Mary Ellen Helms, Loveland, Ohio

Warm-up Question

Describe your favorite food as best you can without naming any of the ingredients.

A Matter of Taste

The science of taste is fascinating, perhaps because food is a universal part of our daily lives. We eat to live and, for many of us, sharing a meal with others brings a whole new sense of joy to our daily lives. Food tells stories and we use the flavors of food to experience it in all sorts of different ways.

The five most common flavors detected by humans are salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami. Once it was thought that these flavors were only tasted in specific parts of our tongue, but that myth has been debunked through science. Our tastebuds are covered in receptors that receive multiple messages and help us to enjoy some flavors and dislike others.

While every flavor may not appeal to us, most of us are drawn to at least a couple of flavor profiles.  Salt is particularly interesting because it is a naturally occurring element that helps our bodies do the daily work of living. Salt does multiple jobs, but when it comes to food, the main work is preserving food and enhancing flavor. Though basic in its make-up, it is pivotal in its power.

Discussion Questions

  • What flavors are you drawn to? What is it about that certain kind of food that you love?
  • What are some ways that adding salt (or other flavors) makes a recipe better?

Fifth Sunday After Epiphany

Isaiah 58:1-9a [9b-12]

1 Corinthians 2:1-12 [13-16]

Matthew 5:13-20

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year A at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

In Matthew 5:13-20, Jesus preaches his famous Sermon on the Mount.  Many of Jesus’ most famous teachings come from this part of scripture-– think the Beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer, and teachings on adultery, divorce, and other aspects of the law. What is interesting about this particular section of the Sermon on the Mount is that it is just as much about how we are to be as it is about what we are to do. We are not just called to be followers of the law – we are called to be SALT and LIGHT (descriptors of our identity in Jesus).  

What does it mean to be salt?  In Jesus’ time salt was an everyday commodity which had more importance than just being in a shaker on the table.  It was used to preserve foods and keep them safe for consumption.  Salt was common, but also special and necessary. People hearing Jesus preach knew that he was calling them to preserve, protect, and enhance the world around them. 

What it means to be light is even more obvious.  All of us have experienced some sort of darkness and felt a sense of relief when a light came on. Our fear of the dark is innate; darkness may hide the dangers around us. When he calls us to be the light of the world, Jesus reminds us that we are to bring goodness and truth to dark places. 

We are light and salt when we live out  God’s life-saving mission in the world. We are called to be people who illuminate, enhance, and preserve the world – not darken, decrease, and destroy that which is around us. When we are in the light and when we are living with “saltiness,” we are bringing God’s kingdom into the world.

Discussion Questions

  • If Jesus were telling parables to us today, he would surely use recognizable elements like salt and light. What images might he use instead of salt and light?
  • When Jesus calls us to be salt and light for the world, he reminds us of our identity (what makes us us). How do we live out that identity today?

Activity Suggestions

  • Research food from Jesus’ era and culture and try them out. Describe their tastes.
  • Take a night hike with your youth group. Describe how it feels to be in the dark and how it feels to enter back into the light. Consider times when you have felt darkness all around you, but received light from someone else.

Closing Prayer

God of light, you have called us, your children, to be bearers of the light and salt of the earth. Help us to follow your commandments in ways that bring glory to you through our very being. Protect us from darkness and help us enhance the world around us with your flavor. Guide us as we seek to follow your laws and rejoice in the saving power of Jesus. Amen.