Summary: Jesus calls us salt and light - simply stating it as a matter of fact and a description of our true identity – Be who you are!
Salt & Light
1. Beaufort West is a mid-sized, rural, sheep farming town in the center of the Cape Province in South Africa.
• One of its claims to fame is that it was the birthplace of the world’s first heart transplant pioneer, Dr. Chris Barnard.
• Another claim to fame or notoriety is that it was the home and place of ministry to your pastor, Anne, and our kids for the year of 1983
2. I can remember like it was yesterday, the day of our arrival at the parsonage – having driven around 300 miles NE from Cape Town to take up the new pastoral appointment at the Methodist Church.
• The lady who was there to open up the parsonage was Mrs. Hester van Rensburg – a large and imposing farmer lady with a stern and critical persona.
• She looked down on me with her hands on her hips and said in her strong Afrikaans accent, “So, you’re the new minister here? Well, I’m Mrs. Van Rensburg. They call me ‘The Battleaxe’, so you better pasop (be careful)”.
• And she certainly lived up to that description! A person who was only content as long as her orders were obeyed to the letter and her perspective on all matters was approved. All the other women and many men lived in fear and trembling of her. No one wanted to deal with her domineering personality.
• One year before I came there she had even refused to serve the President of the Annual Conference, who happened to be a Coloured man, tea out of the same cups that the rest of the white folks drank – and no one had the intestinal fortitude to stand up to her!
3. About half way through the year, I was asked to bring a message to the Women’s Auxiliary (like the UMW). I spoke on the importance and significance of our names.
• How the names – conscious and subconscious - we accept for ourselves largely define and determine the way we relate to the world
• Those who have accepted names for themselves like “critical”, “argumentative”, “worrisome”, “fearful” – are going to manifest those characteristics just as readily as those who have accepted names for themselves like “confident”, “caring”, “beautiful” – and so on.
• And then I went around the circle and shared with each of the ladies the Cultural Origin, the Inherent Meaning, the Scriptural Connotation of their names along with a supporting Scripture.
4. When I came to Mrs. Van Rensburg, whose name was Hester, I reminded her that her name meant STAR and the Spiritual Connotation was GIFT OF GOD. I then said to her, “Hester, from this day on your name is no longer ‘The Battleaxe’, but ‘STAR, the Gift of God’. Be who you are!
• There was an initial stunned silence in the room, but after a few moments all the ladies started calling her ‘STAR’. She was delightfully and pleasantly speechless as a warm flow of blessing came her way from those ladies.
• We moved from Beaufort West 6 months later and so I did not get the opportunity to see a fuller outworking of the change in Hester, but within a few weeks there had been a marked and very noticeable change in her demeanor and even a softening in her facial features that must have been such a welcome relaxation of tension for her.
5. In our Scripture lesson for today, as Jesus launches into the main body of His Sermon on the Mount, He says to His group of very ordinary disciples, who still struggle with all their frailties, their fears, their frustrations, and fightings – they are by no means perfected individuals – even Judas Iscariot was likely among the bunch – He says, “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world…”
• Whenever God determined to do a new thing in a person’s life, He gave them a new name.
• He did it for Abram. He did it for Isaac. He did it for Simon the fisherman. He did it for Saul of Tarsus – and He does it for you and me when we receive for ourselves the name of His Son by calling ourselves “Christ-ian”
• And Jesus does it here on the mountain for His disciples and now also for us as He says, “You are salt…You are light…”
6. He doesn’t say “Try to be like salt…try to be like light”. He doesn’t put a guilt trip on us and say “You ought to be like salt…you ought to be like light…”
• He simply states it as a matter of fact and a description of our true identity – Be who you are!