Jesus' graphic remarks about salt and light are closely linked with the Beatitudes. It is a great pity more is not made of the Beatitudes because their outworking is crucial if we are to be effective witnesses to the transforming power of the gospel.

(1) Christians are the salt of the earth.

Only Christians who display the reality of the Beatitudes in their lives are truly the salt of the earth. It will help us to understand what the this entails if we consider 4 properties of salt.

(a) Salt is an antiseptic.

The application of a salt solution to a wound prevents most bacteria from multiplying. It inhibits infection.

A lot of trouble can break out in a church when a person's pride is wounded. This can be prevented in two ways. We can be careful not to wound another person's pride. We shall be like this if we are kind and a peacemaker. I love the story Corrie ten Boom tells about her father in her book, 'In My Father's House'. Corrie's father was a watch mender. During a period when the business wasn't doing very well a prosperous gentleman came into the shop looking to buy an expensive new watch. Corrie's spirit's rose! The customer expressed dissatisfaction with a young watch mender who had succeeded his father in the business and sold him a watch that didn't go. Instead of Mr ten Boom taking advantage of the situation he asked to see the defective watch. He made a small adjustment and gave it back with the reassurance that it would be fine in the future. Mr ten Boom expressed his confidence in the young watch mender and encouraged the well-to-do customer to patronise him if in want of another watch.

Corrie could not understand why her father had passed up the opportunity of a sale. Mr ten Boom had to explain how the young watch mender would have felt to find out that the man who had conducted his father's funeral had robbed him of a customer. He would have felt hurt, let down and resentful. Mr ten Boom's self-control, pureness of heart and kindness protected his fellow watch mender from coming to any harm.

Secondly, we can save ourselves from being infected with destructive thoughts leading to bad behaviour by adopting the Beatitudes as our own code of conduct. Many years ago when I was serving as sports organiser at a Christian camp one of the girl campers told me that no-one respected me. I could have lashed out and returned insult for insult. But on this occasion I exercised self-control and turned the other cheek. Resentment was held in check.

(b) Salt is a preservative.

In the past - before refrigeration - salt was an effective way of preserving fish and meat from decay. Salt pork and salt beef were staple foodstuffs of the Royal Navy.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, preserves the reputation of the church more effectively than Christians living according to the Beatitudes. Take for example those who hunger and thirst to DO good. It is such as these that found, work for or support charities. The Hospice movement in this country was established by Christians and is substantially maintained by Christians.

If an outsider investigated my own small fellowship they would discover many small acts of kindness - acts that keep the church sweet.

(c) Salt flavours.

If just the right amount of salt is added to a food it improves its flavour without drawing attention to itself. It doesn't make the food taste salty! I am amazed at how much salt Indian chefs add to a curry!

There is no doubt that people who are poor in spirit, self-controlled and pure in heart achieve much good without anyone hardly noticing. They are a blessing to any organisation.

In, 'War and Peace', Tolstoy describes the modest, little, Russian General Dohturov who was active in the defence of the Motherland during Napoleon's invasion. Dohturov wasn't renowned for making plans of campaign, dashing at the head of regiments, dropping crosses about the batteries or doing anything else to catch the public eye. He had a reputation for lacking decision and penetration. No one celebrated Dohturov in prose or verse. But throughout the Russian wars with the French the little general was always in command where the position was particularly difficult. Tolstoy shrewdly observes, 'The silence in regard to Dohturov is the plainest testimony to his merits.'

(d) Salt prevents accidents.

When the temperature drops below freezing the application of salt melts ice and makes slippery roads and paths safe. The number of accidents on British roads would escalate if the salt ran out.

There are all sorts of work places where it isn't very safe to be an employee; where people are aggressive, bullying, intimidating, ultra-competitive, sensitive about their rights and so on.

If a workplace is infused by the spirit of the Beatitudes it will be a safe, pleasant, supportive and happy environment.

I was privileged to work in Debenham High School. The first headmaster of that school, Mr Holyfield, was a sincere Christian gentleman. He fostered a wonderful relationship between staff and pupils. It was a relationship that survived for many years after his retirement. It was a wonderful legacy. Both teachers and pupils felt safe in the school environment Mr Holyfield created.

(2) Christians that don't practice the Beatitudes are like salt that has lost its saltiness.

