Posted on Wed, Feb 8, 2017
February 5, 2017
5th Sunday after Epiphany
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.
“Light shines in the darkness for the upright, the psalmist sings. Isaiah declares that when we loose the bonds of injustice and share our bread with the hungry, the light breaks forth like the dawn. In another passage from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus, the light of the world, calls his followers to let the light of their good works shine before others. Through baptism we are sent into the world to shine with the light of Christ.”
Jesus says there is salt and there is light.
Salt was very expensive and an essential part of life in Jesus’ day. Salt preserves food, or makes food taste good and savory. But if salt gets into a wound, it stings. Jesus says, “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.”
Why ‘salt?’ In Jesus’ day salt was also a seasoning, a preservative. It was also used for sacrifice and binding parties to a covenant. In worship salt was used to season incense and all offerings had to be seasoned with salt. An offering was given to acknowledge the faithfulness of God to God’s people, and therefore salt was always used. Salt was also used in making of a covenant. Because of it preservative properties, salt was used as a metaphor for life and sustenance. When the people were listening to Jesus, and Jesus began to talk about ‘salt’ in the context of the Sermon on the Mount, I think they would have recalled the significance of salt in binding a covenant, rather than just food…
In Mark Jesus says to his disciples, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” Similarly Colossians 4:6 Paul says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt.” Seasoned with words based on the covenant of love and mercy.
To have salt in you means to cultivate qualities of faith, faith that is based out of the God’s faithfulness to our relationship with God. These are the qualities that Jesus constantly taught to the disciples about who they were to become, they are to be a blessing to the poor in spirit, the mourning, and the persecuted, just like we learned last week when we heard the Sermon on the Mount. To do otherwise, would make our speech and actions, if done in the name of our faith, worthless and just a clanging obnoxious cymbal.
Then there was Light. And God called it ‘good.’ Is light faith? It could be, like faith … Light can be a guide in helping to make faithful decisions on how we should act, what we should say and where we should go… Light can guide us so that we don't stumble. Light can also illuminate the things that need to change or be fixed in our lives, our cities and even the world. If we have the courage to look at ourselves through eyes of faith, we will see all those things that we try to cover the salt that God has given us that makes us God’s people; If we look with the Light of Christ in our heart, we can also see the world with new eyes and a new heart. A stranger is no longer a stranger but a brother and sister. With the Light of God in our heart, we also see where and how we should apply our faith in order to make the presence of Jesus Christ known and experienced in our world.
Jesus said these words to his disciples in order to help guide them in what to do, in how they are to respond to last weeks Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.”
How will the poor in spirit be blessed? How will those in mourning be comforted? How will the meek, inherit meaning and feel welcome in our town let alone on earth? When the people of God allow themselves to be yoked to God with a pure heart and faithful relationship, our eyes open and see the poor in spirit, the mourning and the meek… along with the hungry, oppressed, persecuted, rejected, lonely or misunderstood, rejected or running to find refuge from war and terror.
We have tons of knowledge about faith, grace, love and justice, but if we don’t take action on what we are knowledgeable about (the mercy of God, the love of God, the faithfulness of God), our knowledge is nothing but a forgotten book getting moldy and covered with dust in a dark attic.
I was blessed by a carload of volunteers who waved to me and wished me a good morning on Friday as they arrived at Angel Network to serve the hungry, the lonely, the lost. What I saw in that car, were hearts of joy, knowing they would be a blessing to those who needed a blessing. Oh what a joy it is to allow God’s faith work through you and lead you into new adventures. What I do is not for everyone, but to be with someone who is dying, holding their hand, or just doing what can be done to give comfort is hard on my emotions, but when I let go of all the emotional attachments that have been put into our minds through our strange society, the power of my faith becomes clear and becomes my strength.
So many people say, “I couldn't handle being with someone when they are dying.” This is an honest phrase, but to say you are afraid or you couldn't be with someone in such a trying time, is an “attachment,” a learned response. Or, “I couldn't handle going to a homeless camp, I would be afraid.” They are correct in what they say, but it is a ‘learned attachment,’ and we tend to believe what we have been taught. Another phrase I hear is, “I couldn’t take time away from, work, play, study, sleep, video games or whatever to worship, serve, dance, sing or study the bible.” Again, these are ‘attachments,’ and active decisions a person makes based out of what we are taught to think. Enough attachments and soon the salt that unites is with God will become tasteless, and soon we will find ourselves as the ones feeling poor in spirit, in mourning, or feeling meaningless. The easiest way to know someone has burdensome learned attachments is when you hear someone say, “eeeww!”
Finally, Jesus finishes with, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Does this phrase trouble you? “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Think of Jesus’ many encounters with the Pharisees … Did Jesus ever praise one of them for their amazing righteousness? Other than Nicodemus, I can’t think of one Pharisee Jesus was impressed with… but I do know about a poor widow who shared all she had, a Samaritan who cared for someone who came from a clan that reviled the Samaritans, I do know of a Gentile woman who was freed of her guilt when she realized Jesus knew her checkered past and didn't reject her. Through the mercy of God she was freed from the shackles of shame, and become a proclaimer of the Good News of Christ in her own land
It’s not great knowledge and understanding God demands from us, it is simply to allow the faith that God has given to us through the Holy Spirit to move our limbs, lips, hearts and minds. We are called to love as we have been loved, to serve as we have been served, to speak out about injustice as Jesus spoke out about injustice and to live in joy and peace.
Through the blessing of God, you are the salt of the earth. Through faith, you can make the love, mercy, joy and justice a reality on earth. Amen.
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