Sunday, July 29, 2012

Salty Sunday School Lesson

I don't share Sunday School lessons on here often because I don't keep up with all my resources so I can't always give credit where credit is due but I loved researching and putting together and teaching today's lesson.  This is not about me and what I can do but about God and what He can do -- and I'm hoping all of the sources I used feel the same. 

After opening up our time together this morning, I then shared a brief recap of the horrible shooting in Aurora last weekend.  To be honest, I don't even want to read the words of that part again.  My heart just hearts for all those involved so I'm going to pick up sort of mid thought.  So just imagine you've heard that story again and then straight into this part . . . .But there were those in the crowd that day who were heroes. Three young men made sure that their girlfriends were covered and protected and died doing so. One man protected his son's wounded girlfriend. "They were in the front row … so the shooter was right over them and instead of running away he stayed there and saved her life in the end, kept her from bleeding to death," I can imagine Mark doing that.  Outside the theater, a woman took off her belt and fashioned it into a tourniquet to bind the thigh of one of the wounded. We don’t know if those heroes were Christians or not but if we had been there that day, what would we have done? How would we have acted?  Would we have run out the door?  Would we have helped others?

Listen to today’s scripture from Matthew 5:13-16 – (NIV)

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

I love salt. I really do. I have to be careful to not eat too much salt. I think I might pick a salty treat over a sweet treat.  You could put a piece of Mark's momma's homemade German Chocolate cake (which is one of my favorites) in front of me and a salty snack and I would have a hard time choosing but I would probably choose the salty snack.  Or you know those beverages with the salt around the rim . . .yummy!!Or maybe some good ole chips and dip or chips and salsa. I’d have to think about that one. No matter where we go and what we eat, we are told that it is better for us if we watch how much salt we eat. Now, we’re not going to debate whether that’s best for us or not, the fact of the matter is, for any of us with high blood pressure problems or other health problems, we are to stay away from or limit our salt. In actuality, though, salt is essential not only for the health of humans and animals alike, it is also used as a primary ingredient in the manufacturing world.  You know how I love fun facts to know and tell - well, I have several for you.  I enjoyed reading about salt this week!!  Did you know that it has been estimated that there are now more than 14,000 uses for salt. For instance, salt is used in meat packing, sausage making, fish curing; and food processing industries use salt as a preservative or seasoning or both. Salt is used for curing and preserving hides, and in refrigeration as a brine. In the chemical industry salt is used in manufacturing sodium hydroxide, hydrochloric acid, and chlorine. Salt is also used in soap (who knew??), glaze, and porcelain enamel manufacture as well as being used as a flux in the fusing of metals (don't ask me any questions about that - I have no idea what that is). And in the medical world salt solutions are used not only in surgery but in healing various skin infections and diseases.  When you were a kid and had a sore throat what did your momma tell you to gargle with???  (warm salty water)  Contact wearers often know the value of  what??  (saline solution)

Though most people think of salt as a seasoning, it is clear from all that it is only a small part of its uses. Think of this…less than 5 out of every 100 pounds of salt produced is used for food seasoning. Imagine that!!!

Did you know that salt cakes have been used for money throughout the history of the human race. Caesar’s troops were paid in part with salt. The word salary comes from the Roman (Latin) word salarium. And the phrase “not worth his salt” dates back to ancient times and was meant quite literally. Those Roman soldiers, by the way, constructed one of the greatest military roads of history, the Via Salaria—because at one end was one of the great salt works of the ancient world.

To top it all off, the Bible is the first place that salt was mentioned in writing. Salt is mentioned 42 times in the Bible

According to this scripture, we are called to be salty Christians. Since I love salt so much, I like that!

A proper amount of salt is essential to sustain life, so ancient peoples traded whatever was required to obtain it. In Palestine, most salt came from salt caves and salt marshes in the area around the Dead Sea. This salt was susceptible to deterioration that left only useless crystals. But think about some more properties of salt – salt is indeed a seasoning. Even our baked goods have a pinch of salt. The cookies I made for you on the back table have a whole teaspoon - not just a pinch - of salt in them.  Salt is a preservative. Salt retards spoilage. It doesn’t prevent the process of decay, but it slows it down and prevents its spread. Salt also stings. Have you ever had a cut on your hand and accidentally got salt in that cut? Oh my goodness. Salt can also give strength in a round about way. You’ve been sick before or overheated and you drink some Gatorade which has all sorts of electrolytes and sodium and who knows what else in it. Salt also causes thirst. All those salty treats like chips and nuts and pretzels make you want to have a cold . . .drink.

Salt can be used in many ways. So what does it mean for us (the John Wesley class - Christians) to BE the salt of the earth? By our very presence, maybe we are to help preserve the world. Like I said earlier, we have no idea whether any of those involved in Aurora were Christians or not but I believe those who were heroes that day were the salt of the earth. As I was working on the lesson, I tried to remember times in history when others have been the salt of the earth. I thought of William Wilberforce who became a Christian in 1785. He became one of the leading English abolitionists. He headed the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade for twenty-six years until the passage of the Slave Trade Act of 1807.

I also thought of Mother Teresa. I googled her just to read up on her life a little. She was really the salt of the earth because listen to this: At the time of Mother Teresa's death, The Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity numbered 3,914 members, and were established in 594 communities in 123 countries of the world. Her work continues under the guidance of Sister Nirmala, Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity Sisters. The order has grown over 4,000 members in 697 foundations in 131 countries of the world. She not only took care of others but her movement grew and grew all over the world.

