Grains of Salt, Flames of Light.
Epiphany 5, Common Lectionary Year A
Â©2014 Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones
Last week we uncovered the blessing of Jesusâ€™ opening to his great Sermon on the Mount. He looked around at the collection of humanity that had come to hear him, traipsing out from the sea side towns, and the hillside villages, men, women, children, the bedraggled and forgotten, the grievers and the poor in spirit, the seekers and thirsters after a world more just, and he said what GodÂ had said way back at the dawn of creation, looking at the creatures she had made, declaring each and every one of them to be â€˜good!â€ â€œVery Goodâ€Â – in contemporary youth speak â€œCool!â€, in Jesusâ€™ word, â€œBlessed!â€
Itâ€™s such a crying shame that our Christian religious heritage has managed to cloud this clear vision God has of us; weâ€™ve been too schooled by â€œshouldsâ€ and â€œoughtsâ€ to be able, really able, to hear Jesusâ€™ word of Blessing without thinking thereâ€™s a catch,Â some price to pay. We will go to ridiculous lengths to deflect this blessing. We answer back, â€œIâ€™m too judgmental, she runs from any form of conflict, heâ€™s a grump, they like their creature comforts, I donâ€™t have courage to face, if you knew what Iâ€™d doneâ€¦..â€
I imagine Jesus standing, waiting patiently for all our negative tapes to play themselves out, and then he ploughs on: â€œBlessed Onesâ€¦.You are Salt!â€
Now, my egg-head wants to avoid â€˜feelingâ€™ the significance of this; my brain goes off chasing arcane facts about salt; that without it in our bodies, our nervous system doesnâ€™t work; how precious it was in the time of Jesus, the economic currency, the gold standard of trade. â€œIâ€™m not salt!â€ Iâ€™ll flatly deny, â€œMLK is salt, or those who are standing their ground on gay rights during the Olympics, theyâ€™re saltâ€¦. but notÂ me.â€ Or Iâ€™ll I try dark humour and try to tell Jesus his rhetoric backfires here in Quebecâ€¦. the ground is covered in salt, and we do trample it underfoot, and under tireâ€¦â€¦ but I wither at his wry, suppressed grin, for even my attempt to deflect convicts us! Salt on the ground, trampled, is still salt!Â In other words itâ€™s impossible for salt to be anything other than salt!
Jesus, sighsâ€¦ and trying a third time to make his â€œblessedâ€ point, he comes back at us with another metaphor.
â€œYou are the Light of the world!â€ he says. Heâ€™s got this wrong surely. He is the one we call â€œLight of the world! Not us! But no, clear as a bell, heâ€™s yelling down to the back pew. â€œYou are the light of the world.â€
We could try again, to deflect the impact of this sacred declaration with the philosopherâ€™s question Â (if there is no one to see the light, is it light?) or the physicistâ€™s question Â (if a flame is starved of oxygen isÂ itextinguished?) or the pragmatistâ€™s question Â (bushel basket + flame = a disaster waiting to happen surely). Deflections again, anything to avoid embracing the possibility that God sees in us more than we see in ourselves.
Weâ€™re much happier letting Christ be our light, much safer living in his reflected glow. And now heâ€™s throwing us the lit match; Â â€œYou are the light! Like a city on the hill, you canâ€™t be hidden. You just is, light! There are actually no options, no choices, no alternatives here, no conditionals, no prerequisites, no qualifying exams, no language requirements. Simply by virtue of our being Godâ€™s â€˜cool, awesome, beloved, bedraggled blessed human children, sons and daughters,Â we are salt of the earth, we are the light of the world!
Three years ago, a preaching professor colleague wrote in his blog of an idea to help bring this home; he invited his students to invite their congregations to take a few moments to really stop and think, and then share, how they had been â€˜salt of the earthâ€™Â or â€˜light to the worldâ€™ in the last few days. I believe his conclusion: he said â€œthe results were extraordinary.â€ After some resistance, squirming, balking,Â those congregationsÂ who tried this experiment,Â began to see in themselves what God saw in them all alongâ€¦. light, and salt, pinpricks of light in places of gloom, dullness, even darkness, grains of salt in a society desperately in need of the tang of life and hope, grace and mercy.
So, good folk of Cedar Park,Â Iâ€™m inviting us to try this too. To take Jesus as his word when he says â€œYou are salt!â€ â€œYou are the Light of the World.â€ Letâ€™s see how much salt and light we have been in the world beyond these walls in the last week or so. Grain, by flame, tiny yet transforming instances of the Dream of God in the world.
We begin now, with the pieces of paper you found in your bulletins this morning. You think of the week just passed. You think of one moment when by something you said, or did, you brought love, light, life, hope, happiness, dignity, justice, peace, some difference for good in your part of this world.
Did you kiss your wife or husband? Hug your kids? Did you chat with a neighbour at the grocery store, giving them a moment to be the centre of your attention? Did you post a hopeful message on your facebook page? Or â€œlikeâ€ a courageous action of someone else, encouraging them with your support? Did you go the extra inch or mile in a work project? Was this your week to volunteer at Nova, or a food bank, did you buy something to put in the NWS collection? Did you smile at the receptionist? Give someone a rideâ€¦.. Now one of those thingsâ€¦.. write it downâ€¦.. Now. At the offering there will be a globe that goes around for you to put in your note. Over the next week,Â I encourage you to stop for a moment at the end of your day, recall one instance, no matter how small, when something you did, some random act of kindness, some thoughtful action of care, some word, brought light, and life, courage, hope, healing, peace, to the world beyond these walls. Email me. Post it on the Facebook page ( slide). Do this with your children, grandchildren, for yourself. For the next week we are going to see how salty and how light we are.
Weâ€™re going to do this, because we want to, need to, see what God sees in us, blessed, bedraggled, grains of salt and flames of light, We need to see and begin to trust Godâ€™s confidence in us that we are Godâ€™s agents of blessing, we are Godâ€™s light of the world, we are Godâ€™s salt of the earth.