Feb 10, 2020
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Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
Not often enough, I take it upon myself to clean out our refrigerator or pantry. When I take on the fridge, I'm sometimes surprised at the small containers that hold some mysterious gelatinous substance that no longer resembles the original product the box once held. I sometimes try to label those things I put in there (usually called leftovers), so I know what and when they first found their way onto the shelves, but I seldom keep up and so continue to find those mystery boxes.
The pantry task is even more fun. I hate to admit it, but even after trying to do a thorough job every once in a while, but obviously not often enough, I'm surprised to find products that expired, not months but years earlier. I'm not sure how that happens. I'm beginning to think elves come in at night and change the labels just to give my daughter and grandkids, who usually prompt me and help me take not on the task, a good laugh. We fill bags of expired stuff, drag it to the trash, and in a few months, seem to repeat the same process again and again and again.
A month or so ago, I decided to do the same thing with our spices. They sit in a separate space in our kitchen because we want them handy for cooking. Makes sense, right? The problem is they don't get into the same not often enough clean this stuff out routine. I was a little more than embarrassed when I went through our spices. We used to joke that we have a kitchen because it came with the house, but we do a lot more cooking at home now that both of us are mostly retired. The expiration date on spices becomes a little more important. I don't think that makes any of them dangerous, but it certainly makes them less potent in recipes.
So I started the process. I began to go through our two shelves of spices and divided the expired from the nearly expired, and the not expired. You know where this is going.
The three piles were not even by any measure. I think I counted the not expired collection on one hand and those probably because they had no expiration date on them. The nearly expired pile was smaller. If I remember correctly, two would expire within a couple of months. Then I looked at the heap of spices with expiration dates long past. Remember, this sorting happened at the end of 2019. I found spices that expired in the 1990s. Did you get that? Expired more than 20 years ago! How could that happen? And what good were they if they were that old?
I'm replacing spices as I need them. Most of those expired ones, we seldom use, which is probably why they found their way to the back of the shelf and ignored for so long. But the exercise caused me to think about a couple of verses in the lectionary from this week.
Matthew records what we call Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Early in that sermon, he says this: "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 underfoot."(Matthew 5:13 NIV)
Today salt remains salty a long time because of the way we process it. Sodium chloride the chemical name, and the two ingredients in pure salt can be extracted and purified to a high degree so that our salt stays pure for decades. That wasn't true in Jesus' day. They used sea salt and sea salt loses its saltiness. Why? Because it isn't pure. It has other minerals in it that, over time, break down the chemical composition of the sodium chloride that is also in the mixture.
Does that mean sea salt is bad? No, some of the minerals are good for you. It's just that those same minerals reduces the longevity of the salt's properties. The people of Jesus' day understood that very well. It's the only salt they could buy. It's the only salt they used. They replaced it often because it lost its potency and then could no longer be used as a spice or preservative, one of its most important uses to keep meat and fish from decaying.
Because we buy our salt from the grocery store and seldom kill, butcher, and salt meat and fish to preserve it, few of us understand the importance of these properties. We know salt as a spice to make things taste better, and we might use it to remove ice from our sidewalks, but we seldom try to save meat throughout the year by salting or smoking it. We just freeze it or more often go to the store and buy it fresh without knowing or caring how it appeared on the shelf. We just wonder why the price keeps going up.
Take a look at Jesus' words again. "You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?"
As his followers, we live here, we hope for heaven, but we're not there yet. We are the salt, not of heaven, but of the earth. Live now, be salt now. Be the spice that makes the world better now. That's part of the problem the world sees with Christians today. What are we doing to make the world a better place? If we are truly the substance in this place to make the world better the way salt makes food taste better, the world should recognize it.
I'm not a FaceBook person, partly because too often when I peak at entries from many who call themselves Christians, I have seen words that certainly don't make the world better. I don't see comments that lift people. I see judgment, criticism, hate, the things Jesus talked about with the Pharisees. I quickly retreat from the page before I get caught up in the vitriol that spews from the keyboards that I'm sure would never come from their lips if they were standing face to face with you. We hide behind the screen and seem to think we can say and do anything. Not so. I think we will be judged for every word we write.
The sea salt that lost its saltiness became good for nothing. People threw it out. The only positive property at that point, let it kill the grass and weeds that grew up in the road. People threw their useless salt on the path to kill the undergrowth and keep it clean; well, not so clean, but vegetation-free.
So what message does Jesus give us in these words? We're salt. We're supposed to add spice to the world and make it better. We're sprinkled in the world like salt is sprinkled on food. But one last thing. Remember Jesus talked about salt losing its saltiness. It happened. Everyone knew it. Salt expired which means when you bought it, you started using it right away. You didn't hold on to it and put it away in the back of the cabinet like my 1990s spices. You kept it up front and used it often, then went and got some more.
It's like the daily bread for which he taught to us ask. Get enough for today and use it up. Then get more and use it up. Then get more and use it up. Rinse and repeat as the bottle says. We are the salt of the world so he expects us to be used up, restored, and used up again like those little bottles of spices. That was the problem with many of my expired spices, I bought the big bottles, cheaper per ounce to save money, then threw most of them away, wasting more money because I didn't use them up. The small bottles would have been cheaper in the long run because I threw away spices I didn't use.
I'm learning. Fresh is better in cooking. Fresh is better in spiritual warfare. Fresh experience is better in sharing what God is doing in your life. Fresh is better to act as salt in the world. Let Jesus spice up your life so you can make the world a better place as his salt in a world that truly needs it more than ever.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible-based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.
Scriptures marked NIV are taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (NIV): Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™. Used by permission of Zondervan