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Jesus said:
“You are the salt of the earth…
You are the light of the world…”

I went to London last Thursday – for a meeting with a General Synod working party – about the formation of a “professional association” for clergy in the CofE – pretty boring stuff for ordinary mortals.

The meeting was in the Covent Garden area, not far from Trafalgar Square, and an area with quite a lot of theatres – I arrived there a bit early for the meeting so I popped into St Paul’s Church (Covent Garden – the ‘Actor’s’ Church!) – a pretty unremarkable church.

But when I went in I was hit by the smell of incense!  It was the morning after Candlemas, and I guess they’d had a service there the evening before, so the smell was still quite strong.  I love the smell of church incense – and I was instantly transported to somewhere wonderful!

I find that many smells have a similar effect on me.  They transport me somewhere.

I remember my first trip the other way round: from London to Manchester – interview for my first curate’s job – and when I stepped off the train at Manchester Piccadilly, the smell of hot oil and diesel hit me – and I was transported back to the steel works in my home town – transported back by smell alone!

I think that our sense of smell is connected directly to our memories – hardwired in our brains.

So I think that it is significant that Jesus, in today’s gospel, when he tells us what we are, he tells us that we are to be two things that impact directly upon the senses: salt and light!

You will note that he does not tell us to be preachers, or teachers, or philosophers – people who make their impact upon the minds of others – instead we are to make our impact upon others’ senses (specifically taste and sight).

Both salt and light are pretty hearty things as far as our senses are concerned.

Salt – both in deficiency and in excess – can either make, or totally ruin, a meal.
(Some Christians can be so lacking in ‘salt’ that they make no impact upon us at all, while some can be so over-salted with the gospel that they make us run a mile!)

And light – a vital component for all sight – without light we are all in the dark – and there is no sight, nor colour, nor vision.

We, as followers of Jesus, are to be salt and light – giving flavour and colour to the world – and hitting people where they know they’ve been hit (as it were) – without, of course, getting up their noses!

We are, in other words, to by-pass their minds, and aim for something deeper, something much more visceral within them – to be something that tickles their taste-buds and lights up their lives.

Notice that in this Gospel account, Jesus goes straight on from telling us that we are salt and light, to talking about the Law (the OT Law, the Law of Moses).

The Law was a preoccupation for the Jews of Jesus’ day (as indeed it is for those of today, of course), and it was a particular problem for Matthew (the writer of the Gospel).

Matthew is writing (particularly) for Jewish converts to Christianity – who might be a bit loath to tinker with what has hitherto been at the heart of their faith – The Law.

The problem with the Law was that it did not work.
It did not create good and holy people.  It created lawyers!

And the task of the lawyers was to find ways of getting around the law (in both senses of ‘getting around’!).

And it all became a kind of game.  The Law says this, the Law says that – but this bit maybe affects that bit – so you can do this, but not that – but if you do that, then maybe you don’t need to do this.  The Law became the subject to interpretation.  It became an intellectual exercise – a mind game.

Jesus knew that the Law would not (could not) save anyone – but he also knew that it was a gift from God – a gift that was to draw us closer to Him – something to be lived, rather than obeyed.

The Law was a collection of ‘pointers’ – commandments that pointed us to something greater:
“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt.5.20)

The real law lives in our guts, rather than in our heads.

It is all about ‘sensing’ the ‘rightness’ of the written law – and translating that into our everyday thoughts and actions – it’s about seeing the light and tasting the truth.

We are salt for the earth!   We are light for the world!


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