This time of year in Vermont the weather is unpredictable. Some days the snow falls deeply, leaving inches piled on the front walk. Others it’s warm enough to open the doors for a little while, and the snow on the ground starts to melt. Then temperature drops way below freezing, with biting winds, and the water freezes into ice.
That’s what has happened on our front walk. The snow fell, I shoveled it, and then it melted and froze again. By the time our friend came over for dinner last night, it was a virtual ice slide. So, this morning I went to the hardware store and bought a 25 pound bag of salt. I’m letting it set on the ice now, slowly breaking down the frozenness, and softening the surface. And I’ll go out again in a while and break it all up.
Salt is an interesting thing. It has the power to warm what is ice cold and transform it. It makes me think about all the times that Jesus called his followers the “salt of the earth”. Table salt is relatively cheap now, but in Jesus’ day it wasn’t. It was used for everything from food to preparing bodies for burial, and it was quite valuable. Jesus pointed this out when he reminded his disciples that if salt looses its saltiness, it is worthless. But if it keeps it, it can be used in incredible ways.
For those of us who attempt to follow Christ, we want to be the salt of the earth. But we sometimes don’t realize that being the salt of the earth is worthless if we don’t use it. It’s not enough just to be salt. You have to act as salt.
Denominations like my own, the mainline Protestant ones, have often been called the homes of the “frozen chosen”. There’s a stereotype that we come to church on Sunday, sing our hymns, hear the sermon, and then go out the doors no more alive with the love of Christ than we were when we walked in an hour before. That’s sometimes accurate. But it doesn’t have to be.
What if instead of being the salt that sat in the pews, we put some of our saltiness to good use? What if instead of holding onto the salt we have, we spread it out on the world and let it do its work? What if we took a little of that salt and dethawed our selves?
In Lent, we can choose to move from being the “frozen chosen” to the ones who have been chosen to warm the world. Or, we can just stay put. Salt without any good use. And, eventually, we will lose our saltiness. And the faith we follow will appear to all the world to be worthless. The choice is ours. Do we choose to be the salt? Or do we choose to act as salt?
As I watch the salt on my front walk cut through what has been frozen into place, transforming the landscape, I’m reminded of its power. And I’m reminded of the power of the Gospel in the hands of Christ’s followers as well. As the salt of the earth, we can warm the frozen places. We can unstick the things that are stuck in place. We can make what is hard turn soft, and what is dangerous turn welcoming. And we can change the lay of the land, and ease the way for others.