Saturday, June 15, 2013

A COVENANT OF SALT

A WEDDING HOMILY


The following is the text of a homily I'm giving at a wedding this afternoon. Since I don't have time to write a separate blog post, I'll share this instead.

People who know Peter and Diana would probably agree that they are “salt of the earth” kind of folks. So as we come here this afternoon to witness their solemn exchange of marriage vows it is appropriate that the Church should give us an opportunity to reflect on Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount: “You are the salt of the earth.”

Nowadays we know that the proper amount of salt is absolutely necessary for maintaining good health. But in the ancient world salt was tremendously important because it was used for preserving perishable goods, for  purifying things, as an antiseptic and of course for seasoning food.  Even to this day in certain eastern countries to eat of someone’s “salt” means to share in their hospitality.

It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of salt in Jesus’ day. It was so important that Roman soldiers used to get paid in salt, which gave us our English word salary.

So, Peter and Diana, I ask you to listen carefully when Jesus tells you this afternoon that”You are the salt of the earth” He’s saying to you in biblical language  “You are the most precious thing on earth.” You’ve already discovered that about one another – That’s why all of us are here this afternoon.

And there’s something beautiful about salt: Salt is so important just by being itself, just by being what God made it: salt! Just think about it:  If you are like salt, then you, too, are the most precious thing around just by being your real self! So our text is telling you that as you enter into this marriage, then, you just need to bring your real, true, salt-of-the-earth  self.

But what does that mean exactly?  Well, I suggest that you find the answer if you keep reading that scripture passage. It goes on to say:    “If salt loses its taste, how to you restore its flavor?  It is good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden underfoot.”
                 
Salt of course cannot lose its taste; but what can happen is that you can ADD stuff to pure salt, you can keep adulterating it with additives to the point that its taste is WEAKENED beyond recognition.

The Greek word Matthew uses for “losing its   savor” comes from the root “moros” – “foolish;”

it gives us our English word “moron.”  “Don’t be a moron!” the text is advising: Your own “salt-ness,” your savor, can easily be lost and your marriage can be weakened if you start allowing your salt to become contaminated by the things our culture tells you that you need for happiness: possessions, prestige, power, pleasure. These can subtly become more and more important in your life until you lose your savor.They form a toxic substance that kills a marriage.

You should notice something else about the passage: “You are the salt of the earth:” the word “You” is plural:  Youze” are the salt of the earth.  Your love is a gift you are giving to one another, but your love is also a gift to all of us here. As a married couple you are pledging to be salt for us as well, to give our lives savor and zest.
                 
That is a serious obligation that goes with the gift God has given you: Both as individuals and now as a married couple you are the salt of the earth. So pass it on. Share that gift with a world that so needs to be salted with the savor of selfless love. With a world that has forgotten the flavor of faithfulness. Please, be that for us!
                 
One last thought about salt, and this will bring us to the reason why the two of you are standing here this afternoon. In the Jewish Scripture salt is a symbol of the covenant between God and his people. For example in the Second Book of Chronicles King Abijah says “Do you not know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel for ever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt?” (2 Chron 13:5) And in the Book of Numbers God tells his people: As a perpetual due I assign to you and to your sons and daughters with you all the contributions of holy things which the Israelites set aside for the LORD; this is a covenant of salt to last forever before the LORD, for you and for your descendants with you”.  (Num 18:19)

Salt, the only preservative the Israelites knew, became a symbol of God’s ongoing, ever-enduring love for them. Diana and Peter, you are entering into a special sacrament today, a “covenant of salt to last forever.” The wedding will last for a few hours this afternoon, but the marriage, that's for the long haul, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. It's a covenant of salt.


I happen to know that the Portuguese word for a wedding ring is “alianca.” In French it’s

alliance.” And we are here today to celebrate with you your alliance. And to witness your solemn covenant with each other to love, honor and obey one other until death. To be salt and light for each other.


And since today is a day for promising, in the name of all of us here present I am also making you a promise. (Videographer, would you  please pan across the congregation - we want to get all these faces on tape!) By our presence here we are promising that when things start to get a little difficult, or when that salt starts to lose its taste and you need some encouragement: just call on us!
           
Even if you just need someone to help paint the living room in your new house, or maybe God willing, someone to watch the baby for awhile.
           
That is not just our promise, it’s also our request: Let us be salt for you, too!

And now  the Church, as the people of the new covenant, of the new alliance now invites you to stand and solemnize your gift of self in the sacrament of marriage.





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