|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?...
Epiphany 5 Year A 9 February 2014 by The Revd Penny Jones
Every one of us sheds light just by being a human being created in the image of God. As Jesus puts it: 'You are the light of the world. Let your light so shine before others, that they may see, and give glory to God.' (Matthew 5.14,16)
Pastor Steve Garnaas Holmes, a Methodist minister from the States, writes of this text:
Maybe Jesus doesn't mean some special light— your faith, your righteousness, your goodness.
Maybe he just means you. Your self. Who you are, your creatureliness, fashioned by God's delight, coming into being through the Word, granted life, the light of all.
God said, "Light," and it came forth in the little paths of your nerves, the villages of your hands, the beauty in your eyes,
the continents of your mind, the great sea of your soul. (Once, every bit of you burned in stars.)
Let the light of yourself shine, he says, all of who you are, created by light.
Shine in people's darkness, so they can see, and glorify God. '
There is real humility and real wisdom in what Pastor Holmes writes. For too often I think we act as if it is all up to us. But that does not allow space for the grace of God. How can we best let the light shine? Is it by doing some special, amazing thing for God? Well 'no', rather it is by being ourselves and living as best we can. Our light shines in the accumulation of small things done well and faithfully. It shines in the refusal to allow small things to be done in a way that brings darkness rather than light. It shines in the daily, hourly choice of honesty, care, justice and love in our regular dealings.