I remember someone recalling a conversation with their builder. It went something like this:
‘Could I trouble you for a cup of water?’
‘But of course.’
‘Thanks very much. I wonder, would it be possible to have hot water?’
‘Yes, of course, not a problem.’
‘That’s really kind, thanks.’ ‘Um, I wonder if you could put a tea bag in it, and perhaps some milk? Sugar would be grand, oh and do you have any of those little pink biscuits, you know the wafer ones with the chewy centres?’ And so on…
We don’t need to drink anything but water, but we crave the taste of a good cup of tea or beer or wine for that matter! So I’d probably, I have to confess, be amongst the crowd crying “Come on Moses, would you mind, seasoning the manna!” Oh and whilst you are there would it be too much trouble to put a good beef steak between two slices at the same time. You could, if you like, put the beef in a bowl of veggies, Moses, we’re not fussy! By the way, salt and pepper? Bit of flavour? Spice it up a bit Moses, this wilderness life is drab. We got fed better as slaves in Egypt – oh, sorry. And Moses exits to talk it over with God. Have we become a slave to flavour? And if it is not food, then what is it that we do find ourselves becoming slave to now? Those of you who are familiar with the story of Ghandi, and indeed the Richard Attenborough portrayal of his life starring Ben Kingsley, may recall the march to make salt. Take back control over your own life in simple ways. Stop being a slave to the structures of others. Salt was a symbol for Ghandi of the way that every aspect of their life in India was dictated to by, it has to be said, British colonial rulers. Making salt for themselves was a symbol of breaking the hold that the British had over them. Salt is a seasoning and a preservative. Without it, life itself becomes dull and even difficult. “Have salt in yourselves” – Jesus said: preserve what is good in yourself; flavour your lives. Better that you not be perfect in outward appearance, but whole inwardly. As much as we crave well seasoned food and require a certain amount of salt in our food to keep our bodies healthy, so too do we need to season our spiritual lives and free ourselves from spiritual slavery to things which are not doing us any good. I’m also with the Israelites here – manna might sustain us, but surely manna is just bland and not for the long term. Sooner or later we’ll look for an interesting alternative! Notice how the Israelites following Moses in the wilderness and the followers of Jesus are very quick to complain when there appears to be some sort of competition. Jesus is unmoved and declares everyone is able to point to the way of God in his name. Moses declares that it would be better if all would prophesy. If what you are eating has no nutrient, it is not going to do you much good. If what you eat is seasoning only, then there is just as little use in that. If our spiritual nourishment is bland, then there is little to sustain and preserve us. We need to treat our spiritual selves as we do our physical selves. To mix metaphors as well as flavours, we need to break free from structures that suggest monochrome and move into technicolor. Let me ask you this. When you go to a restaurant, do you seek out the ‘Specials Board’ or stick to the tried and tested menu? In other words, do you go for what you know, or do you try something that sounds inviting? Are you willing to try something new? Is it just food to fuel the body, or is the experience important too? Church is supposed to be a movement that follows the ways of Jesus, giving life. As such, it should give season, to life and preserve it, but so easily it can become reduced almost to slavery, to simply functioning. Eat to live, earn money to eat, work to earn money, live to work to eat to live and so it goes on. How easily does our spiritual life also become reduced to this merry-go-round? Our churches and parishes are about to begin to go through a testing time, perhaps for some it might feel like being in the wilderness, and I can relate to that. However, it might also be an occasion to try out the specials board, to see how we can give new seasoning to our spiritual life. I think Jesus was the master at writing a specials board. The specials board of the church is the changing seasons. If each season we re-imagine our experience of God, then we will always look forward to the next opportunity to discover something new and encounter afresh the seasoning of life which Jesus offers. Have salt in yourself, and be at peace with one another.