viewFlavor to the BlandFebruary 6th,2017Matthew 5: 13-20 You are the salt of the earth But if that salt has lost its flavor It ain’t got much in its favor You can’t have that fault and be the salt of the earth! –“Let Your Light So Shine,” Godspell, Stephen Schwartz, Composer Honestly, I’ve always thought of myself as someone who likes spicy food, even before I came to Texas. I’ve always enjoyed Indian food and Mexican food. I always thought I had a better tolerance than a lot of my friends. Then I came to Texas, and I learned I had no idea what spicy food is really like. When I’d eat Tex-Mex I was on the verge of crying through most of the meal and my stomach roiled for hours. But I worked my way through. I knew I could never claim to be a Texan if I couldn’t stand the heat—not only of the weather, but of the food. And while I doubt I have the spice tolerance of a lot of you all, I’m a lot better than I was, and more to the point—I love it. I’ve always made chili, but living in Texas its heat content has increased exponentially. This isn’t just because I like the heat. It’s also because I like the taste. For example, Jo Anne Henderson makes some great habanero jelly straight from her own garden, and I just had it for breakfast. I remember before I came to Texas, someone telling me abut habanero jelly and me saying, “Who’d want to eat a jelly made of peppers?” Right there, you see how much Texas has changed me. Spiced me up, I guess you could say. Which is kind of the point that Jesus is making to his listeners when he tells them that they are to be the salt of the world. Those first-century Galileans didn’t have poblanos or serranos. All they had was salt. Salt was the thing that made their otherwise bland meals tasty, even interesting and exciting. It was their version of chili peppers. So if Jesus were to say it to us today, he’d say, “You are the red hot chili peppers of the world. But what if those chili peppers lose their flavor? They’re useless. Throw them away.” When I was in college, I got involved with the college evangelical group. There were some individuals in the group I really came to love, but overall I got frustrated because, honestly, they were so bland. They dressed conservatively, they were very strict about what you could say and do and still be a Christian. They had a whole list of things that were wrong or at least inappropriate if you were their kind of Christian. They looked upon the other college students with disdain. Overall, they viewed themselves at odds with the rest of the college community, and the rest of the world. But I found that boring. Bland. Uninteresting. So for awhile I’d hang out with my fraternity friends. And they were fun. You could say they were spicy. And they were, all right, and I enjoyed a lot about them. But some of them were way too spicy. They partied too hard, they drank and drugged, and in some cases were just disrespectful of other people, especially women. But they were also disrespectful of themselves. They were many of them smart and talented and had a lot on the ball. In some cases their party attitude was some kind of rebellion, or even a kind of self-abuse, that often ended up with them kicked out of school, or worse. They were spicing up their lives, but it was like the way people sometimes use spices to cover up bad taste, rather than to enhance good taste. And I realized a lot of these folks needed the spice of the Gospel, not to realize how bad they are—in many cases they already knew that. What they needed to realize was how good God had made them—to see the potential they had as children of God. They needed the salt of the Gospel to bring out the good flavor God had already created them with. The lesson to take from this is to remember the purpose of the spice that the Kingdom of God brings to the world. It’s not supposed to replace the bad taste of a bad world, but to enhance the taste of a good world. Salt brings out good taste, and that’s our job as Christians—to bring out the flavor in a world that God already loves, a world God has made to be good and wholesome, but it’s lost its flavor. Sure, there are awful things in the world. We all know what they are. But the Biblical perspective is that even though the world has fallen from God’s original purpose, God still created the world good. Unfortunately, it’s gone at best bland, and at worse it’s become poisonous. The Gospel is meant to bring out the best in humanity—to demonstrate that humanity is made in the Image of God, that God made the world and the people in it good. It should bring out the best in you and in me—make each of us shine with the inward light of being God’s children, to show the love and kindness and Godlikeness that we were originally created for. God gave the gospel to the world to bring out the best flavor of a world that God had already created good. And the role the gospel should play in each of our lives is to bring out the best that God has already created in us. Meditate on this as you take the communion bread and cup this morning. Jesus didn’t come into the world to save us because he wanted to bury the worst in us. He came to bring out the best in us, something often hidden behind the misguided values that dominate the world or our own poor understanding of who we are as children of God. In God’s eyes each of us is a diamond in the rough, a pearl of great price, God’s own precious child. Remember, this communion means that God became a human being, suffered and died and rose again for our sakes, because God loves us. God loves us. And God would do anything for us. And in Jesus Christ, God did everything for us. Thanks be to God. Amen.