Posted on Sun, Feb 9, 2014
February 9, 2014
5th Sunday in Epiphany
Gospel Text: Matthew 5:13-20 – “Relevant Faith”
Salt and Light
13 ‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14 ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
The Law and the Prophets
17 ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
What are we doing here? I mean, really, what are WE, DOING, HERE, TODAY? A great deal of work and energy goes into each and every Sunday worship service… But what exactly has compelled each and every one of us to gather here and do what we are doing?
Are we doing something that will produce a product to sell? Are we just making music and saying things that we hope will make us feel better and forget our troubles for a short while? Are we gathered here because there are people here that we really like to hang out with in this beautiful place… and get free coffee? What is it that stirs our hearts and tells us “we really need to be here in this place, doing what we are doing right now?”
Is there something you feel when you are here worshiping that is different than when we go to the mall, the beach or even play golf, or for me to scuba dive, etc? There should be… Is there some reason that we sing the particular songs we sing; as opposed to what is on the top of the music charts this week? There should be. Is there a reason we gather money for a very dedicated mission of proclaiming the Gospel, feeding the hungry, teaching our children, illuminating social and justice concerns and creating a relavent community of faith? There should be. Is there a reason that we acknowledge a common creed of faith here, in this place, at this time? There should be.
Worship is our central/focal activity as Christians. Everything we say, teach or do, comes out from and is birthed from the act of worshiping our God and giving thanks for the grace and mercy given to us through the Cross of Christ. And it is the Holy Spirit, whirling and rushing around our busy world that touches our hearts, and leads us to this Holy Place, to be with these redeemed and Holy People, to Hear these Holy Scriptures and be fed by this Holy Meal. It is the “Holy” part of your being that drives you to this place.
In today’s Gospel text, it is easy for us to understand what Jesus ‘might’ be talking about, but imagine if you were standing in the crowd of farmers, workers and such and were listening to Jesus’ lesson somewhere in the region of Galilee near Capernaum. “’Salt?’ what does that have to do with anything to do with God’s Kingdom, whatever Jesus is talking about?” and then, “A light on a lampstand? That’s a huge, “NOT!” and to put it under a lampstand would be nuts because it defeats the purpose of the lamp and you may burn a perfectly good bushel basket!” The writer of the Gospel of Matthew is writing about Jesus’ teaching, but it is not really meant for those people in the text, it is meant for Matthew’s audience that has become a church after the resurrection and Jesus sending the Holy Spirit; it is meant for “Easter People, like you and me.”
That is why that last statement about Jesus demanding the people be more “righteous” than their religious leaders is so astonishing!
Jesus is talking about people of faith that have received faith because of the death, resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit. People of faith are more ‘more righteous’ than the scribes and Pharisees because of the faith given to them through the Holy Spirit. The scribes and religious leaders follow the law because it is expected of them, not out of a heart and soul filled with faith that has been opened through the gift of forgiveness, mercy and grace.
As “Easter People” who know the end of the story, we read the text through the lens of the Cross of Christ, the Promise of the Resurrection AND the fact that we now live in the PRESENSE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. Through Holy Spirit, Jesus has made us to be People of Faith. In order to be the “Salt of the World,” or “The Light on the lampstand/hill” etc, we need to first have the faith of Christ, given through the Holy Spirit. Jesus is talking about faith born out of grace and redemption achieved through the Cross of Jesus. What makes a person of faith different than those scribes and Pharisees is that we know what God has done for us on Easter Morning!
The text is written for you and I, any righteousness we have is born out of faith, given/attained/reckoned to us through Grace. This is basic Lutheran Christian Theology.
So what does this faith do? First of all, faith is a living thing, it is also like a wonderful spice, and it can be Light, able to illuminate all the garbage we need to cast off from our hearts and minds, and it also has the ability to lead us in peace even in this the crazy world. Here is what Uncle Martin Luther said in his commentary to St. Paul’s letter to the Romans: Faith is not what we think, instead,
“Faith is God’s work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing…”
“Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire!”
(An excerpt from “An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” Luther’s German Bible of 1522 by Martin Luther, 1483-1546)
By hearing the Gospel, the Good News that the God of all the cosmos not only notices you, but also loves us beyond our own comprehension, and faith enters our heart, mind and soul changing us forever! And unless we cover it up and try to smother it, Faith makes us do crazy things like:
Salt only looses it’s flavor if you cover it up with tons of other unnecessary flavors, additives and junk… but if you have pure salt, you can’t “cut-out” the salt out from its original form… if you cut it up, you only create more pieces of salt that can continue to add flavor and make life more interesting.
A flame can be extinguished if we blow it out, but you cannot divide a flame. If you put an unlit candle next to a lit candle, the flame will only spread. A small light may seem insignificant, but out in the blackness of the sea at nighttime a simple match can be seen from miles and miles away.
The Spirit of God blows and moves where it will. The Love and Grace of God is constant and always a gift for you. Jesus promises to walk with us each and everyday. Let the gift of forgiveness and mercy open your heart to the faith and joy that only God can give. Let that faith, hope and joy flow from you, and you will be that spicy and tasty salt, you will be the lamp that Jesus is talking about.
Just think, Jesus was talking about us, 2000 years ago! Amen.
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