St. Augustine of Hippo


Episcopal Church

 


“Tasteless Fish”

(Matthew 5:13 – 20)

February 9, 2020


The Reverend Nathanael Saint-Pierre


Have you ever been hungry, looking for something to eat and your refrigerator is empty? What do you do then? You call a restaurant, you order something, and you start fantasizing about the food while waiting for it to be delivered. I love fish. In Haitian cuisine, there is a meal called “Poisson gros de sel” (Red snapper cooked in a spicy gravy). I love eating it with boiled green plantain. Everything in there is exciting for the palate, delicious and appealing to me: The odor spreading in the dining room, the fish laid in the plate, the gravy surrounding it, the smoking plantain from which vapor is escaping. Can you imagine this meal? Do you smell the juicy but spicy fish? Do you have a taste of this gravy you can spread on some black rice? Hmmmm!!! Exquisite!  

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

In my hunger, I ordered a fish from a Haitian restaurant. When I received my fish, it was not what I expected. It was tasteless and not spicy at all. My business with this restaurant was over.

What did Jesus mean by we are the salt of the earth, the light of the world? What is he calling us to be and to do?

The notion that what we do and how we act do not matter is wrong. To be the salt of the earth and the light of the world is Important because both salt and light cannot be useful by themselves and on their own. Salt really has a taste when applied to something other than itself and light is not useful outside of darkness. Another notion that is false is that we need a large quantity of salt or light to transform the taste of the earth and the darkness of the world. Let us be reminded that Jesus started his movement by calling only two fishermen, Andrew and Simon, then John and James, and moved on to twelve.

Food is not healthy with a lot of salt. When we are part of a minority, no matter how it is qualified: ethnic, religious or social, know that our mission is to be salt and light. As a small black community of the Lower East Side, we are called to bring taste to a larger church that may have lost the way of love. We have seen how many so-called or self-called Christians are standing with liars to get us to swallow a bitter pill. We must stand with the one who is singled out and marginalized because of his courage to speak truth to power. We must not be afraid of our individual handicaps or impediments. When Jesus called fishermen, they were not theologians or trained preachers mastering evangelism or graduated from prestigious universities. He called them from where they were and used the skills they had.

Jesus is calling his disciples, and us by extension, to be and to act in such ways to bring transformation to a world that is tasteless and in darkness. We have not received our gifts to spend our lives in a box. Salt is salt when transforming the taste of food, and light is light when out in the darkness. It takes only a little light to trouble the darkness.  

Maybe today, some of us think that we have no purpose. Jesus wants us to know we were born with purpose (salt or light) but we got lost because sometimes we throw that purpose away and become tasteless like my fish. We lose our way because we believe we can make it without Jesus.

If you care to know what happened to my fish, then here it is: I took it to the kitchen and put it in a pan. I added a pinch of salt, some hot chili pepper, a spoon of lemon juice and voila! After a good 10 minutes of letting my enhanced gravy penetrate the fish, it became like the delight I knew it could be.

In Jesus, there are always second chances. Jesus is the only person who doesn’t say he loves you but won’t forgive you. Jesus is the only one I know who will never tell you what you have done is too much for him to forgive. Jesus is not the fake partner who is in it for himself using quid pro quo to get what he wants. Jesus being a lover is a loser who gives all, even his life, to prove to us his love. The good news today is that we are not really broken beyond repair. Jesus is giving us a mission to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. What others are doing is not important. Jesus is talking to each one of us. Is it the priest being dishonest? Don’t look at him. Is it the pope? Let God deal with him. Are the majority forgetting God? Let’s be the minority remembering that when Jesus inhabits us, we become the salt of the earth and the light of the world. There is redemption for the tasteless fish that we are. Jesus is a way better cook than I am. And when because of our actions, we manage to bring someone to Jesus, our light has shone, and glory is given to our Father in heaven. Amen!