Cuthbert again travels to Carlisle on administrative purposes. While there, word reaches his old friend, Hereberht, who lived as a hermit on the most isolated of the islands in Derwent Water in the Lake District. It remains uninhabited to this day (apart from occasional wild campers!), and is still known as St Herbert’s Isle. The conversation between them is so foreign to most of us in this day and age, yet it derives directly from a life of lived prayer and praise. So, too, with Bede’s tentative explanation of Herbert’s final, fatal, painful illness. There is no talk of ‘fighting the illness’ here. Instead, it all has to do with joining with Christ, taking up our cross, carrying the pain and fallenness of the world in our own bodies, and persisting through in prayer as a form of intercession on behalf of the world.
Which is precisely what Jesus is talking about to the crowds that follow him. Count the cost, for cost there will be. Carry the cross, the symbol of brutal and painful death through the persecution of the world. For in some way, our suffering with Christ as his bride and body, brings wholeness and holiness into the world. That is the point of talking about salt.
In the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, Jesus presents himself as both a shepherd and a housewife. But what astonishes is the extraordinary joy and delight, beyond any ridiculous measure of comparative value, of the return of one who was lost – the whole of heaven celebrates. Over even just one of us. Something to ponder there, and allow it to sink in.