The Presidency of Mr Trump is like a gift that keeps on giving – in reverse. His controversial blanket ban on travel over a week ago pleased his supporters enormously – and brought misery to many individuals, whose rights were struck off by a stroke of the Presidential pen. For me, the decision resembled that of the infamous Nuremberg Laws, introduced in Nazi Germany back in 1935; the Laws made the Jewish people outcasts in the country they themselves considered to be their homeland. Persecution on political or racial grounds of more groups and nations soon followed; the net was gradually cast wider and wider until only the Übermenschen, the race of allegedly biologically superior humans, remained untouched. Millions upon millions of people were murdered inhumanly in the pursuit of racial purity.
Some of us may already be tired of Mr Trump’s omnipresence in the news – he’s been dominating the headlines for such a long time. Mentioning his name in my sermon is certainly a risky step – some of you may think I’m becoming overly and unbearably political in this instance. And, in all honesty, what is the connection between what I’ve just said and today’s readings?
‘You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world.’ Jesus uses these two descriptions or expressions to describe the role of his followers. The meanings of both are rather lost on us modern people today, who are accustomed to ubiquitous electric light and appliances. Until the invention of electric freezers, salt was one of the main preservatives used to extend the shelf-life of raw food like meat and fish significantly. I still remember my mum soaking salt herring in water to dissolve the salt before she could bake or fry the fish. The salt herring was stiff, hard, and obviously inedible; but, thanks to the salt, it didn’t go off. In the gospel, however, Jesus talks about salt becoming tasteless; so we can assume that, in his metaphor, salt is being used as an example of seasoning rather than a preservative. We know from our own experience that a pinch of salt can improve the taste of food dramatically; but add too much and it renders the food horrible, inedible or even poisonous.
So, what does it mean for us, as committed followers of Jesus Christ, to be the salt of the earth? There are people who believe that strictly religiously-based values should be enshrined in the law of the land; that those religious laws should apply to every citizen, regardless of whether they share those values or not. In such a way, the happiness of one group might come at the cost of the unhappiness of other groups which do not share similar views. Let’s be honest, what kind of believer is it that needs their beliefs enshrined in secular law to remain faithful? ‘You are the salt of the earth’, Jesus tells us. We are here, in this world, to improve it, not to put people’s lives in a straitjacket and make them harder by applying too much Christian salt. In practical terms, it means applying those values and beliefs to your choices, your attitudes, your lifestyle, your approach, ‘so that [people] seeing your good works, […] may give praise to your Father in heaven.’