Several years ago, I moved into a rectory in Philadelphia. In every room, there was a curled pipe or more coming out of the walls configured to become a lamp. In the 19th century, these lamps were used to light the house by gas. It was only in the beginning of the 1900’s that electricity came to the city and its houses. I bring it up because we take light and seeing for granted. For centuries, and even now in some parts of the world, light is only something they have for half a day. The light of a fireplace or a candle or an oil lamp is certainly not the convenience we have today. “You are the light of the world” put into the context of Jesus time takes some thinking. Imagine walking or being outside with only the moon or stars to see around us. How crippled were we with our last power outage? Yet in Jesus’ time, a far off fire or lamp would be all they could see. The light that his followers were meant to be was one that penetrated the darkness and ultimately gave hope or showed the way. We take it so much for granted, but light is essential.
Also, for salt. In biblical times, salt did a lot more than season food. In fact, they also used it to preserve food in an age when of course there was no refrigeration. No only that, but it was used in making the fuel that they used in their ovens to cook the food. Only when it was used up and lost it usefulness was it thrown away and trod underfoot. It was another everyday necessity that Jesus used that for us is simply another spice we get at the grocery store. But really, again Jesus chose something at the root of his time, saying that we are at the root of our time.
Being essential and at the root of our time is not easy. To dispel darkness, to witness is no easier today than in past centuries. Humanity at times listens and at other times goes its own way. However, as Christians the Holy Spirit has come to each of us and has made it possible for love to embolden and enable us to move forward. That love enables the reaching out to those who are poor, hungry or in some other dire need. For us the spirit calls to do what we can for those who can not always do for themselves.