“You are the salt of the earth.” Salt has many uses. It preserves, purifies water, helps heal wounds and brings out flavors. In Jesus’ day, salt was particularly valuable. Privileged places at the table were closest to the salt. People have been paid in salt, the origin of the word salary. In the Old Testament, salt signified both our gift to God, bringing out flavor in the burnt offerings and salt was God’s gift to us, a sign of a lasting contract.(1) Salt has been a commodity for exchange, so valuable that merchants routinely traded it, even ounce-for-ounce with gold.
Salt is not food. But it makes food amazing. Its glory is in connection. Preserving fish. Purifying water. Healing wounds. Bringing out the flavor of food. It can’t work from a distance. Salt must touch. We value salt for its synergy, what it produces in connection. You are the salt of the earth. Incredibly valuable, beloved children in whom God delights. We are royalty, children of the king, and we are community, a family, created for connection.
As descendants of Abraham and Sarah, we are blessed to be blessing, to share God’s love with the whole world. We are “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people so that we may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called us out of darkness.” (1 Peter 2:9) Our beloved identity is not something to grasp or horde. It is good news to share. We point people to the kingdom of heaven, where every place is privileged, everyone has a saltshaker.
In a similar way, Jesus says: “You are the light of the world. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.” God lights us up and does not hide us. We are placed in community to connect, to shine, to point people to God.
A lamp is put out in the open so others may see. Salt touches, connects to preserve, purify, heal and bring out flavor. Being out in the open and touching is risky business. Showing up, letting ourselves be seen, connecting—this is vulnerable: risky, uncertain and emotional. Being out in the open is like “sharing an unpopular opinion, standing up for myself, falling in love, asking for help, saying no, … stepping up to the plate after a series of strikeouts, admitting I’m afraid.” (2)
Vulnerability is “terrifying and achingly necessary.”(3) The alternative is being bound up and drained of life. Like a lamp put under a basket or salt which doesn’t leave the saltshaker. Terrifying, necessary and courageous, vulnerability is, in Brené Brown’s words: “daring to show up and let ourselves be seen. Vulnerability is daring greatly.”(4) Jesus says: You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. Touch, connect, risk coming out in the open for me.
It’s a huge struggle for us, certainly for me, to not hide under a basket or stay in a saltshaker. Here are some words for daring greatly.
First, remember Jesus experienced all this. Being vulnerable is being human, and Jesus was fully human. Jesus shared unpopular opinions, stood up for himself, asked for help, said no, learned how to make friends, reached out to the grieving, and got hurt. He was capable of being wounded, and then he also bore our wounds upon himself. All this in the last couple years of life growing up from that helpless infancy, trying and failing, being taught and discovering his way, his voice, and his identity. God knows how hard it is to open up and to touch; God in Jesus experienced it all firsthand.
Second, remember you are God’s beloved child, incredibly valued. You have a privileged place at the table. You are worthy of love and belonging just as you are right now. You are more than enough. You are the apple of God’s eye. We fear being seen because we think that if you really knew me you couldn’t love me. Yet God fully know you and fully loves you. God delights in you. Now and always.
Third, remember and imitate those who have been vulnerable with you. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you with lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.” Paul is saying I risked coming to you as myself, in my weakness, out in the open offering to connect to help you see. I came vulnerable pointing to our vulnerable God. I came in this way “so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom but on the power of God.” Power which is “made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Who has been Paul for you? Who has shown up and been open with you, who has reached out and touched you? Who has modeled vulnerability? Risk reciprocating. Cultivate safe relationships in which you build trust and share more. Listening is one best gifts we can give ourselves and each other. Safe relationships enable sharing life stories honestly.
Lastly, notice and remember what happens. Recently a brother was vulnerable with me and because of that relationship I then risked speaking up and sharing an unpopular opinion. Doing so was quite uncomfortable, and it was also liberating.
Letting ourselves, our emotions, desires, pains, and inner lives be seen and recognized by another graces us to live more fully and honestly. Biologically we now know this vulnerable witnessing actually shifts our internal chemistry and begins natural healing processes. (5)
As we dare greatly, as we move out of the saltshaker touching and connecting, we ourselves are preserved, purified, healed, and have the flavors brought out in us. As we show up, open up and let ourselves be seen, we, too, are able to see more clearly. Salt and light for the world.
1. See Leviticus 21: 6, 8, 17, 22. Xavier Leon-Dufour, ed. (1973) “Salt,” Dictionary of Biblical Theology. New York, NY: The Seabury Press, p518.
2. Brené Brown (2012) Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead. New York, NY: Gotham Books, p35-36.
3. Ibid, p38.
4. Ibid, p2.
5. Insight from Rev. Dr. Kate Wiebe, Institute for Congregational Trauma and Growth (www.ictg.org)
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