During the summer between my junior and senior years in high school, I had the great privilege to travel to Germany for three weeks in a foreign exchange program. It was, ostensibly, our reward for sticking with our study of a language that would be of no use to us as adults (though if this was the reason, I’m not sure why French 4/5 students didn’t get to go France for a year). One of our stops during the three-week whirlwind tour of Bavaria and the Alpine regions of Switzerland and Austria was a trip to the Salzburg mines. There, deep below the surface of the earth, we saw where salt comes from. Frankly, I don’t remember much of the tour other than sitting on leather pads to slide down to the bottom of the mine, but what I can infer from my fuzzy memories is that salt is a very resilient thing.
Salt is, according to the Biblical scholars I’ve read this week, the only mineral that humans consume in its natural state. This may or may not be true, but what I’m sure of is that after millions of years of compression underground, being mined by heavy machinery and conveyed to the surface, being separated from contaminants, packaged, shipped, and sold, salt is still salty. In fact, I can’t think of a way in which salt become unsalty. It could, I suppose, become contaminated and rendered useless. It could be dissolved, but then its saltiness is spread throughout that which dissolved it. It can’t become unsalty.
And neither can you. In this Sunday’s lesson, we hear Jesus tell his disciples (or the crowd. or both.) that they are the salt of the earth. Period. Full Stop. He then goes on to name the absurdity of salt not being salty (the Greek word there is where we get “moron” – read more on that here and here), in order to prove to his listeners that they have been commissioned. Their responsibility then is to live out their saltiness: to preserve and season God’s good creation.
How do you live out your calling as “salt of the earth?”