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The Disciple with a Salty Attitude!!

In this Sunday’s Gospel we are continuing with the Sermon on the Mount and move on to the next section after the Beatitudes that we heard last week. I can imagine that Jesus gets his disciples together and begins their Basic Training for Discipleship. He opens with promises of coming “Blessings” that have come to be known as the “Beatitudes”. The people in the beatitudes are those who are in need, weak and whom the world would deem unfortunate. Their reward is in Him whom they should emulate, the One they have chosen to follow. We hear Jesus proclaim that the disciples are and should be Salt and Light.

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. [Matt 5:13-20 (NIV)]

Jesus is demanding that the righteousness of his disciples EXCEED that of the Pharisees. To the people of his day he was asking that they outdo acts of the Pharisees in living out their lives for God. If they thought that the Pharisees went out of their way to follow the law and the commandments, he expected them to do more, leap buildings in a single bound, be faster than a speeding train, and just have a real salty attitude about it. Now, you might think that a person with a salty attitude is one is obnoxious and stubborn. In the context of what Jesus is talking about however, he wants the disciple to have the power of salt. To the people of the ancient Middle East, salt had Preserving, Healing and Flavoring Power. In order for the disciple to be effective in the world we have to have the same power. Just as salt was and is used to preserve meat when there is no refrigeration, so the church must be the preservative of God’s creation. It is through our faithfulness to the gospel that we preserve the integrity of the creation. The integrity of our faith, the church as the Body of Christ where the Word of God is faithfully preached and taught and where the Sacraments are faithfully administered. As faithful Christians, we become a moral and ethical influence upon those around us. The church is at its best when we live out our faith or let our light so shine that people see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. Salt also has power to heal. It was used for medicinal purposes as an antiseptic to clean out infected wounds. Do not get me wrong, it was painful, but the wound would be clean and healing could begin. There are many people who have been wounded by some tragedy or trial or some betrayal. They are continually filled with pain over the event which may have happened years and years ago. These wounds are stinking and festering and still threatening people’s lives. You have seen the news. The wounds are items such as homelessness, COVID, divorce, spouse abuse, child abuse, drug abuse, alcoholism, and lots more. All these are like an infected wound in society’s side. All these wounds are eating away at the soul of society. However, we have the cure in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Disciples who are salt are healers. They can see when we need healing to get us through life. They can be encouragers who get us through life with the Good News of Jesus Christ, and they sometimes use words. Mostly they use actions. Finally, Disciples have Flavoring Power. Can you imagine going to a movie and getting some popcorn. You go to your seat. You put your hand in to the hot buttered popcorn as the movie starts. As you put the popcorn in to your mouth, you find out it does not have any salt. They forgot the salt!! It is not the same. There is something wrong with popcorn or French fries and a host of other foods when there is no salt on it. Living out our lives without Christ would be like eating popcorn without salt. We can choke the popcorn down without the salt but it sure tastes a whole lot better with the salt. We can choke life down without Christ but it sure tastes better with Christ in it. On a campus ministry one night they were discussing this scripture and were listing the meaning of salt. The students came up with the ones I have just mentioned. “Salt can preserve. Salt can Heal. Salt can add flavor.” One young Chinese student however said, “Salt creates thirst.” The room got really quiet as they all thought and wondered if they had ever made anyone thirsty for Christ. We can make people thirsty for Christ by our salty attitude and our salty actions. Who we are shines out for all to see. This story is about a young fellow named Stevie, who by his actions had an influence on all who knew him. Dan Anderson, his boss, writes:

“I try not to be biased, but I had my doubts about hiring Stevie. His placement counselor assured me that he would be a good, reliable busboy. But I had never had a mentally handicapped employee and wasn't sure I wanted one. I wasn't sure how my customers would react to Stevie. He was short, a little dumpy, with the smooth facial features and thick-tongued speech of Down syndrome.

