"You are the salt of the earth." These words are taken from Jesus' training manual for those seeking to be his disciples, often called, "The Sermon on the Mount." "If you follow me," taught Jesus, "You are the salt of the earth." On Friday we will focus on the same passage when Jesus said, "You are the light of the world."
Metaphors are domesticated when they are dissected. They are meant to point to a truth that is larger than what we can describe with language. When Jesus described his disciples as being "salt" he was pointing to George as a model.
George was five years old when the police found his father floating in the Mississippi River. His father delivered laundry. He had been robbed during his downtown St Paul route, murdered, and dumped into the river. George had been born with club feet, his left arm a stub above the elbow and his right arm with only two fingers extending from the elbow. There was no welfare available so George's mother became a domestic and his two older brothers doubled their paper routes. George was harnessed to the paper wagon (sled in the winter) to do his part.
During the Great Depression, George worked in an architectural office, sweeping and emptying wastebaskets. Custom shoes, amazing drive, and a positive attitude made him a real asset. Over the years he learned the skills of a draftsman and architect from watching the journeymen. During World War II he contracted with the Army to build barracks for the soldiers. Following the War he became a contractor, constructing buildings at Luther Seminary, St Olaf College, First Lutheran in Albert Lea and many other sites.
George was chair of the call committee for my first call to an inner city church in St Paul. He took me out to lunch once a week for six years. He became both my mentor and friend. His mantra was, "The only handicapped people are those handicapped in their head." George had a smile for everyone. He drove a blind man to Kiwanis every week for twenty years, and built a small addition to our church, gratis for his work.
George would get "second looks" when we went to lunch, but soon, not because of his stature, but because they had seen "the salt of the earth." Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth."
Thank you, Jesus, for making me the salt of the earth. Amen.
Matthew 5:13-20 (NRSV)
13 "You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
14 "You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.
15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.