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 The Spice of Life 
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Post The Spice of Life
Pastor Russell Norris
The 17th Sunday after Pentecost
October 1, 2006

A gourmet cook I am not! I have trouble boiling water. I can’t even make a decent meatloaf. Ask my wife! My favorite foods are pizza, hamburgers, and Chinese ... with or without the egg roll. So I suspect I am not what you would call an expert on food.

But one thing I know: Without a little spice, without the right seasoning, without the right amount of salt and pepper, meat has no flavor, food tastes flat and insipid. That’s why, down through history, salt has been one of the most valuable commodities in the world. At one time it was even used as a medium of exchange. People used to be paid in salt. That’s where the expression "he’s really worth his salt" comes from!

I don’t know if any of you saw the Food Section of the Boston Globe last Wednesday. It was called "Salts of the Earth", and it was all about salt. Salt! Can you imagine an entire article on salt? Apparently, there’s more to salt than what comes in a box of Morton’s! Flavored salt – salt that’s been smoked or blended with herbs and spices – flavored salt is the latest rage.

There’s black Hawaiian salt, Balinese sea salt, smoked salt from Denmark, fleur de sel from France (often referred to as the "caviar of salt"), and even a Japanese sea salt flavored with cinnamon, fennel and anise! You can put some of these salts on ice cream!

But salt, no matter how you flavor it, is still just salt. Sodium Chloride. NaCl. What makes a really great chef is in knowing to put in just the right amount of salt, the right kind of seasoning – not too much, not too little – so as not to overpower the food, but bring out its real flavor.

The same, it seems, is true of life! Without the proper seasoning – a pinch of salt, a dash of pepper, a hint of basil or oregano – without a little spice, life itself can be flat and tasteless, a kind of dull routine, where one day fades into the next, and all we have to look forward to is more of the same.

So is it any wonder people try to spice up their lives? In fact, we have a whole cabinet full of spices we use to try and add flavor to life. What’s sad is that so often we seem to choose either the wrong spice – like putting cinnamon on pot roast – or too much spice, until we lose the ability to taste anything at all.

Some say, for example, that "variety is the spice of life" – always chasing after some new experience, some new fad. They’re the folks who tried meditation in the sixties, encounter groups in the seventies, jogging in the eighties, and Weight Watchers in the nineties! Always looking for something new, some new seasoning to spice up their lives – usually without success.

Erma Bombeck (remember her?) wrote a little book about all the ways people chase after happiness – usually without catching it. In Aunt Erma’s Cope Book she tells how she’s "come to grips with midlife, found inner peace, fought outer flab, interpreted my astrological stars, and become my BEST AND ONLY FRIEND. I have brought order to my life, meditated, given up guilt, adjusted to the new morality, and spent every living hour understanding me, interpreting me, loving me – and you know what?", she says. "I’m bored to death with me. If I ever hear another word about me it will be too soon... After a year of reading sixty-two self-help books and articles, I have discovered something interesting. You don’t find happiness. It finds you!"

And yet, how slow we are to learn that. The ancient Greeks were much the same in the days of St. Paul and the New Testament. When Paul went to Athens – the cultural center of the ancient world – he found a city built on novelty, a people that ran after every new fad and philosophy that came down the pike. Oh, the Athenians were very open-minded – always looking for new ideas, new things to talk about – but never really willing to commit themselves to anything.

It was to Athens that Paul came, not to offer some new philosophy, not with some quick and easy road to happiness, like the "power of positive thinking" – but only Christ. He brought only Christ, and him crucified.

Paul’s message was simple: "You’ve been chasing the wrong things, trying to season your lives with salt that’s lost its flavor; trying to spice up life with things that fail to satisfy; drowning yourselves in so much seasoning that you’ve lost the ability to taste anything at all!"

And don’t we make the same mistake, we modern, 21st century men and women – trying so desperately to spice up our lives and ending up with nothing but the taste of salt in our mouths. Think how our culture uses sex to spice up everything from toothpaste to cars. Oh, the commercials are spicy enough! The bump and the grind and the jiggle are common fare, even during the so-called "family hour".

But for all our stress on sex – on television, in commercials, in the tabloids at the check-out counter – have we not devalued it, cheapened it, robbed it of its mystery and power? So that instead of adding flavor to life, we’ve made it bland and tasteless – quite literally, tasteless. And, as Jesus says, "Salt is good, but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it?" What good is it?

With all our frantic scrambling and searching for something spicy, something to give flavor to our lives, maybe we’ve been looking in the wrong places! Jesus offers a different answer, a different approach: "You don’t have to look for things to spice up your lives," he says. "You are the spice of life! You are the salt of the earth, the light of the world, the leaven in the loaf. You! Yes, you!"

The real seasoning, the real spice of life, is within you! Don’t look for happiness in things that ultimately do not and cannot satisfy. Look within yourself. You and I are called by God to be the salt of the earth. We don’t have to go looking for it! It’s already here. "Salt is good;" Jesus says, "but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."

How is that possible? you ask. How can we be like salt, the "salt of the earth". Some of us may be a little salty in our language, but to call ourselves the "salt of the earth". How is that possible? And yet, that is exactly what Jesus calls us, and what he calls us to be! The salt of the earth!

Let me change metaphors for a moment. Consider the light – the light that shines in the darkness, and darkness has not overcome it. Jesus says, "I am the light of the world". But he also says, "You – you – are the light of the world." And so we are! But only as the true Light – the Light of Christ – shines in us and through us.

In the same way, you and I are the salt of the earth, the spice of life ... but only if Jesus is the one who seasons and flavors our lives! He is the only real salt, the pepper, the spice that adds savor, not just to us, but to the whole world through us.

Remember, it only takes a little salt to flavor the whole meal. You and I might not seem salty enough to make much of a difference – certainly not to flavor the whole world! But if Jesus lives in us, in our hearts and lives, with his light and savor, who knows what we might yet accomplish!

After all, Paul was only a man – one man, who in his own words came, "in weakness, fear and trembling", and his speech and his message were neither eloquent nor wise. But he came with one burning desire: To preach Christ crucified. That was the light, the leaven, the spice of his life.

And so powerful was that spice that it seasoned the whole world. You and I are here this morning as living proof. We are the salt of the earth, the light of the world. To a world consumed with chasing one new sensation after another, we bring a different message – the most important message there is.

The message is this: Stop chasing after that which will not, cannot satisfy. Stop trying to season your life with salt that’s lost its flavor, pouring on more and more until you’ve lost your taste for anything. The only real spice in life is Christ. He is the salt the flavors the meal, the yeast that make the whole loaf rise, the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness will never overcome it.

This morning we welcome four young people to their first Communion. Like us, they too are called by God to be salt, light, leaven. How? In this Meal, this Holy Communion, Christ fills them, like us, with his life and light and peace. That’s how we can be the salt of the earth. Because God in Christ has filled us with his life – his abundant and endless life. As we break this bread and share this cup, we are empowered to be Christ’s body in this world. So rejoice. God calls you to be the spice of life, the salt of the earth. God calls you to change the world. Amen.

"Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another." And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen

Sun Oct 01, 2006 10:30 am
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