All week long, I’ve been watching the events unfold in Egypt—the demonstrators flocking to the square, the peaceful protests, the way the protestors supported one another and also monitored one another’s behavior so that the crowd would not become unruly, and then, in the middle of the week—the outbreak of violence as Mubarak’s thugs and secret police tore into the crowd. Buried in all that was a story about two middle-aged women on their way to Tahrir Square. On their way to call for justice. On their way to call for freedom. A crowd of bullies and thugs surrounded them, baited them, and started shoving them and pushing them around. But the women held their ground. They would not give way and they would not stop talking about freedom, they would not stop calling for justice. The way the reporter told it, the bullies and thugs finally backed off.
Those two women reminded me of two other women, both of whom held their ground in the face of bullies and thugs, both of whom refused to put their light under a bushel basket.
The first time I ever saw Carole she was standing patiently at a microphone waiting for her turn to speak. When her turn finally came, she was firm and clear as she spoke out against the bullying and injustice going on that day. The bully turned bright red and raged at her, but she just stood her ground—meeting his anger with a clear and measured call for justice. She didn’t rage or scream or talk back. She just stood her ground, reminding everyone in the room of the Gospel call to love and justice. She just stood there letting her light shine for everyone there to see.
The other woman you know well. Her small act of courage and dignity unleashed a movement that is still changing the world today. You know the story of Rosa Parks, the young seamstress heading home after a long day at work. You remember how she got on the bus, paid her fare, and went to the back of the bus; you remember how she saw that there were no seats in what they called the colored section. You know how she took a seat in “no man’s land”—that part of the bus that held the overflow from the white’s only and the colored only sections. I’m sure you remember what happened when the bus driver asked Rosa Parks to move. She just sat there. When he threatened to call the police, she just said, “Do what you must.” When the cops came and one of them asked her, “A you going to move?” You know what she said. She said, “No.” She didn’t raise her voice. She didn’t raise her fists. She just sat there letting her light shine for all the world to see.
Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth.”
Salt. It preserves food. It adds flavor. It brings out flavors that are already there.
Salt. In Jesus’ time, they mixed salt with cow dung and used it for fuel. The salt helped the fuel paddies burn longer and give off a more even heat.
To the poor in spirit, to those that mourn, to the merciful, to the peacemakers, and to those who hunger and thirst for justice, Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth.”
To Rosa and to Carole and to the women of Tahrir Square, Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth.”
To people in the breezeway and people under the bridge, Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth.”
To people right here in this room and to others who live on the streets, Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth.”
Jesus is saying, “It’s you who fuel the kingdom of God; it’s you who preserve it and give it flavor.”
Salt. It’s an essential element. We can’t live without it.
I hear Jesus saying, “We can’t build the kingdom of God without you.”
Like Rosa, like Carole and like the women of Tahrir Square, we are the salt when we stand on the ground of justice and mercy and love.
Like Rosa, like Carole and like women of Tahrir Square, we are the salt when we live with courage and dignity in the face of bullies and thugs.
Not long ago, Carole said to me, “Sometimes you just have to know who you are, where you stand, and then just stand there.”
Who you are—a child of God.
Where you stand—with your hand on the Gospel plow.
When you’ve got those things straight, no bully can dim your light.
Let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine