flavour filled dishes of Asian food. When we visit our Chinatown district for the New Year we end up in one of the ethnic supermarkets buying the authentic ingredients and spices that make up our favourite recipes and, for a few months or so, we fore-go the local takeaway and ready meals taking great pride and delight in creating dishes made from crushed and blended herbs and spices.
But then, time passes; life gets busy. A few more months and the contents of the boxes and canisters languish at the back of the cupboard growing dusty and stale; the colours fade; the piquant flavours. What a waste.
Trading in spices has gone on for thousands of years; they are an element of the creative and expressive side of human nature that regards life as more than just 'existing'. The Eastern trade routes crossed the Galilee forwards and back; part of the reason that the area was looked down on - too many gentiles for comfort. But, be sure, the spice trade would have been welcomed there as anywhere; and, just as today, some spices more valuable than gold - ounce for ounce.
But above all spices - salt. Even as school children ,we learn that the word 'salary' comes from the idea that the pay Roman soldiers received had a link with the value and amount of salt in the area they served. Particularly in the desert countries; salt is not just a 'spice' but is necessary for life - as necessary as water with hundreds of uses,many around purification, cleansing and prolonging life. Salt is acknowledged for being spiritually cleansing and giving protection against the 'dark', even in the casual tradition of throwing it over our shoulder.
There is something very human about salt - the saltiness of tears and sweat, our life's journey. Seems to be many examples of that kind of salt in the pressures and challenges of daily life. When Jesus calls us salt; salt of the earth- salt for the earth, he reminds us that we are that precious commodity that God has given the rest of the world. We may be individuals or small communities but Jesus believes that that is enough; enough to make a difference through the tears and the sweat.
Unlike the boxes and canisters in my store cupboard we have a choice. Whether we choose to be active; to be involved; to be who God dreams us to be; to believe that we have a vocation, a mission. Or, choice can make us doubt; decide our opportunity has passed; we are too old,too young,too busy, we become tired, listless or afraid; preferring to stay at the back, in the dark, out of sight. We fade away and become tasteless.
This week our diocese saw the launch of an initiative called CARITAS - loving kindness. It's intention isn't to begin a tradition of charity but to contribute and enable the many charities that already exist, making connections, lending expertise and focus and renewing the sense of who we are meant to be. Being salt as we will all, hopefully, be salt to each other. A renewal perhaps, just as I renew the store cupboard, and promise, this time, that all will be made use of or shared - that nothing will be wasted. Our saltiness, our grace, may seem a hidden thing that is only revealed in action and compassion, but we must not hide away from opportunities to let it shine.
“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me.”
― Erma Bombeck