Thought for the Month (November 2015)

How much thought do you give to those little white salt granules – or flakes if you buy the posh stuff – when you sprinkle it on your fish and chips? Probably not much more than salivating at the thought of a meal you have been looking forward to I bet – unless you've been told to cut your salt intake for health reasons of course.

Did you know, I wonder, that those little white granules – or flakes - have been a highly prized commodity by people of many different cultures over thousands of years even to the point of being used as money and salt roads were established to allow it to be transported because it was so important? Did you also know that the word ‘salary' comes from the Latin word for salt and it is believed that Roman soldiers were sometimes paid in salt which was worth its weight in gold at that time?

As someone who prefers salty, savoury things to sweet I never give the salt much thought, although I miss it if it isn't there, but there are some interesting facts about it I found out when I went looking.

One thing I did already know is that salt is essential to life. There are many warnings about not using too much salt as that can lead to all sorts of health problems but without a certain amount we die.

It is a wonderful cleaning agent for all sorts of things around the home from flower vases to brass, greasy pans to stained cups and much, much more. It can be used as a gargle and also for cleaning wounds – ouch! It will kill slugs and a line of salt will stop ants from coming into the house apparently – I've never tried it.

Something that I didn't know was that salt suppresses bitterness. I found that very surprising especially when I also found out that coffee aficionados add a very tiny amount to coffee grounds before brewing. No one knows quite how this works but it does. There may be such a small amount that you won't be able to taste it and wouldn't know it was in there but it will still have that effect of suppressing the bitterness of the coffee.

Salt is also able to enhance both savoury and sweet food. Many recipes, including cakes that you would normally think of as sweet, call for a pinch of salt and it is there to enhance the flavour of the other ingredients. We will all be aware that salt can be used to preserve foods. Years ago before the advent of tins and freezers, meat and fish were salted so that they would keep through the winter and that helped to lessen the dependence on seasonal foods.

So salt is an essential, cleansing, preserving, enhancing substance that will suppress bitterness but can kill certain things.

In Matthew chapter 5 verse 13 Jesus says to His disciples "You are the salt of the earth." That is a statement not an instruction – "You are the salt of the earth" – Jesus is not saying "Come on, take a deep breath, put some effort into it and try really, really hard to be the salt of the earth." He is saying "You are already the salt of the earth."

When we follow Christ and are guided by the Holy Spirit we will add a Christian flavour to the company we keep. We have an essential, transforming message – our knowledge of God's love as we have seen it in Jesus has given us a spiritual life blessed with peace and joy and thankfulness which many others don't know. Every time we are moved to reach out to others – maybe by helping a neighbour or giving to a good cause – we are acting as salt. Whenever we have the chance to share the message of God's love with someone, either in word or in deed – we are acting as salt. We will be enhancing the community we live in as God's love in us reaches out to others.

Remember that tiny pinch of salt in the coffee that is there to suppress the bitterness? We can be the pinch of salt that suppresses some of the bitterness we come into contact with, and there is so much of it out there. It is at the root of so many of the problems in today's world as resentment and anger build up and spill over into hatred, violence and despair.

As we remind ourselves of Jesus' words – "You are the salt of the earth" – let's stay close to Him and pray that well known prayer that is often attributed to St. Francis:-

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Then the world will feel the effects of our pinch of salt.

Jacqui Ferdinando (Rusthall URC Correspondent)

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Tunbridge Wells United Reformed Church