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Salt and Light

The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Matthew 5: 13-20
February 5, 2017
The Rev. Robin Razzino
In the Name of One God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
You are the salt of the earth.
You are the light of the world.
Let that sink in for a minute.
You are the salt.
You are the light.
You are.
You are.
You.
You.
Blessed are you, salt of the earth.
Blessed are you, light of the world.
Last week I ended the sermon on the Beatitudes with a four-fold blessing: May God bless us with discomfort, anger, tears and foolishness…
“This Blessing,” I said – “like the Beatitudes - gives us comfort as we do the hard work of witnessing to the in-breaking of the Kingdom of heaven - as we work to bring about this kingdom of peace and justice and love and compassion and humility and mercy and kindness.”
This week – in verses directly following upon the Beatitudes - we are being assured by God that we are up to the task - that we will be able to do the work set before us – because of who we are.
We are salt. We are light.
We elicit goodness like salt elicits flavor. We shine forth like the stars of the night sky.
Look up at the ceiling. Those who first imagined this church – a church with no windows – hoped that when we lifted our eyes – lifted our hearts unto the Lord – we would see stars. These lights against the darkness of the ceiling are to remind us of the night sky – the sky as it was seen over the deserts of Egypt.
The light in this church does not come from the outside in - through windows and skylights.
The light in this church comes from inside each one of us. This is the light of Jesus Christ.
Ladies and gentlemen, let that light shine. Don’t let anyone – whoof – it out.
Let this light guide us into places of darkness – in our world, in our relationships, in our anxieties and fears.
We need to bring light to the darkness - and we need darkness to draw out the light in us.
Even stars don’t shine in the light of day.
Try welcoming the darkness.
As Annie Dillard once said, “You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary.”
Go to the dark places - places of fear, anxiety and sadness - remembering Jesus - the light - has gone there before us.
Engage the darkness - walk through the darkness, so that the light – our light – with Christ’s light - can overcome the darkness (Charles Cook in Feasting on the Word p 336).
You are the salt of the earth.
You are the light of the world.
Did you hear that?
It’s not that you should be or better be the salt or the light– as one writer noted this week.
Jesus is saying to his audience – to you and to me – that we already are salt and light.
What we hear today, in this section of the Sermon on the Mount, is a promise, not a command. (David Lose in the Meantime, 2017).
“Jesus says [we] already are what God made [us] to be.
“You are the salt of the earth,” he says. “You are the light of the world.”
As another writer says, “Right now, before we change the world, before we accomplish greatness, the very essence of who we are is serving a purpose.
‘We are, in our core, adding flavor to life.
We have been created, like salt, both to preserve what needs to be preserved and to corrode and melt what needs to be changed.” (http://inwardoutward.org/the-story/).
We can do this because we are salt and light.
Each one of us – and all of us together.
You are the salt of the earth.
You are the light of the world.
You - the Church of St Clement.
You – the Body gathered here today.
You – plural.
You - we - are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
We have been named such – and named – as in our baptism – for a mission. We are salt and light and we are to serve as such.
In what ways are we salt and light?
In what ways, St Clement’s, are you – already - salt and light?
· The casseroles you make for the Carpenters shelter – salt and light.
· The socks you collect for the cold and vulnerable – salt and light.
· The welcoming of overnight guests – homeless and - this week - parents seeking a spot in a school for their children to learn and grow…the welcoming of overnight guests – salt and light.
· Forty days spent making brown bag lunches for the poor and hungry – salt and light.
· Praying for your loved ones who are sick, hurting, and hospitalized – salt and light.
· Making dinner for a new mom – salt and light.
· Standing with Muslim neighbors in acts of solidarity – salt and light.
“All these deeds of mercy, and others like them,” writes Thomas Long, “are the works of a church that flavors the world like salt and illumines the world like a candle held high in a cave (Thomas Long in Mathew, p 52).”
Any one of these acts may seem small or insignificant. But taken together they will change the world.
This is how we witness to the in-breaking of the Kingdom of heaven. This is how we work to bring about this kingdom of peace and justice and love and compassion and humility and mercy and kindness.
“It’s our duty to do as much good as we can, as the scale of our life allows.”
Isn’t that beautiful?
“It’s our duty to do as much good as we can, as the scale of our life allows.”
I didn’t write that – I was directed to this quote by a spiritual friend. The quote appeared in a recent article in the Atlantic about what president’s do after leaving office.
The words belong to Jon Meacham, author of several presidential biographies.
“It’s our duty to do as much good as we can, as the scale of our life allows.”
Now – I might have wished he hadn’t used the word duty – as that points us in the direction of command rather than commission, obligation rather than promise.
However, it is the rest of the quote that gets me.
How can we - as salt and light – do as much good as we can, as the scale of our life allows – individually and communally?
As I think of the work that needs to be done to help bring about a world shaped by the values of the kingdom of heaven, I become easily overwhelmed.
But if I think of who I am - to God and to my neighbor – all I need to do is recognize and see my life and limits and potential as God sees them. The same can be said of this church – any church or faith community.
What is the scale of our life right now?
Are we feeling old, or tired, sick, or weak?
Are we overwhelmed parents with crazy children?
Are we overwhelmed employees with deadlines we’ll never meet?
Are we facing economic or vocational uncertainty?
Are we consumed by toxic family dynamics?
It doesn’t matter.
We are the salt of the earth.
We are the light of the world.
Whatever the scale of our life allows – we can be who and what we already are to God and to the world.
We can be what God needs us to be – to help bring about the Kingdom of heaven – the Kingdom of peace and justice and love and compassion and humility and mercy and kindness.
We can be this because we already are this.
We were made for this.
I want to leave you with a poem written by Steve Garnaas-Holmes.
The poem is entitled: Salt.
When the seawater finally evaporates the pure salt of you remains.
Of the earth, stout crystal, marvelous in your you-ness,
as first you left the Creator’s hand, your grain, your truth,
this do not lose or trade, or meekly become otherwise.
That of you that is purely you, blood-mineral of life, of tears,
salting not in virtue or deeds but essence, simply being you,
bringing out in others their own flavor as well,
offer without apology, with love and courage,
for God, savoring you so, has chosen to salt this life with you.”
for God, savoring you so, has chosen to salt this life with you.
for God, savoring you so, has chosen to salt this life with you.
Amen.