Lord, Prepare Me
Several years ago, we went on a Caribbean cruise to the island of Bonaire. As our ship docked, we could see pyramids of salt awaiting transport to their final destinations – throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. Each pyramid was roughly a 50 foot high pile of 99.6 percent pure salt. The salt is crystallized in huge crystallizer ponds on the island, where the steady, baking sun combined with winds steadily evaporate the water in the ponds over a period of 10-12 months, leaving behind an 8-10 inch layer of very nearly pure salt, with crystals so large they are nicknamed “sun gems.” The salt is then harvested and rinsed in salt water and stacked into the pyramids.
So much potential just stacked there waiting to influence whatever it comes in contact with. What could it do? What could it be used for? Melting ice on roads, making paper pulp, disinfecting and conditioning water, or maybe it will be dissolved into saline solution for people who wear contacts or people who have a sinus infection, maybe it will be used to as a preservative, or to flavor food.
Salt is common and pretty inexpensive now, and we think of it as a home remedy rather than a healing agent. When I was at Rhodes, the health clinic was known for its deep belief in the healing power of salt. It was said around campus that it didn’t matter what was wrong with you, you would be given salt packets and told to gargle. We all wondered how that would help a broken arm.
But, for the people gathered on the hillside by the Sea of Galilee that day, salt was precious and expensive; at one point it was even used as currency. There was no refrigeration, so if you had meat that you wanted to keep, you had to pack it in salt. If you had a sore, you rubbed salt on the wound as an antiseptic to kill the germs and bring healing. So, Jesus is saying that we are valuable, preservers of God’s world, and we bring healing…not always without pain, you know how much it stings when you get salt in a wound, but we are healing agents.
Here’s the thing, the church is salt. You and I are salt. Just by being present, we bring the properties of salt wherever we are.
The reality is, salt is POWERFUL. It only takes a little bit of salt to change the whole thing. You know, when you really realize the power of salt is when you get it somewhere you DON’T want it. Remember back when we used to crank ice cream? You put the ingredients in a container like this one, then you packed it in the ice cream church in ice and rock salt. You put the crank on and folded a towel over the top, and if you were like me, you sat on top and started cranking. The more the ice cream froze, the harder it was to crank…and the only way to know if it was ready was to take off the towel, take off the crank, take off the lid, and look at the ice cream. But, the salt was making the ice melt faster so that the bucket would get colder, so there was a risk that some of that salt water would get into your ice cream…and when it did, even if it was just a tiny bit, you could taste the salt ALL through the ice cream.
Big problems are addressed through what may seem to be small actions. Take for example, world hunger. We can’t cure the problem of hunger across the world. But did you know that Farmington has been recognized as a Hunger Action Congregation? We are one of 78 congregations in the nation to be certified as Hunger Action Congregations. The Stop Hunger Now initiative that we partner with the Scouts on every year, packaging soup to be delivered either to children in developing countries to eat as they arrive at school to learn or to those who are experiencing a natural disaster, is just one of the ways we seek to alleviate hunger. By the way, this year’s packaging event is April 26th. We seek to understand the rook systemic causes of hunger and poverty and food scarcity and to respond by advocating for changes in policies and practices to end hunger and its causes, promote self-development, and care for creation. And all the while, we actively participate in Room in the Inn and the Soup Kitchen at First Presbyterian to meet the basic needs of the least of these. Farmington Presbyterian can’t cure the problem of hunger, but we can flavor the conversation and change the outcome.
When Jesus said “You are the salt of the world” he wasn’t giving a motivational speech. The next section of the Sermon on the Mount responds to the questions that were soon to come. How does Jesus relate to the Temple? What is the relationship of the Law and the Gospel? Jesus says, “Don’t suppose I came to destroy the law and the prophets. I didn’t come to destroy them, I came to fulfil them!” The crowd sitting on the hillside that day would have immediately known something that we don’t that is critical to understanding what Jesus is saying.
The law required that salt be put on all offerings presented to God – even grain offerings. Leviticus 2:13 instructs, “Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings.” Salt was a sign of the covenant, the promised relationship between God and Israel – to be God and people to one another.
We are now the salt. We are the sign of the covenant, a sign to the world of God’s love.
I don’t know how many grains of salt were in those salt pyramids in Bonaire. They weren’t all headed the same place. But they were all prepared to make a difference – to bring healing, to preserve what is good, to bring out the best of the flavors around them. We are salt. We may need to sit under the sun and have the wind blow on us to evaporate what dilutes our saltiness. But we are salt, able to change everything just by our presence – bringing healing, preserving what is good, and bringing out the best wherever we are. May our prayer ever be, “Lord, prepare me.”