2/9/2020 Fifth Sunday after Epiphany The text is Matthew 5: 13-20.
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. 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.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, our rock and our Redeemer.
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
This morning’s Gospel is the continuation of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount’, the first half of which we delved into last week. In the beatitudes we discovered who were the ‘those’ that Jesus called ‘blessed’. Blessed are the meek, blessed the poor, blessed are those who mourn. We are the meek, poor, mourning ones. It’s impossible to separate the two halves of Jesus’ discourse on the mountain, for in the first portion Jesus tells us we are blessed and that we have been called to God’s kingdom. Through these blessings we claim our credentials, our establishment as children of God. In the verses this morning Jesus encourages us to acknowledge that we must now ‘live into’ this identity.
While Jesus preached his sermon to the first apostles, his admonition to them to carry forth God’s work results in this same command now falling to us, the current disciples of Christ. This is a calling to move beyond the current default setting for our lives, our faith, and our ministry, as individuals and as the church. Complacency, comfort, and inaction are not the expectations for Christ’s followers. Just knowing we are the ones who are ‘blessed’ isn’t enough. Flavorless salt is of no use and covering up light serves no purpose. We have been blessed with acceptance into God’s kingdom of salt and light, but this comes with the expectation that we are to spread gospel seasoning and kingdom illumination to those who remain meek, poor in spirit, or grieving.
‘The Message’ bible by Eugene Peterson uses this very modern language to express Jesus’ admonition to the disciples on the Mount; and, ultimately to us:
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
No matter which bible translation we consult Jesus’ mission for us is the same. We are to shine the light of Christ! Either we live into this command to be illuminators of the gospel or we risk slipping into that complacent, comfortable default setting for our lives, and we risk ceasing to be participants in living into and spreading the gospel message. And if we keep our light hidden for too long, we might be hard-pressed to call ourselves followers of Christ. Jesus told his first disciples that he can’t fulfill his mission alone; there is too much darkness in the world, and that God’s light must also shine through them.
I think we can agree that the world today languishes in darkness much as it did in Jesus’ time; sadly, much as it always has.
This brings us to the part of a sermon where the preacher might attempt to engage the congregation by pointing out the places where he sees darkness in the world, and where he thinks Christ’s followers ought to shine their light. But, after two Sundays hearing about the beatitudes, and concluding that we are those who are blessed in the sight of God, I think we already know where brightness needs to shine. So, I ask you to give thought to these questions, and perhaps answer them for yourself, and to yourself. Or, if you feel compelled you might want to discuss them with one another. After worship this morning you are invited to grab a coffee and a baked good, and sit together in our first Adult Forum. We will gather around a table of fellowship and perhaps collectively come up with suitable answers to these questions.
Where have you seen light lately? Or, is the world around us too shrouded in the darkness of hate, conflict, hunger, and homelessness that there isn’t a glimmer of light to be seen?
Has the light of Christ shone on you? Have you felt the warmth of God’s radiance? Have you reflected this light back?
Can any one of us, shining our tiny glow of Christ’s light even make a difference? How much greater effect would there be if we each light our lamps and join together, holding our burning candles aloft? What if we were to shine forth the blazing light of the Good News of Jesus?
What does it mean for us to share the light we are called to shine with our sisters and brothers; those sitting around us this morning? How do we expose our neighbors to this light of Christ? What would happen if we took Jesus’ command to heart and truly strived to illuminate all of creation? Can we be, as Christs tells us we are, ‘the light of the world’?
Are we willing to be counted as true light-bearing followers of this Jesus Christ? Are we willing to shine our light as we are commanded? I invite you to turn to Hymn #677 in the hymnal. Let us sing the first verse. Are we going to let our light shine, even if it’s only our little one? (Sing first verse of ‘This Little Light of Mine’).
Will you pray with me? Good and gracious God, help us to shine the light of Christ to illuminate where there is darkness in the world. Jesus has assured us that we are blessed and has commanded us to show the glory of your kingdom by refusing to hide our lamps under a basket. Help us to uncover the brilliance that is your love and to bring forth the light of Christ and never withhold it from others.
And in Jesus’ name together the light-bearing people of God say…Amen.
God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good. Amen.