All Age sermon for Proper 1 (Year A): Isaiah 58.6-10 Matthew 5.13-16

NB. the readings used are shorter than those given by the lectionary.

For this sermon you will need:

  • 2 packets of salt ‘n’ shake crisps
  • a torch
  • a large piece of white paper (or a screen, if you have one)

In today’s gospel Jesus gives us two quite different images: salt and light. And he tells us this is what we should be like: salt and light in the world. I wonder what he means by that?

Let’s think about salt first. I’ve brought some crisps. [get children to add both lots of salt to one packet and shake] What difference does the salt make? Let’s see. [ask children if crisps look the same or different, then let children taste and ask if they taste the same or different]

Salt makes a difference to the crisps. We can’t see the salt, unless we look very closely, but we can tell it’s there because of what the crisps are like. What difference do we make in the world as followers of Jesus? How can people tell that we’re here, that there are followers of Christ in this place?

Perhaps by the way we treat one another. Perhaps by the way we treat the least among us, the marginalised and unloved.

And now let’s think about light. When a light shines, we don’t just see the light itself, we see all sorts of other things by the light. [two children to hold up large piece of paper and one to hold torch, invite children to make shadow puppets]

Light changes how we see things. An ordinary hand becomes a crocodile or a dog or a butterfly. Dark places become light. Hidden things become clear. When Jesus says that we shouldn’t hide our light, he means that we should show people how God is at work in the world, by what we do and say and how we relate to the world around us.        

Salt and light. They make a difference to the world around them. And that’s what Jesus calls us to do too. To make a difference in the world. To be the difference in the world. To change what is around us, not by drawing attention to ourselves and what we are doing, but by bringing in God’s kingdom.

Part of that kingdom is justice. I read recently that the richest 85 people in the world own between them the same amount as the poorest 3.5 billion people in the world. The numbers are almost too big to grasp, but let’s look at how that would work with the crisps we were using just now. If I give this packet of crisps to Jackie and Hugh to share, and say that this other packet is for everyone else at church to share between us, is that ok?

No? What should Jackie and Hugh do with their crisps? [hopefully someone will suggest sharing] Yes, when we see that something is unjust we should do something about it. Something to bring God’s justice to whatever situation we find ourselves in.

Because whoever we are, and whatever we’re doing, it’s up to us to make a difference. To quote one of my favourite children’s books, The Lorax by Dr Seuss, “unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not”. We are the instruments God uses to bring in the justice of his kingdom. We are the salt and light that makes the difference.

We make a difference when we treat people justly, when we value people as children of God, when we take whatever action we can to put right what is wrong in the world. It might be something as small as sharing our crisps, or putting a tin in the One Can Trust bin at the back of church. Challenging what is wrong in the world, reaching out to those in need – this is what Isaiah speaks of as being the offering God demands of us.           

Some situations seem too big for us to make a difference, too complicated, too hopeless. And yet we can always do something. Again our reading from Isaiah has the answer: we can pray and God will hear us. Perhaps that sounds a bit trite. But think how many millions of people prayed for justice in South Africa during apartheid, or for peace in Northern Ireland during the troubles. And many of you will remember how long those prayers went on – for years, for longer than some of you have been alive – in what seemed like a hopeless situation. But things changed. Because of people standing up for what is right. Because of people making whatever small difference they can. Because of people like you, praying and going on praying.

Perhaps you feel like you can’t make much of a difference in the world. Perhaps you think you are not old enough or not clever enough or not big enough. But think how tiny a grain of salt is, almost invisible, and yet it makes a difference to everything it comes in contact with.

We can be like that. If we live faithfully and follow Jesus and do whatever small things we can to God’s glory, we will be the salt of the earth. And slowly, one grain at a time, we will transform that earth into heaven.

And If we do nothing else, let us pray this daily: Lord, may your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.