“You Are the Pepper”

Matthew 5:13-16

“You are the salt of the earth…”

When you hear Jesus say, “You are the salt of the earth,” you must understand that he is saying you have the power to make a world of difference.   In this great big recipe for life, you may feel overwhelmed, small, insignificant, inadequate.  Do not underestimate what you have to offer!  It is critical!  Anyone who has ever made a recipe—cake, cookies, bread, anything–and forgotten to put that “one pinch of salt” knows what a huge difference it makes.  It is strong stuff.  A little does a lot.  Anyone who has ever been put on a salt-free diet, knows what that means.  Hospital food.  Cardboard.  Tasteless.  Bland.  Anybody here in this room knows what a difference one person can make, one word of hope, one act of kindness, one sign of love, one deed of compassion, one pinch, one teaspoon, just a dash of faith, can turn the tide, shine the light, lift your spirit, save the day.  Never underestimate what you bring to the table!

You are the salt, Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount.  Except, I think, if Jesus were to preach a Sermon on the Levee, to us, to the people of this city, he would say, “You are the pepper.”  Why do people flock to this city to eat in our restaurants?  Pepper.  What made my grandmother’s fried chicken taste better than anybody else’s anywhere in the universe?  Pepper.  What takes Popeye’s chicken several notches above all the competition?  Pepper.  What makes red beans, crawfish, gumbo, jambalaya, etouffeé, taste so amazing?  Pepper.  Red pepper, black pepper, green pepper, cayenne, chili, Tabasco, Tony’s, Zatarain’s—the little extra, a second mile, that “something more” goes a long way, makes a huge difference.  And without it?  life is dull, bland, flat, tasteless.

No, I cannot imagine life without it.  Nor can I imagine a world without New Orleans–without Mardi Gras, without the floats, the costumes, the beads in the trees, streetcars, beignets, King Cakes, second line dancing in the street! In this great recipe of life, that’s our job, New Orleans, that’s what we bring to the table:  you are the spice, the seasoning, the sass, you are the hot stuff, the zap, the zing, the zest, the joy, the jazz–you are the pepper!