The writings of the prophet Isaiah continue to echo across the centuries to provide a challenge for us; they were certainly well-known at the time of Jesus and seem to provide the background for the teaching that Jesus gives us in the second part of the sermon on the mount. The call for Israel was to be a sign to the other nations of what a nation that was in a covenant relationship with the God of everything looks like. Israel was meant to live this out and embody it, so that if someone else wanted to know what it would be like to be changed and challenged by the Lord, they could look at Israel and see the presence and power of the God of everything in the people and their way of life. Unfortunately, all that Israel tended to be worried about was seeking justice from the Lord against the other nations and longing for the Messiah to come to set them free from their oppression.
When Jesus uses these two striking images in the Gospel today (Matthew 5:13-16), the call of the prophet Isaiah (58:7-10) is firmly in mind. Israel was meant to be salt for the earth – to bring flavour; to preserve; to provide light and fire; to challenge and correct all wrongdoing. So the call of Jesus is directed not only to the disciples and all who were listening, but all of us across the centuries who struggle to make sense of the teaching and ministry of Jesus.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 8am (10’43”)
Sunday 5, Year A.