Salt and light. When I hear these two words side by side, I can’t help but think of watching the sunset while walking along an ocean beach. This image probably isn’t what Jesus had in mind when he calls on those gathered on a hill near the Sea of Galilee. And he likely isn’t telling us to be spicy and bright. In this lesson, children will explore Matthew 5:13-20 and will consider how Jesus’ call to be the salt and light of the world pulls us into community and service to one another.
You will need:
- A Bible
- White and yellow construction paper cut into 2-inch wide strips, staplers, crayons and markers (optional)
- A computer with internet access connected to a data projector or television, YouTube video “Vanantu: Power to the People”
Greet the children as they arrive.
Have the children sit together in a circle. Ask them to close their eyes and imagine that they live on a remote island. The island is far from everything they know right now, but they have all the basic supplies they’d need to survive. However, they live alone on the island. Ask the children to imagine how they would feel and what their daily lives would be like.
Ask the children to open their eyes, and then ask:
- What did you imagine your life would be like living on the island?
- Did you enjoy living alone? Why or why not?
- What would be the disadvantages of living alone?
Exploring the passage
Say a prayer.
Provide context for the lectionary reading (Matthew 5:13-20):
- The lectionary reading comes from the New Testament Gospel of Matthew.
- This reading is a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount. If you read the Beatitudes last week, ask the children to share what they remember of that reading. If you did not, share that Jesus begins his sermon by telling the gathered people that God blesses moments when we are with and for one another, even though those moments may be difficult.
- Jesus’ sermon is offered to a gathered crowd made up of those who are already following him (his disciples) and those who have heard about him and wanted to hear him teach.
- The passage mentions salt. While we often think of salt as a seasoning we use in our food, people in Jesus’ time often used it to preserve food. There were no refrigerators back then. To keep meat or fish fresh for a long time, people would rub it with salt, which would allow it to be preserved for a longer period of time. This allowed them to have an available supply of food even if fresh food was not readily available.
- The passage also mentions light. In Jesus’ time, people did not have electricity. They relied on sunlight during the day and oil lamps and candles at night.
Read aloud Matthew 5:13-20.
After reading, ask:
- Jesus says the people are “the salt of the earth.” Based on what you learned about salt earlier in the lesson, what do you think Jesus means by this?
- Salt, on its own, is not very useful. However, when it is applied to food it gives the food new life. It allows people to be able to eat even if times when fresh food isn’t available. It works together with the food to make people healthy and well. How can we help one another be healthy and well? (Encourage the children to move beyond just thinking about how we can feed one another with food.)
- Jesus continues saying the people are “the light of the world.” What do you think Jesus means by this?
- Light allowed people in Jesus’ time to move around when it was dark. It guided them and made them feel safe. How can we guide one another and help one another feel safe?
- At the end of the reading, Jesus tells the people that he hasn’t come to change their beliefs and their way of living. He has come to show them God and to teach them what God wants them to know. What do you think Jesus is showing the people about God in this sermon?
Relating the passage to our lives
Help the children explore the message of this passage through one or more of these activities.
- Salt and light paper chains: Gather the supplies you’ll need for this activity: paper strips cut from white and yellow construction paper, markers or crayons, and staplers. Remind the children Jesus tells those gathered that they are “the salt” and “the light.” They are called to support one another so they can be healthy, happy people (salt) and to guide and help one another (light). Hand each child several white strips of paper. Ask them to use markers or crayons to write or draw pictures of ways they can be salt to the people in their lives, supporting them so they can live full lives. Then, hand them several strips of yellow paper. Ask them to write or draw pictures of ways they guide and help the people in their communities. Create paper chains out of the paper strips by looping each strip together and securing it with a staple. When all of the paper strips have been joined together, hang the paper chain somewhere in your classroom or in the worship space.
- Bringing light to those in need: Gather the supplies you’ll need for this activity: a computer with internet access connected to a data projector or television and the YouTube video “Vanuatu: Power to the People.” Remind the children that Jesus tells those gathered they are “the light of the world.” One of the ways we can be the light of the world is to ensure others have their basic needs met. Ask the children to share what our basic needs are as human beings. If they don’t mention electricity, ask them how electricity helps us live happy, healthy lives. Note that electricity is not available in all areas of the world. Getting access to electricity can change the lives of people in a community. Show the children “Vanuatu: Power to the People.” After the video, ask them to imagine how the lives of the people of Vanuatu will change once they are able to regularly use electricity. Brainstorm other ways that we can bring “light” to the lives of others by making sure their basic needs are met.
Conclude your time together by praying for God to help us be the salt and light our communities.
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