It’s now the third day in Zimbabwe and we’ve moved from Victoria Falls, from where I last posted a blog, through Bulawayo and now to Gweru in the Diocese of Central Zimbabwe. That’s been a long journey along roads damaged as a result of the heavy rainfall that this country has experienced latterly. From going from a situation of drought they’re now experiencing flooding and I saw the spectacular effects of that at the Victoria Falls, but the evidence is all around.
This morning I had the joy of being at the Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Bulawayo with Dean Fritz who I had the pleasure of meeting when we both in Jerusalem at St George’s College. Fritz invited me to preach at the Choral Eucharist. The congregation filled the Cathedral – many young people, many members of the Mothers’ Union in their uniforms seated at the front of the nave and some in the choir.
The gospel for today was Matthew 5:13-16 and so I preached about salt as the gospel begins with that double command of Jesus to us
‘You are the salt of the earth …You are the light of the world.’ (Matthew 5.13, 14)
One of the things that I was really looking forward to on my return to Zimbabwe was to be able to eat sadza again. This is the staple food in Zimbabwe and, though called by other names, throughout parts of southern Africa. It’s a stodgy ‘porridge’ made of cornmeal that you eat with your main course, like mashed potato in our context. You find the members of the Mothers’ Union stirring vast cauldrons of it whenever there’s a feast. The thing is without anything to give it taste it is tasteless (so it seems to me) but just as with porridge and a sprinkling of salt or sugar it becomes something altogether different.
Jesus is so brilliant at taking the most ordinary thing and speaking of faith by referring to it – light, a mustard seed, a city set on a hill, a farmer sowing seed, a cloud on the horizon, a lost sheep, a lost coin. They, like salt, are things that we all understand, whatever our situation.
Driving the long distances and seeing tiny hamlets in the middle of the bush, just a few thatched huts in which people are living a subsistence lifestyle, filling up on their bowl of sadza with a few vegetables and maybe, but only maybe, a chicken, you wonder where the similarity with us and our overblown lifestyle can be.
But it is in the simplicity of salt that we can find some truth. The challenge I gave to the congregation this morning and to myself is whether, they, we, I, brought the flavour of Christ to the world in which we moved, the savour of Jesus, that heightened experience of faith that makes life flavoursome. Jesus says if we are not doing that we are as useless as non-salty salt and that the life we are living is bland.
Jesus wants us to live the full flavour life that he brings. In a testimony in Southwark Cathedral the other week (yes, we do have testimonies from time to time) the member of the congregation being interviewed was asked what word of encouragement she had from the Lord for the congregation. In answer she told us that the text she was given at Confirmation is the one that she lives by
‘I came that they may have life, and have it in all its fullness.’ (John 10.10)
That is what having the flavour of Jesus in our lives is all about. That’s what I see around me in faithful people here. But am I still salty?
fill me with the flavour of Jesus
that I may be salt to the earth.