If you haven’t noticed, sea salt continues to be a hot new trend in the foodie world. Even our modest neighborhood market stocks several different kinds of sea salt. There’ pink sea salt and gray sea salt and black sea salt and imported from far away sea salt and sea salt that costs more than you ever expected salt would cost. New reports advise us regular table salt is losing favor, that more and more people are turning toward sea salts.
Sea salt is produced through evaporation of salt water, It often requires little processing. Depending on the source of the sea water, trace minerals and elements are left in the salt, giving it a distinct color or taste. Here in the Bay Area, you can see some of the last active salt ponds in the United States. For many years, salt was one of San Francisco’s largest industries. At its peak, more than 80% of the Bay’s wetlands were developed for salt mining. Now, much of the remaining salt pond lands are in the process of returning to be tidal wetlands.
But is there really that much difference between the $16 a pound Aztec Coarse Unrefined Sea Salt – which is “100% All-Natural, Unrefined, Handmade, Organically Hand-Harvested Coarse Sea Salt From The Cuyutlán Lagoon” – and Morton’s table salt? Aside from the fact Morton’s adds Iodine to boot our health? Some people can appreciate the difference between these salts. And I salute their discerning taste. But Jesus is asking a different question when he asks “if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?”
Jesus isn’t talking about discerning one sea salt from another when developing a gourmet recipe to impress our friends. As he continues the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus knows that for those who hear him in that time and place, salt is a necessity of life which was used as a seasoning, a preservative, a disinfectant, a component of ceremonial offerings, and as a unit of exchange. Jewish and Christian scriptures in the Bible refer to salt in many metaphorical ways: it is cited to signify permanence, loyalty, usefulness, and value. Here Jesus says clearly that as Christians we are the “salt of the earth,” an essential and life-giving element in life on this planet. But, he warns, like salt, if we lose our flavor – our mission – then we are not good for anything but be tossed on the ground as trash.
Our reading from Jewish scripture makes clear our mission as Christians. Isaiah’s against the people of Israel seems well placed for this time and place. “”Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers,” Isaiah scolds. Here we can understand the term ‘fast’ as a spiritual practice, much like going to church on Sundays. Yet across America, how many so=called Christian churches will mark this Sunday with praise for the new administration in Washington? How many look but not see the unjust oppression of thousands of people whose entry to this country was blocked for no good reason? How many will laud efforts to gut regulations that protect worker safety, safeguard investments, and safeguard environmental quality? As Isaiah said: these people look but do not see, they hear but do not listen. To channel Isaiah: Are these the spiritual acts God seeks? Does God want you to bow down to injustice and make peace with oppression? Will you call spending Sunday worship praising these policies a spiritual practice that is acceptable to the LORD?
Isaiah is clear this is not what God wants from us. What God calls us to do is practice what we profess to believe. Or in my case, as you preacher, to practice what I preach. This is the faith I choose to live I believe – we are called to:
- cut the bonds of wickedness,
- untie the ropes of the yoke,
- set the oppressed free,
- break every yoke,
- welcome the unwanted in our community regardless of color or wealth,
- make a place for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people here,
- share our bread with the hungry, and
- open this house to those who seek shelter from the growing storm of injustice, ignorance, and hate.
We are called to cultivate arts, neighborhood resilience, and create a community that bridges the gulf between NoPa and the Western Addition. And we need your help and your wisdom your work and some of your wealth to make our dream come to life here at the intersection of Turk and Lyon.
As a community, we have come a long way since my first Sunday here as you priest. Now we face new challenges and new opportunities. So now is our time to start thinking and talking and planning about how we will grow our community in this and the next few years. God is calling us to respond. So in our Bishop’s Committee meeting today let us begin a planning process for the rest of this decade. We know how to do this – we simply need to start the discussions and deliberations anew to find out where we go next. Be sure of this: great thing await us in the years ahead. Isaiah tells us if we respond to God’s call “[t]hen your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.”
Isaiah tells us “[t]hen you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.”
All we have to do, he adds, is “offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.”
And then, he concludes “you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.”
What does Jesus say?
“You are the light of the world,” Jesus adds. “[L]et your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
Let us pray: O God of light, O God of light, your searching Spirit reveals and illumines your presence in creation. Shine your radiant holiness into our lives, that we may offer our hands and hearts to your work: to heal and shelter, to feed and clothe, to break every yoke and silence evil tongues. May God’s people say: Amen.