I shouldn't have worried. After the first week, Stevie had my staff wrapped around his stubby little finger, and within a month my truck regulars had adopted him as their official truck stop mascot. After that I really didn't care what the rest of the customers thought of him. He was like a 21-year-old in blue jeans and Nikes, eager to laugh and eager to please, but fierce in his attention to his duties. Every salt and pepper shaker was exactly in its place, not a bread crumb or coffee spill was visible, when Stevie got done with the table. Our only problem was convincing him to wait to clean a table until after the customers were finished. He would hover in the background, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, scanning the dining room until a table was empty. Then he would scurry to the empty table and carefully bus the dishes and glasses onto cart and meticulously wipe the table up with a practiced flourish of his rag. If he thought a customer was watching, his brow would pucker with added concentration. He took pride in doing his job exactly right, and you had to love how hard he tried to please each and every person he met.

Over time, we learned that he lived with his mother, a widow who was disabled after repeated surgeries for cancer. They lived on their Social Security benefits in public housing two miles from the truck stop. Their social worker, which stopped to check on him every so often, admitted they had fallen between the cracks. Money was tight, and what I paid him was the probably the difference between them being able to live together and Stevie being sent to a group home.

That's why the restaurant was a gloomy place that morning last August, the first morning in three years that Stevie missed work. He was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester getting a new valve or something put in his heart. His social worker said that people with Down Syndrome often had heart problems at a early age, so this wasn't unexpected, and there was a good chance he would come through the surgery in good shape and be back at work in a few months.

Since I hadn't had time to round up a busboy to replace Stevie, and really didn't want to replace him, the girls were busing their own tables that day until we decided what to do. After the morning rush, Frannie walked into my office. She had a couple of paper napkins in her hand a funny look on her face.

"What's up?" I asked. "I didn't get that table where Belle Ringer and his friends were sitting cleared off after they left, and Pony Pete and Tony Tipper were sitting there when I got back to clean it off, " she said. "This was folded and tucked under a coffee cup." She handed the napkin to me, and three $20 fell onto my desk when I opened it. On the outside, in big, bold letters, was printed "Something For Stevie." "Pony Pete asked me what that was all about," she said, "so I told him about Stevie and his mom and everything, and Pete looked at Tony and Tony looked at Pete, and they ended up giving me this."

She handed me another paper napkin that had "Something For Stevie" scrawled on it's outside. Two $50 bills were tucked within its folds. Frannie looked at me with wet, shiny eyes, shook her head and said simply "truckers."

That was three months ago. Today is Thanksgiving, the first day Stevie is supposed to be back to work. His placement worker said he's been counting the days until the doctor said he could work, and it didn't matter at all that it was a holiday. He called 10 times in the past week, making sure we knew he was coming, fearful that we had forgotten him or that his job was in jeopardy. I arranged to have his mother bring him to work, met them in the parking lot and invited them both to celebrate his day back.

Stevie was thinner and paler but couldn't stop grinning as he pushed through the doors and headed for the back room where his apron and busing cart were waiting. "Hold up there, Stevie, not so fast," I said. I took him and his mother by their arms. "Work can wait for a minute. To celebrate you coming back, breakfast for you and your mother is on me."

I led them toward a large corner booth at the rear of the room. I could feel and hear the rest of the staff following behind as we marched through the dining room. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw booth after booth of grinning truckers empty and join the procession. We stopped in front of the big table. Its surface was covered with coffee cups, saucers and dinner plates, all sitting slightly crooked on dozens of folded paper napkins. "First thing you have to do, Stevie, is clean up this mess," I said. I tried to sound stern.

Stevie looked at me, and then at his mother, then pulled out one of the napkins. It had "Something for Stevie" printed on the outside. As he picked it up, two $10 bills fell onto the table. Stevie stared at the money, then at all the napkins peeking from beneath the tableware, each with his name printed or scrawled on it.

I turned to his mother. "There's more than $10,000 in cash and checks on that table, all from truckers and trucking companies that heard about your problems. Happy Thanksgiving."

Well, it got real noisy about that time, with everybody hollering and shouting, and there were a few tears, as well. But you know what's funny? While everybody else was busy shaking hands and hugging each other, Stevie, with a big, big smile on his face, was busy clearing all the cups and dishes from the table. Best worker I ever hired.”

Stevie was salt and light to those truckers. He had the right attitude about his job and

how he looked at life and lived it. Let us go out and be salt and light too!

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