Pastor’s viewpoint: June 2, 2018
Published 4:45 pm Monday, June 4, 2018
Have you ever heard of Solnitsata, meaning “the salt pit,” in what is now Bulgaria? It might be the first known town in Europe, built 6,500 years ago around a salt production facility. Such was the value of salt that it was, with gold and copper, the source of wealth in the Balkans, and later, as early Rome began to grow, roads were built to bring salt into the city. Solnitsata was surrounded by a large stone wall, in a day when walls were wood, to protect its wealth. In fact, our word “salary” comes from the Latin word for “salt,” even though it’s probably not true that Roman legions were sometimes paid in salt. (National Geographic)
What is salt? It’s either a movie about a CIA agent accused of being a Russian spy or the chemical result of mixing an acid and a base … so there are lots of “salts” depending on which acid and base you combine As a chemist, I’m more interested in the second choice. Maybe you think salt is the white stuff on your dining table and you’re right, it’s the salt we call sodium chloride or NaCl.
If you combine sodium hydroxide and hydrochloride acid, you’ll get the ionic compound we know as table salt, but the salt on your table is a natural salt from sea water or halite which is rock salt. The rock salt comes from large deposits of sedimentary salt left after seas dry up. The halite can be mined or it can be dissolved in water and pumped out of the ground as brine. Later the brine is evaporated to yield the dry salt … and then ground into small particles and packaged to sell. It’s believed the Chinese discovered it in brine ponds after they dried up in the summertime, but we can only guess why someone decided to put it on food.
“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 underfoot.” (Matthew 5:11-16)
When I was in seminary, they told us there were three meanings to the verse in Matthew 5 about salt. Salt can be used in three ways … to flavor foods, to preserve foods, and as a healing agent … soaking a sprained ankle in salt water for instance.
So the message in Matthew is that we, who call ourselves Christians, ought to flavor the community where we live, preserve what is good in life to keep it from decaying, and become healing agents in the lives of the people we meet along the way. But do we?
Charles “Buddy” Whatley is a retired United Methodist pastor serving Woodland – Bold Springs UMC and, with Mary Ella, a missionary to the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.