john davies
notes from a small curate

    Salt Harvest

    Holy Trinity Choral Evensong 28/9/03

    Mark 9.38-50, James 5.13-20

    If you lived in Cheshire, you might well bring to church on a harvest festival .... salt.

    Cheshire is built on great big beds of salt, formed millions of years ago by retreating seas flooding large plains and deep valleys. The salt sank to the bottom, very deep, and was left behind when the water evaporated.

    The Domesday Book in the 11th century recorded the use of salt in Northwich, Nantwich and Middlewich, so it must have been well established by then. It was used mostly in food in those days. Today, from the salt beds 100 feet deep under Winsford, one million tonnes a year are extracted, and mainly used on Britain's roads during the icy winter.

    This weekend as we celebrate harvest the people of Northwich are celebrating a Historic Salt Making Weekend, with an international conference and today, in Middlewich, they've been giving demonstrations of how the Romans made salt. It's a real harvest festival, by another name, because down the centuries the people of Cheshire have flourished through their trade in salt.

    We know a lot about salt, its impact on our health. Salt controls the amount of water in our bodies and maintains the critical balance between cells and body fluids. It also helps muscle tissue contract and is a vital ingredient of blood plasma and digestive secretions. Even though we also understand that too much salt can be destructive or even fatal, we know that some salt is essential to maintain human life.

    When Jesus talked about salt he was mainly thinking of its use in food. In Roman times, salt was very important in keeping food fresh, and very useful then and now in seasoning food. When Jesus talked about salt he meant something which preserves and flavours.

    "Have salt in yourselves" - he said: preserve what is good in yourself; flavour your lives.

    James suggests how you might "Have salt in yourself":

    "Is any one of you in trouble?" - here's how you should preserve yourself: "You should pray"

    "Is anyone happy?" - here's how you should flavour your life: "You should sing songs of praise"

    Having salt in your life adds quality to your relationships with others. James says that it means:

    - praying for others for their healing;
    - confessing to others to bring healing into your life;
    - bringing back those who 'wander from the truth'.

    We might ask ourselves tonight, how much salt do I have in myself? How much do I really care about other people?

    - enough to want to pray for their healing?

    - enough to share my own faults and failings with them, trusting them to help me and pray for me?

    - enough to keep a careful watch on them and if they've 'wandered from the truth', trying all I can to bring them back?

    Living like that towards others preserves the goodness in us and flavours the lives of those around us.

    "Having salt in yourself" .... produces a good harvest. Let us always ask God to cultivate the salt in our lives.


    Information on salt mining in Cheshire from Jeremy Condliffe website;
    Information on Northwich Historic Salt Making Weekend from Lion Salt Works website;
    Information on salt in human physiology from Tobacco and Salt Museum website;