|Pen and Ink Reflections||
My wife Penny and I met at theological college. It was certainly not love at first sight. I was quite introverted, not trying to give away much of who I was, and Penny – well, Penny was very nervous and came across as a terrible caricature of an English middle-class blue stocking type of woman: think, those of you who can remember back that far, of Joyce Grenfell in the old St Trinian’s films. Our college was overwhelmingly full of men, with this being only the second year a handful of women had been admitted. So, when I met Penny in the first hour or so after arriving, I thought: ‘well, if this is how the women are here, I am simply not going to survive!’ I guess that was one factor in our initial relationship: sheer survival in an age and culture still trying to come to terms with the equality of women as a whole, never mind wider gender diversity. It was an earlier reminder that, if Penny and I were to minister, it would be as salt. We would be adding fresh flavour to both the Church and the wider world, seeking to provide healing or simply preservation for some of us, and, from time to time, perhaps irritating others into whose wounds we might be placed to aid healing. Maybe some will have views on how well, or otherwise, we have done that so far. Our hope and prayer is, in the words of Jesus in our Gospel reading today, that we, with others, will never lose out saltiness…
There is a poignant little story about salt which you may have heard: a story with echoes perhaps of Shakespeare’s tale of King Lear. In this story, a king asks each of his three daughters how much they love him. The first two daughters reply with flowery words, and great exaggeration, declaring a professed deep and undying love and affection. In contrast, the third daughter, who in fact really loves him the best, replies very simply: ‘My father, I love you as much as meat loves salt.’ Well now, at first hearing, that doesn’t sound very impressive, does it?! So, thinking her disrespectful and hard-hearted, her father casts her out of his kingdom. Many years later however, when he has been disappointed by his other two daughters and their exaggerated words, the cook in the royal palace forgets to salt the food of the king’s favourite dish. When he tastes his his flavourless meal, the king suddenly realises his mistake, and the importance of his third daughter’s words. Repenting of his former anger, he welcomes her home with much rejoicing.
So what, I wonder, comes to mind when we hear the key word ‘salt’ in our Gospel reading today? What connections, and what importance do they have, for us?...