In a world where there are a thousand combinations of spices and herbs to flavor food, salt is pretty passé. And for those who have high blood pressure, salt is pretty prohibited – too much is bad for you. So, though I get the image of ‘salt of the earth’, I wondered if I could improve on Jesus’ statement in light of a cold, Midwestern winter, like the one we are having. What if we changed just one word in that phrase of his – could it open up for us another level of richness to his invitation to us?
Here is what I came up with: “You are the salt of the Streets.” <<Big, corny smile, hands up for approval, as if I am really pleased with myself!>> You ARE the salt of the streets!
We understand that image this winter, don’t we? Salt, which does flavor foods – the predominate image of Jesus – also melts the frozen path, turns snow-packed highways into drivable interstates; and exposes the dangers of potholes and bumps and obstacles hidden beneath the blankets of white snow. (I get that it also makes messes of carpets and church floors, rusts out cars, etc) So what happens when we take those images of what salt does to snow and apply them as invitations/metaphors for our human condition?
As “The salt of the street” we are called: 1) to melt the frozen heart, 2) to make people’s hearts ‘driveable’ (unstuck) and 3) to expose the unseen dangers underneath a lot of what our world thinks is safe.
So, how do we do that?
1) Hearts seem to most often be frozen with un-forgiveness or trapped in grief. Somebody did something that was hurtful or hateful or spiteful, and rather than risk that pain again, we stop trusting. Or spouse is gone and the hole in our heart seems huge. And that muscle that was so open to all of life just get frozen, and stops loving. Jesus invites us to ‘melt’ the frozen heart. Maybe it is a yellow rose of friendship we have delivered to their door. Or a note asking for or offering forgiveness. Maybe we make it a point to just to stop by a widower’s house with a cup of coffee once a week – or a phone call at the same time every week – something that says to them: We haven’t stopped loving you or supporting you. Melt a frozen heart this week!
2) Make a heart ‘drivable’ this week. One of my favorite stories of healing at the Newman Center was one a student shared years after the actual event. “I struggled all my life with both faith and with being loved. I know I was never the prettiest creature God ever created. But all my life, I wanted someone, anyone, to think I was beautiful. On retreat, during that one prayer exercise, one of the whispered voices we were to hear as if it was the voice of God said exactly those words to me: “You are so beautiful. You are so beautiful.” And I who never cry, had tears rolling down my cheeks, because I heard that voice as if it was directly from God. And I realized that God had been trying to tell me that all my life, but I just never heard it. But now I do. And I could move forward again!”
Maybe there is a son, a daughter, a parent, an aunt or uncle whose heart has been waiting for a voice, any voice, to say what God has been trying to tell them all along. Use this Valentine’s day as a excuse to write them a little note to say how beautiful they are to you – how much you love them with God’s love. Make one heart drivable by your words of affirmation this week.
3) Finally, that white blanket of snow hides the dangers of pot holes and debris and crumbling roadways underneath. We need to melt some of that blanket away to see underneath. This upcoming Lent, I invite you embark on a spiritual journey, called Lent 4.5. You can read a bit more about it in my pastor’s pen today. The bulk of it is a series of inserts in the bulletin, inviting us to look at gospel simplicity; to examine our use of food, water, energy, transportation as moral acts, and finally, to hear a gospel call to gratitude and generosity. Create time to read them as a way to expose some of the dangers in our culture. And/or, next week, you’ll have a chance to join one of several small groups to delve even deeper to these issues as a response of faith. Use your salt to expose the dangers underneath.
You are the salt of the street. And the salt of the earth – called to melt the frozen heart, make the roads to the human spirit drivable and expose the dangers on the journey. It’s been a tough winter already. And more snow is coming, this we know. There is a lot of salting to do, both on our streets and in our world. You, who are the salt of the streets, get busy.