View today's sermon on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2r3Dfx3iLA.
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
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 People do not light a lamp and put it under the bushel basket; rather, they put it 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 Creator in heaven.
Where the Light Begins
Perhaps it does not begin.
Perhaps it is always.
Perhaps it takes
to open our eyes,
to learn to see
what has forever
shimmered in front of us—
the luminous line
of the map
in the dark,
the vigil flame
in the house
of the heart,
we cannot keep
from crying out
Perhaps this day
will be the mountain
the dawn breaks.
will turn our face
toward what has been
will finally open
in ancient recognition,
illuminated at last.
Perhaps this day
the light begins
My new favorite podcast is called “Poetry Unbound”. Pádraig Ó Tuama is the host. He reads other people’s poems and then dissects them, delving into the richness of their textures and colors and meanings.
In the weeks since I have discovered Pádraig my world has been expanded. Poets from all over the world are suddenly part of my daily landscape, broadening my scope of vision, shining light in corners that were previously dark to me. Sometimes their prose shines a light on beauty, and wonder, and sometimes it shines a light on the darkness of grief, and loss, and injustice. Poets help us see the world as it is, and how God intended. Poets do not shy away from truth. They purposely expose truth in all of its glory or all of its horrors or all of its ordinariness.
Jesus was known for his teaching through his everyday, ordinary metaphors. You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. Jesus was known for his blunt teachings, which were always grounded in love of God, self, and other. These verses offer truth, admonishment, hope, and love.
Jesus was teaching, knowing that he would not be walking with these people for much longer, knowing they would stumble and fall and need to get back up again. Jesus was preparing his listeners, including us, for when we become separated from our source of truth and light.
These two metaphors are asking two questions: The first is, “Who are we?” Jesus tells his listeners, You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. Jesus is answering the question for us by stating those truths. Jesus is reminding his listeners that they, like salt, and light, are created for a purpose. Salt is a seasoning which adds flavor to food, to life. Light is to shine in the darkness, to illuminate the world.
The second question is about how we are to be the salt of the earth and be the light of the world. Jesus tells us that we cannot be the salt of the earth if we have lost our zest for life. We cannot be the light of the world if our light is extinguished, dimmed, or hidden.
If we lose our sense of self and worth, we may fall to the earth and be trampled by others. And sometimes when we lose our sense of self and maybe have an exaggerated self-worth, we may trample others. Both ways are out of balance with God, self, and other. Jesus is reminding us of whom and whose we are. We need be nothing more and nothing less than who we are.
How we choose to live into these truths, these blessings, is up to us. If you lose your saltiness, if your light goes dim, how will you find your way back to the truth of who God made you to be? How do we restore ourselves to the fullness of our created selves?
These lyrics come to mind from Canadian folk singer and songwriter Ferron. “But life don’t clickety clack down a straight line track. It comes together and it comes apart.” (“Ain’t Life a Brook”)
We are one with God, we stray from God. We come back to God, we become separated from God. We are healthy and whole and we are worn out and broken. We come together and we come apart, over and over again.
Those in the helping professions, or those volunteering, how do you regenerate your energy after burning your light so brightly and so long? How do you come together after coming apart? Some take time and sit quietly with God so that their empty vessel is refilled, so that their life spark is rekindled. Some go outside, letting the beauty of creation fill them back up, taking nourishment through their senses of sight and sound, touch and taste and smell. Whatever works for you, please do it, and do it on a regular basis, because we need you, and we want you to be whole.
Where do we shine our lights?
Are we shining our lights in the darkness or shining them in already well-lit places? It is not either-or. It is so very important to do both, to have balance, to be aware and engaged with all aspects of life on this earth.
Investigative journalists shine their lights in the dark recesses of humanity – whether in Haiti exposing corruption and gang violence and dangerous and inhumane living conditions or here in the U.S. shedding light on sex trafficking and sexual slavery and the horrors of the abuses committed in our cities and towns.
Just as importantly, thankfully, we have Good News journalists that shine their lights on the good – restoring hope to people that are broken and shattered.
Jesus is telling his listeners; You are the salt of the earth. Salt cannot lose its flavor. Not in its pure form. You cannot lose your flavor. Not in your pure form. Salt only loses its flavor when diluted, when it is mixed with impurities. We lose our saltiness, our flavor, our purpose when our faith in God is compromised. Our saltiness is restored through practice or study, or according to Matthew, through good works. Our saltiness, our essence, our very being is not serving God if it becomes stagnant or is repressed by others. We must keep ourselves fresh and invigorated by engaging with God and the world. Keeping our salt to ourselves is selfish – depriving the world of our flavors, our contributions. These verses very clearly instruct us that our salt is wasted if we do not keep it pure – and – use it.
To the new members in our midst and those that have been part of this church community for some time, we are here to encourage and support one another. We are here to use our salt. We are here to shine our light. “God made you [God made all of us] to bless the world! You may feel small and insignificant, but like a pinch of salt or a spark of light, you can make a tremendous difference.” (“Salt” blog for the week of February 5th.)
Be the person God made you to be. Be unapologetically, unabashedly you.
Who are you? You are the salt of the earth. Let your flavor enliven the world.
Who are you? You are the light of the world. Be a beacon, a lamp, a flame, to benefit all.
Rev. TJ Mack – February 5, 2023