Excerpts from The Rev. Kaji Douša’s opening sermon at #UCCSynod today in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.”
Salt. Where I come from, “salty” has a specific meaning: edgy. It’s often connected to anger. In my language, one becomes salty … when they’ve been wronged. Who was more salty than Jesus? He was angry all the time! He was never shy about his disappointments. And with that saltiness, I mean: he had tons of flavor.
I was never to be “salty”, never supposed to show frustration or disappointment. I was never to push. Especially as a Black woman (whose emotions are magnified by a factor of 3000), it was particularly important to cultivate that calm serenity that doesn’t put anybody off. WHY IS THIS? I imagine most of us are familiar with the stereotypes about loud, angry Black women. So we make adjustments in order to be accepted. Effective. We keep the peace. But as my colleague Dr. Neichelle R. Guidry put it: “we often keep our peace at the expense of our peace.” Culturally, saltiness is only embraced from a select few. But when Jesus said: “you are the salt of the earth,” he was actually talking about all of us. Salt.
“You are the light of the world.”
Light. I thought that this was about being “glossy”. But gloss is about reflecting something else without originality. Or authenticity. So many of us are taught to be gloss. To refract someone else’s power while our light stays hidden. But I think Jesus is asking something else of us instead. For us to produce the kind of light Jesus describes, we need some heat, some internal fuel that sets off a reaction that allows us to be…seen. To be …salt and to be light means that Jesus’ intention is that we are meant to be seen and heard. And any dynamic that seeks to silence us Any force that aims to erase us is actually: a force against God. You were born to be salt and light. But salt and light have to be protected.
Back home in NYC, the organization I co-chair, the New Sanctuary Coalition, is run by a man named Ravi Ragbir. His light was too bright for ICE and they tried to disappear him. But when Ravi was about to be deported, the people showed up. We were not going to let him be silenced, trampled, cast aside, intimidated or deterred. And I would contend that Jesus is counting on him to be salt & light while counting on us to be sure that Ravi & people like him can keep on keepin’ on.
Jesus talked about lights under bushels. But imagine that. A flame that burns under a basket…has kindling. Whenever they try to cover your light? Take that act of aggression against you…turn it around! And BURN. Burn with the Holy Spirit. Burn like the fire of Pentecost. Burn with the power of God! A fire that burns but shall not consume. Amen