In pm's words
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February 6, 2017, 7:40 AM

the one about salt and light


Sermon from February 5, 2017

Texts: Isaiah 58: 1-12, Matthew 5: 13-20

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, today is a pretty important day – at least in the life of our country and popular culture. Later today millions of people will witness a game, played by 22 people on a field, being cheered on by 10s of thousands in person. There will be ‘epic’ moments, there will be insane calls and plays. There will be no end to the amount of ‘second guessing’ that will come throughout the game and into the future.

Many of the people watching at home will do so amidst family and friends. There will be huge spreads of food. Drinks of all type will flow freely. There will be gasps and cries; shouts and screams. Many will be on pins and needles for every snap, every throw, every tackle. Many will be impatient for the ‘game’ to break so that they can watch the advertisements. I’d also be willing to bet that almost all will lament that the commercials weren’t as good this year as they were in years gone by.

We will really get worked up about this – and all facets of this game tonight – won’t we? Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to the game this evening and I’m really anticipating a good game, good food, good drink, and good fun.

Yet, it’ll still happen as it does each year after the game is over. I’ll look at the food around me and think, “This is a lot of food. We didn’t even eat it all.” I’ll probably feel a little guilty over the mass abundance of food. It’ll go bad. It’ll go to waste. I’ll have to throw it out. I couldn’t possibly eat it all.

My mind drifts to that almost every year. I say this not to guilt us all into giving or holding us accountable to the food we eat. Or even living into that old saying of, “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”

But, I do bring it up to emphasize the great disparity in abundance that is on display this day – every year.

We gorge ourselves. And it is fun. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t have fun, but perhaps it is an opportunity to recognize those who don’t have that luxury. Those who live in our own community who struggle with the decision of ‘Do I spend this money on a bit of gas to get to my job, or on food so my kids can eat tonight.’ Those who decide between having to get a second (or third) job or making sure someone is home when their kids get out of school.

What are we – members of our community and all children of God – able to do to help those in need around us? The ones we know about and the ones we cannot or even cannot be bothered to see.

I thought about all of this as I read our first reading from Isaiah this week. It’s a powerful message that Isaiah is directing to the nation of Israel. This part of Isaiah was written after the exile into Babylon. The Israelites were able to – finally – travel back into the land they called home and believed was their gift from God. Yet, life didn’t make that a smooth transition. There were some that were better off than others. Some families and generations were able to withstand the exile more resiliently than others.

The people fasted, they observed the rites and rituals that they felt called to. But, there was still the rampant need from those around them. No matter how much they fasted, prayed, or worshipped it didn’t seem to make a dent in the lives of those in need around them.

God’s response to them is strong through the words of Isaiah here. The fasting and praying leads God’s children into action. Through the fast, through those outward observances we feed, shelter, and clothe those around us.

I heard an amazing quote from the late Frederick Douglass this past week that speaks so eloquently to this call to action, he said – I prayed for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.

God calls us to pray and to fast so that our result is action to help and care for others.

God this day – through the words of the Prophet Isaiah – is calling us to live into the life of righteousness and grace and justice that God desires. Releasing the bonds of injustice, untying the thongs of the yoke, letting the oppressed go free.

Sharing our bread, welcoming the homeless poor into our homes and lives, covering the ‘naked’ in our lives. Those who bear their struggles to the world; who cry out in silent words and ways that they need help.

As we get to the end of passage from Isaiah, we are told of what our ‘reward’ will be from our God. As I read those ‘rewards’ I couldn’t help, but notice something profound and beautiful. Each of those ‘rewards’ is not solely for an individual.

Bones are made strong – so that the work and carrying for the poor can continue.

We shall be a watered garden, a spring of water that never dries up.

I particularly loved that image. I’ve mentioned before, I’m not much of a gardener. I have what could be called a ‘brown thumb’ for I have the uncanny ability to turn plant life of green into the brown of death. But, as much as I am not a gardener, I am fully aware of how gardens are viewed.

There is no one that I know who gardens – whether it be with flowers or food producing gardens – that keeps it to themselves. We share gardens. We invite others in to view them and see God’s beautiful creation. We recognize the over abundance that the garden produces and we feel called to share that with those around us. A garden can and does produce far more than what we ourselves and our families could ever consume and use.

I love when the harvest comes because so many share in their harvest with others. Tomatoes, basil, apples, corn, potatoes, and more. We share in that abundance.

Being a ‘watered garden’ and a ‘spring of water’ is God calling to us and telling us that we exist for the sake of others. We strive and share together, building one another up so that future generations are not only cared for, but are even more able to live into this life of faith.

But, not all of us are gardeners – like I said, I’m not. However, there are countless ways that we can and we do get to help strengthen the community around us. We rise up together as one as we are caring for another, knowing fully and completely that someone is caring for me and my loved ones as well.

Yet, you might be thinking, “I can’t. Who am I to do this? I don’t have what it takes.”

My sisters and brothers – hear our Lord Jesus speak to us this day, “Y’all are the salt of the earth. Y’all are the light of the world.”

It’s a non-negotiable – you are – y’all are – we are – salt and light.

We’ve got it! God is with us! Christ is beside us! The Spirit is leading us!

I’ve always wondered why Jesus talks about salt losing its saltiness. Mostly because in my research, salt really can’t. Salt doesn’t get less ‘potent’ as far as I have been able to see. Salt still salts. Salt still helps bring out the fuller flavor of the meal that you are having no matter how old it is. Salt doesn’t go bad.

In fact, the only way that salt loses its ‘saltiness’ is when it isn’t used. When the bag of salt, the shaker of spice, is tossed to the other side of the room, pushed into the back of the cabinet to be forgotten and to go unused for its purpose.

Salt does not exist for just itself. Its whole purpose is to bring ‘more’ to something else.

The same goes for light.

Y’all are the light of the world.

Light exists to cast out darkness so that all can be seen. Light exists so that you don’t trip over and fall amongst the stumbling blocks in your life. We are called to let our light shine before others so that the work we do can be seen. So, that the work of faith we do because of what God has done can be seen.

You are salt. You are light. We exist not for ourselves, but for others. We are gathered into community and into the life of others so that all might know the goodness and grace of God. We are then sent out into the community and world to share that good news. To invite others into this life, in this space, so that all might know how loved they are. How completely forgiven they are. How fully accepted they are.

This morning, we get to live into a bit of that call for others. We gather food from our abundance so that it might be shared with those in need through the Manna House. We gather our abundance in pots and pans to be shared with the ministry of Interfaith Community Services to help in those specific needs that go far beyond just food on the table. Yesterday, we held a sale where many new treasures were found and welcomed into the life of others – the proceeds from that sale go towards the caring and health of those in our community through the free medical clinic.

And yet still – there are even more possible ways to help and to care. Even more ways to live into this life of faith that we have been called and claimed into. Ways that are lived out through this community of faith and through the community we are grateful to live among.

God calls us to care for others. To live for more than just ourselves. We are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world. We get to do all of this – with one another – with those we don’t know and haven’t yet met – because of what God has done and continues to do in the life of the world! Again, it is fitting to hear those strong and powerful words of Frederick Douglass once more: I prayed for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs. Amen.

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