Matthew 5:13-20

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 hid. 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,[a] not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks[b] 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.

Lampstands are great!  That’s why they are elevated.  Either on a table or on a pole like the one in my office.  

Love my reading, contemplating, studying corner…and, no, I haven’t taken too many naps there!  I don’t hav a TV in my office…which is what I usually fall asleep in front of…

Our passage this morning comes on the heals of the sermon on the mount.  If you remember last week’s message, we talked about the beatitudes meaning blessing and that if you had an ethos, or a characteristic, that points towards inclusive and welcoming love of self, others, and God…then you are blessed.  That inclusive and welcoming love flows from the dynamic of God’s being into us, and through us.  The characteristics or ethos are like the flavors that we give off as we are transformed, converted, changed through our awareness and relationship with God.  It is the light shining in and through us to the world around us.  

Now, God doesn’t give up on us, God doesn’t discard us…that’s not God’s character.  God’s characteristic or ethos is intense fidelity, commitment, loyalty and faith to us.  But, God does want us to be salt and light in this life, and if we aren’t willing to be salt and light, then God will simply work in other ways.  For us to be salt and light, we have to be willing to practice love and giving ourselves away in order to be the salt that the world hopes for the church, or the body of Christ, to be…and needs it to be.

As we know, salt by itself is useless, it eventually goes bad…we have to apply the salt, the spice of God deep into our lives, into the recesses and pores of very being.  We should not be afraid to let the light illuminate all things, even things that may be dark to us.  What happens when you turn on a light in a dark room?  It exposes everything.  That requires first a recognition that we cannot live this life on our own, we need God and we need community with one another.  We cannot pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and make changes…we have to recognize our need for conversion and that we can’t foster conversion or change on our own.

Jesus reminds us also in this passage that God’s light is shining in and through us, let it flow through us and be a light into the world!!!  Don’t hide it, let light do its thing, expose the darkness.

Being a light, means having the light enter into our lives, exposing what we need to work on out in the open.  Being vulnerable is hard…letting go isn’t easy, but it’s a crucial step towards growth.  We have to be willing to be accountable to one another through vulnerable and authentic relationships built on grace and mutual growth.  Accountability in the way of Christ doesn’t mean punishing someone, it means being able to live into grace filled lives filled with mutual encouragement towards living abundantly as God intended.

How do we move towards being salt and light in the world, experiencing conversion and growth and live abundantly, being illuminating presences, in a world that seems to focus more on fear and scarcity?  By letting go of our ego.  

In a small way, I’ve seen so many folks here and in other places, have an honest approach at trying do this in the church.

On my drive to Pittsburgh Seminary for my Doctorate in Ministry cohort in January, I had a great conversation with my good friend Mary Lasoncysk.  She has let go of the anxiety on whether our church will grow numerically or not, which has freed her up to love the church as it is!  She isn’t worried about whether the church will exist in the future or not.  She knows that it will in some form. It was a fun conversation full of salt and light as we talked about the possibilities, imagination, and work towards a faithful presence.  She further commented that she did not think we would have come this far in our understanding of what it means to grow together two years ago.  She remarked how amazing it is to be where we are.  She is not ruling out numeric growth, just that that is not the aim.

Personally, over the years, I know that I’ve had to let go of many of the ways that I have done “church” and practiced ministry as well.  I’ve had to let go of my vision of the church, and I think many of you are in that process as well, and allowing God to give us light and direction towards a common, shared vision.  In this space, we become a bit vulnerable and trust and relationship become the fruit of that work of letting go.  This is an important part of our journey together, in letting go and listening intently to where God’s Spirit is flowing and taking us.  

When we begin that process of letting go…and starting out is the hardest part, we begin to see God’s expansive love work it’s way into our lives, like salt into meat or light into darkness.  It preserves us and it gives us a good taste in lives and illuminates our way forward.  We begin to practice being salt and light by loving each other…as well as our neighbors.  We find ourselves being peacemakers, practicing justice, standing up for those on the margins, being merciful and graceful, as we live into the commitment and bonds of friendship within community and with God. 

Jesus goes on to say in this morning’s scripture that he didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.  Jesus didn’t necessarily have a problem with rules or laws or church polity, but Jesus also said that being so focused on those rules than the bigger picture of God’s love. That can lead us being more about the process than the relationship, and we lose our saltiness, we put our light under a bushel.  Those rules, the commandments, were given to us to show us how to be in relationship, and to remind us that we fall short and need grace to truly live life as it was meant to be lived.

Jesus fulfills the law by being the embodiment of the law as a person…the characteristics/ethos of the law in right relationship is Jesus.  And our relationship with Jesus, which brings out our true selves, means that we are also called to apply Jesus righteousness, which we possess, in our relationships with others…which leads to being light in a dark world, speaking up for the oppressed, the marginalized, the refugee…for justice and mercy or any opposing principles or ethos of this world which are often based on small ego.

Being a Jesus follower means moving towards a higher level of consciousness, of awareness….going beyond a literal observance of laws and rituals to a radical openness to relationship with God and others that is very much fluid and  requires faithfulness, trust, and even risk and marked by radical love and illuminating that love for the world to see…a love that permeates into the lives others, preserving life, and giving it some spice!  So, friends, let’s keep on being salt and light!!!  

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