We are called to be salt to the world – give it flavor. Last Wednesday night, Mark and George and Billy and Gary Green and Tim Hayes whipped up a batch of spicy red beans with lots of flavor and maybe some salt and some rice and sausages and fed a bunch of homeless guys. Our John Wesley guys were the salt of the earth on Wednesday night.

I found one author who said that the primary meaning of “You are the salt of the earth” has to do with a willingness to live our lives with the “tang” of our faith intact. We’re under so much pressure to give up our differences and blend in with society. Believers are to be “tangy” rather than bland and insipid in the way we live and speak. I remember hearing a question back when I was a young person, “if you were being tried for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” That fits with this salty Christian image and the thought that our lives ought to have some “tang.”

I searched on the internet for other examples of people being salty. Listen to this one:

"The woman who was salt to me when I was seeking to find Truth, was just an ordinary Mom of a kindergartner who walked her daughter to school with my daughter and I. But her conversation always had that spark of life, and hope, and truth, not preaching, but a calm confidence in the Lord. When I totalled my car in an rollover accident on an icy road, she literally brought delicious food to sustain us when I was in bed, and yes, it was seasoned with salt, but again, her encouragement and words of comfort, were the salt which led me to receive Jesus as my Lord and Savior, when I accompanied her to a Bible study later on. I have thanked her for being salt to me....and for not "staying safely in the salt shaker", but for sharing truth with that my life was preserved."

Oh my goodness- I love her sentence, “for not staying safely in the salt shaker.” How often do we choose to stay safely in our salt shaker?  If I had been in Colorado, I'm so afraid that I would have stayed safely in my salt shaker and would have been running as fast as I could go.

If we live our lives so that there is a “tang” to our Christianity, I think it might make other people want to know what causes it. I’m one of those people who has a pretty intense sense of taste. I can eat something new and tell you the spices used in the preparation of the dish. I want to know what it is so I work on figuring it out. (Talked about ginger and anise (how I hate it) and other spices) That “tang” of Christianity should be lived out so that when others see us live our lives, they want to know why we are that way. I said earlier that salt makes us thirsty – same thing – if we are living our lives as the salt of the earth, others around us should become thirsty to have what we have – that relationship with Jesus.  They should see our lives as an example and want to know why we live like we do.

The flip side of this – what might be the symptoms of a Christian who has lost his saltiness? It is possible for a believer to detect such symptoms in himself or herself? The salt of ancient days became worthless when it lost its saltiness. So what about us as Christians when we lose our saltiness?  (they had some great answers -- anger, greed, self centeredness and others - they thought that if we are truly honest with ourselves, we might be able to see the symptoms in ourselves -- told them about saying I was depressed this morning (lack of saltiness, perhaps?) and telling Mark that I was praying for God to speak through Andy directly to me . . .and HE did!!)

On to the second portion of the scripture. In Jesus’ day, homes were commonly lit by small clay lamps which could be held in the palm of the hand. The most primitive consisted of a saucer to hold the olive oil, in which was immersed one end of a wick that lay in an indention or spout in the rim. Later clay lamps were sometimes covered, with a hole in the top in which to pour the oil and a hole at one side for the wick.

The verse says “let your light shine before others.” The important part of this verse is “before others.” Years ago, we were on our family trip to the beach. One night some of us were on the pier and some of us were maybe on our way down to the pier. All of the power went out all around us. It was pitch black. All of a sudden, we saw a light. It was our "little at the time" nephew, Thomas and he had on his little head lamp that someone had given him. That little tiny head lamp on a little tiny boy could guide a whole bunch of adults. His light was shining that night!! Then again, you can turn on a light in an empty room. It will dispel the darkness but if no one is around to see it, the light doesn’t affect anyone. Likewise you can live a Christian life in secret but no one is going to be helped. Jesus said some thing would happen when you shine your light – others will see your good deeds – now wait a minute – we aren’t supposed to do things in order to get recognition. That is not what he is saying here. The word for good is kalos. It means attractive or beautiful or lovely. It is that which is pleasing to the eye. Jesus is saying that people will be attracted by the beauty of your life. Others will be drawn to you by the way you live. When you stop and smile at a friend, that is a good deed. When you bake a chocolate pie and give it to a neighbor, that is a good deed. When you help cook a meal for a class member, that is a good deed. When you visit someone in the hospital, that is a good deed. It is beautiful, attractive and lovely. Jesus said, “when they see your lovely ways.” He could have said, “when they hear your great preachers or when they sit in your lovely sanctuaries or hear your wonderful choirs.” All of those things are good but he said, “when they see your good deeds – your lovely ways.” There is an old poem, “the living sermon.” I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day. I’d rather one would walk with me than merely tell the way. The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear. Fine counsel is confusing but example’s always clear. The best of all the preachers are the ones who live their creeds. For to see good put in action is what everybody needs. I soon can learn to do it, if you’ll let me see it done. I can watch your hands in action, your tongue too fast may run. The lectures you deliver may be very wise and true. But I’d rather get my lessons by observing what you do. For I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give. But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.

Pretty good poem.

We are called to be the salt and light to the world. We don’t need a fancy degree to be salt and light. As individuals, we aren’t called to save the world but we are called to make a difference. We can’t do everything but we can each do something and what we can do, we OUGHT to do. That is what being salt and light is all about. This week, our challenge as a class is to live as salty, light shining Christians who get out of the safety of our salt shakers.

(wish I could thank all the wonderful sources -- several sources on line -- "mission possible" by keith krell, "witnessing people: living as salt and light in the world by dr. ralph f. wilson, "the salt and light brigade", a great catholic website about mother teresa, various other websites about salt, several sermons on salty christians -- thanks so much to each author/website)

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