“Lamplight and Starlight”
A Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
You are the salt of the earth!
You are the light of the world!
Yes … you!
As I contemplated the message for
this morning, it occurred to me that being called the ‘salt of the earth’ is a
phrase that has found its place in our common parlance. We know what it means
when we refer to someone as a genuine ‘ salt of the earth’ individual. It means
that they are good, solid people, hard-working, steadfast and faithful. According
to Dictionary.com the phrase refers to “an individual or group considered as
representative of the best of noblest elements of society.” “Basic, fundamental
But you probably already knew that,
or have a similar understanding of what that phrase means to you.
how often have you heard someone described as, or referred to as, the light of
the world? My guess is that the answer to that question is … never. We have
reserved that title for one person, and one person only …. Jesus Christ. If
anyone else went about their business and referred to themselves as ‘the light
of the world’ we would likely think that they are arrogant or delusional. We
might ascribe it to some sort of mental health issue, a break with reality.
think that it is safe to say that no one in this sanctuary, nor anyone watching
online, has ever referred to themselves as the light of the world. Am I right?
here is the thing, the One whom we call “The Light of the World,” states it
very clearly. We ARE the light of the world. (Of course, out of respect to
Jesus, I typed his title with capital letters, and ours in lower case letters.)
morning’s passage follows right on the heels of last week’s passage, The
Beatitudes. And you may recall, in the Beatitudes Jesus proclaimed that you are
blessed because you are meek … gentle. You are blessed because you are poor in
spirit … humble. You are blessed because you offer mercy. You are blessed
because you are pure in heart … your hearts are focused upon God.
we said last week, these are not goals or attributes that Jesus has placed
before us. He tells us that we are blessed because we already ARE these
things. And then immediately after he says, “You ARE the salt of the earth. You
ARE the light of the world.” We do not aspire to be them … we ARE them! Wow.
us start with salt, because that is easier for us to wrap our heads around. As
we have established, we already have an understanding of what that means.
Naturally, our humility would never allow us to refer to ourselves in that way
but let us explore what Jesus was saying to us.
was much more than a seasoning or a method to melt ice in first century
Palestine. In fact, it was something that possessed great value. It was a
compliment to say that someone had ‘earned their salt.’
represented purity. It was considered to be the purist compound because it was
made from the purity of sun and sea. Salt does not lose its flavor naturally.
The only way that it does lose its flavor is when contaminants are mixed into
it. It is only impurity that makes salt lose its saltiness.
know that salt have curative properties. Living here on the coast of Maine, we
know how salt water helps to heal our scrapes and cuts. Salt has been used as
an antiseptic for centuries to cleanse wounds.
had many connotations in Matthew’s tradition. It meant sacrifice, loyalty and
covenant. It meant purification and preservation. “Sharing salt” referred to
eating together, it expressed a binding relationship.
other characteristic about salt is that it does not exist simply for itself.
Salt has a purpose. Salt finds its purpose in relation to other things. Salt
finds it purpose when it is used in the ways that we have just mentioned. Being
salty is not an option for salt. Salt is salt. It IS salty. Salt does not
choose to be salty; it just IS salty.
as I have said, salt does not lose its saltiness until it is contaminated.
is the pure in heart. Blessed is the one whose heart is set upon God. Blessed
is the one whose ways are God’s ways. Blessed is the one who does not pursue
the worldly ways. Blessed is the one who is as pure as salt.
are salt. We are salt. The word “you” that Jesus used in that phrase is the
collective ‘you.’ He was referring to a corporate body. We is saying that we
are salt together.
The nature of light is different
than that of salt.
We ARE the light of the world … but
… we are not the SOURCE of the light. We are the window through which the light
shines. We shine with Christ’s light. We shine with God’s light. The light is
not something of our own creation.
And, we have to be willing to shine.
This may factor into why we do not feel comfortable referring to ourselves, or
others, as the light of the world. We can choose NOT to shine. We can be
selective about where we shine and when we shine. There may be those with whom
we do not feel that we want to share the light.
That was the issue that Jesus was
addressing. Israel had been called to be a light to the nations, but they had
not lived up to their calling. Unfortunately, rather than serving as a light to
the nations, they had become a park of the darkness. The beloved Children of
God had not lived up to their call to shine with the light of God.
You ARE the light of the world. We
ARE the light of the world. As followers of Jesus Christ, as followers of the
Way of Christ, we are the light. And we must be certain that the light is not
compromised or obscured.
Just like salt, the light has to be
pure. It cannot be performative. The light does not shine forth for our own
grandeur. The light does not shine for our own glorification. The light is not
for our own vanity. We shine for God. We shine so that people can see God. We
shine so that people can see Jesus Christ.
The light is the light for the
world. We are not the light of the church. We are not the light of a closed
group. In Jesus’ proclamation that we are light, he does give us some
instruction. We are a light on a lampstand. We are a light to be seen. We are
called to shine outside in the world. We are light at work. We are light at
school. We are light when we go out to eat. We are light when we are stuck in
traffic. We are light when we are out shopping.
As light, we are not called to be
selective about when we shine. We do not shine only at certain times or in
certain circumstances. We are light is every circumstance.
We are not very far removed from our
celebration of Epiphany, that celebration of the journey of the Magi. We
celebrated the way that those travelers followed a guiding star across many
miles, for many months so that they could find their way to the place where
Jesus was. They followed the star to find the One who would be a beacon for all
to follow. They followed the star to find the One who is the Light for all the
We follow the same starlight as we
find our way to Jesus Christ. And then we learn that we ARE light too! We are
called to offer the same light that we found and we followed. We are the light
that can lead people to God … if we shine. We are the light that can lead
people to relationship with Jesus Christ … if we shine.
You ARE the light of the world. We
ARE the light of the world. Just by being here in worship today … you are the
Singing in the choir … you are
Teaching Sunday school … you are
Serving coffee hour … you are light.
Knitting a prayer shawl … you are
Volunteering at the bean supper …
you are light.
Volunteering at the warming center
this weekend … you are light.
Volunteering at the diaper bank …
you are light.
Volunteering at the food pantry, Bon
Appetit, or the MLK, Jr. Day of Service … you are light.
Everything that you do … that we do
… in service for God and for Jesus Christ, in service with our neighbors is
You may not want to say it out loud,
you may not want to think of yourself in that way … but you ARE light. We are
the light of the world.
May we shine brightly in all that we
say, think and do! May the world see God. May the world know Jesus Christ.
Congregational ChurchUCC, SACO MAINE12 BEACH STREET | SACO, ME 04072207-283-3771