It is impossible for salt to lose its saltiness. If a substance lacks the properties of salt it isn't salt. However if rock salt is quarried it will probably contain impurities like calcium carbonate. If rain falls on a heap of rock salt it might leach out the salt and leave the flavourless impurities. In this way a substance purporting to be salt loses its saltiness.

If a professing Christian neglects, for example, the means of grace he or she might find virtue leaching out of them. Goodness can be leached from our lives by disillusion, disappointment and despair. If this process goes on unchecked all that remains is a good for nothing Christian - a nominal Christian lacking the very qualities that make a Christian. If our life is without virtue the world is justified in treating us with contempt.

(3) Christians who practice the truth are the Light of the World.

A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. It is there for all to see and no-one would have any difficulty finding it. Ely Cathedral is built on an island of higher land surrounded by flat reclaimed fen. It is visible from miles away and from all directions - a land mark of the sort Jesus is referring too.

Christians are there for all to see. They will be lit up, a witness to all, if the lamp is put on the lamp stand and not hid under a bucket. This means Christ's truth, like, for example, the Beatitudes needs to be put into practice. They are recorded not merely for our interest but primarily to be implemented. A cookery book can be read out of interest. I quite often read recipes out of idle curiosity. However, a recipe is not fulfilling its proper function unless it results in a meal. It should lead to action.

Jesus made it perfectly clear that his ethical teaching should result in action. "In the same way let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Mt5v16. So why might a person in the time of Jesus put the lamp under a bucket? There are at least three possible reasons:

(a) To remain undiscovered. Perhaps an unwelcome visitor is expected. At the sound of approaching footsteps, or the sign from a lookout, a bucket is slipped over the lamp.

I found during my schooldays and student years many young Christians were most unwilling to draw attention to themselves. They didn't want to stand out as different. As a consequence they hid their lamp under a bucket. There is a temptation for those in public life to do the same especially today when the media is inclined to portray Christians as peculiar if not dangerous and best avoided - like the measles.

Christians need to remember what Jesus said: "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels. Mk8v38.

(b) Out of convenience. Someone slipping out of their house on an errand might put a bucket over the lamp to save the trouble of relighting it on their return. In days before safety matches it was quite time consuming to get a lamp lit.

It is not always convenient to live in the light of Jesus' teaching. When someone upsets us we quickly put a bucket over what Jesus said about retaliating and loving ones enemy. Numerous Christians put a great big bucket over Jesus' teaching on unity. Whenever believers break away from a pre-existing church to set up their own fellowship they plonk a bucket over everything Jesus said about Christians loving one another. It is absolutely terrible how Christians who profess to love Jesus ignore his basic teachings. They all but extinguish HIS light.

(c) To save expense. If a bucket is put over a lamp it may be starved of oxygen and burn very low. It could be a way of conserving fuel and saving expense.

It is very costly to obey Jesus. It is costly to live by the Beatitudes. The Good Samaritan was kind to the man who fell foul of thieves. It cost him time, energy and money. It is so much easier to be like the priest and the Levite and put the lamp under a bucket.

I think it is important to visit the sick and to pray with them. I have known Christians say they won't visit because they want to remember a person as they were in health. It makes them feel bad to be in the presence of the seriously sick and so they put the light under a bucket.

There are so many of Jesus' teachings that are costly to implement. What do we do about a teaching like this: "Do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom and these things will be given to you as well." Lk12v33. I am afraid we often ignore the light. We consign it to the bucket.

What are the benefits of putting the lamp on the lamp stand - the truth into practice? They are:

(a) The lamp's light is shared by others. The best way to share Christ's truth is not to preach it but to practice it.

The best way to convince a friend of the excellence of a recipe is to prepare them a meal by it.

So, the best advertisement for Christianity is a life in which the Beatitudes are a living reality.

(b) The light is attractive. There is something lovely at Christmas time about an old church lit by candlelight. The same is true if we are in the company of someone whose life exemplifies the Beatitudes.

(c) A lamp's light may help us to get our bearings. If we wake up in the middle of the night and it is pitch dark we may wonder where we are. I can remember falling out of bed in total darkness and finding it totally disorientating in the absence of a light. In the past the same was true of mariners on a dangerous coast. They needed the lighthouse lamp to be lit to warn them off dangerous rocks.

If we are in the dark on how to live in a way pleasing to God the example of a Christian who lives by the Beatitudes is a guiding light in a dark world. Many, many Christians, me included, have cause to be grateful for the fine example of Christian parents and grandparents.