Sunday, February 5, 2017

Salt and Light

            I based this post on a familiar scripture from Mathew.(5:13-20) Familiar even if you haven’t read it because of the song based on it, “This little light of mine.” This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine, Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. Hide it under a bushel, no! I’m gonna let it shine. We have all sung the lyrics to the familiar hymn. How many of us have relegated this to the children's sermon. Along with Jesus loves me. It’s ok, you can raise your hand. It falls in the larger section that is the Sermon on the Mount. There, Christ speaks of those who are blessed, but in our passage today he continues on what the responsibilities of those who are blessed is.
            Our passage falls after the well-known beatitudes, where Jesus expounds on who is blessed. It is Christ’s rule for how those who are blessed should live. Their lives are meant to be transformed but this is not a simple list of rules. He calls the disciples to be Salt and light. Today’s passage comes in the middle of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. A sermon that was most likely preached to his disciples, but heard by the larger crowd on that hill. Jesus begins by saying that his disciples were to be like the salt of the earth. Think about it. Salt, for much of human history, and Jesus time is no exemption, was used to preserve food just as much to flavor it. Granted salt in Jesus time was not always pure, and could lose its taste and effectiveness. Salt, in of itself is not a really effective substance, unless it is applied to something. Jesus is telling his disciple that they are no good unless they are applied to each other, unless they are added to those around them to preserve and enhance each other.
            Jesus goes on to encourage his disciples to be a light unto the world. Just as you wouldn't hide your lamp under a bushel or bush, why would you not let your light, the light of Christ shine? Oil lamps in the ancient world were the only source of light after dark, and had to be maintained overnight. It would be foolish to light one and then hide it. It literally was the only brightness shining in the darkness.
                        So what do Salt and Light have to do with each other, and why is Jesus talking about them to his disciples.  Salt purifies, it preserves and it flavors. Light is meant to be seen, it guides us, and it can warn us. If we are to be people of integrity and shine forth the light of Christ, we must be people who live by God’s commandments, not allowing for those around us to see us without integrity. Too often I heard in my work as a college chaplain in Iowa that people chose to not gather for worship with us because of the hypocrisy and lack of integrity they saw from the church as a whole.  Jesus warns us of this in our passage today, that even in breaking of the least of his commandments, we teach others to do likewise. We must stand firm in our faith in the commandments and the integrity of the cross so that those looking in from outside the church can learn that we are living, striving for the promise and hope that is in Christ. Our lives shine for the world, good or bad. We are to stand firm in Christ and let our lives reflect that. Love and not law is the rule of the kingdom of God. Christ calls us to live and act in love.  When we read the Gospel of John, we are assured of the True light that came to enlighten the world. Just as John the Baptist did, we are called to testify to that True light, the Light of Jesus.
            Our lives shine for the world, good or bad. We are to stand firm in Christ and let our lives reflect that. Out of Darkness came the Light of Christ on the cross. When we walk and talk in the integrity of the Cross, we allow the light of Christ to shine through all of us and be an influence to all around us. If we can lead on person out of the darkness into the warmth of the Grace of Christ we can influence them for a lifetime.

I encourage all of you, let your light shine. BE that City on the hill, be a guiding light to anyone you meet, letting your light strengthen and purify you and the world. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

        What Are we afraid of? What are you afraid of? I am afraid of heights, and growing up, I was always afraid of fireworks. Until I was about 8, I couldn't enjoy 4th of July festivities. Silly I know, but loud noises scared me. They still do, if I am not expecting them. That’s part of why I don’t like horror movies, not so much the blood or gore, but the unexpected noises and surprises.  But we are all afraid of something. 
We read psalm 46. A psalm I have prayed at countless bedsides before surgery, at the time of death and times of grief. A simple passage that directs to not fear, to trust and hope in God; to trust in his providence, his power and his grace in even the worst of times. This psalm imperils us to trust, to trust with confidence who God is. HE is our source of refuge, our strength and very present help in times of need. 
I have sat at the bedsides of so many people in the times of need, at times when they have joined the cloud of witnesses. And it is at these times that God has spoken the words written here in Psalm 46. Be still and know that I AM GOD. I believe he says that when I sit with people at the hospital and on our healthcare unit. And I know folks hear it too at the end of their lives. If you do a quick survey of scripture, ok maybe not so quick,  and you will find that: “do not fear” is found 57 times. The phrase “do not be afraid” 46 times. Fear not in one phrase or another is in scripture 365 times. That works out to one reference for every day in the year. FEAR, will always be present. But the kicker is this. God always responds, fear not for I am WITH YOU. Scripture assures us that our days are filled with the love and the hope that we have in Christ. A love and hope that has embraced all of us, and a love that will sustain us and carry us as we continue until we meet him again. God is Love. And love is as BIG as heaven. Love is as small as the crack in our hearts that no one else sees. But Love always wins. 

          I feel like we are forgetting God's imperative to not fear, and in doing so we are forgetting the very core of what Jesus taught us. The Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell us that the greatest rule that comes through the scriptures is to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbors as our self. (Mt 22:37-40, Mk 12:30-31, Luke 10:27) But Luke is the only one to tell us specifically who our neighbor is, ie the hurt, the stranger, and the outcast. And why do we forget to love our neighbor. Because of fear.
          I believe in a graceful God. Where my sin has abounded, God's love has abounded more. Even in my brokenness, God in Christ has accepted me for who I am. And it is in this grace that I have responded. God's grace is so powerful that I cannot help but to respond.
         And how should I respond? In gratitude, by Loving God. And we love God by loving and honoring our neighbors; the lost, the stranger, the outcast, those thirsty and seeking refuge.