Epiphany 5,2017, Glen Carbon, Matthew 5:13-16
Rosie Williams is a member at Immanuel Chapel in North St. Louis County. Whenever I would greet her on Sunday morning, she would respond, “I am blessed.” And so, she is and so are we – blessed. By our baptism and trust in Jesus Christ we are blessed to be Jesus’ disciples. Last week we were among those who came to Jesus on the mountain to be taught, that “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted; blessed are those who yearn for rightness for they shall be satisfied. Yes, and blessed are those who are persecuted for doing the right thing in Jesus name…Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven.”
St. Paul tells us today that we are blessed because the Holy Spirit has opened our eyes to see what no eye has seen, opened our ears to hear what no ear has heard, opened our minds to things which are beyond the human imagination. With eyes and ears and minds opened by the Holy Spirit we can understand the things God has done for us in Jesus Christ. St. Paul declares, “We have the mind of Christ.” All those blessings come to us through Jesus Christ and him crucified. We anticipate that day when we will see Jesus return and hear him say, “Come blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
This morning we again gather around Jesus who continues his instruction. He tells us, “You are the salt of the earth.” You are that which salts the earth. You are that which seasons with earth with God flavors. “You are the light of the world.” You are that which gives light to enlighten the world. You are that which brings out the God colors of the world.
Jesus isn’t saying, “You should be the salt of the earth and light of the world. He’s not saying, “You have to be” or “you better be.” Rather, he is saying you are. You are already salt and light. Even if you don’t know it. Even if you once knew it and forgot. Even if you don’t believe it. Jesus isn’t making demands of us, but is making promises to us and giving out gifts.
Let’s consider how we may have shown our saltiness and lit up a bit of the world the past week or so. We might be surprised. On the farm when I was growing up we had a salt block on a stake for the cows. But occasionally we would be surprised and filled with some joy when a deer would be found among the cows taking advantage of the salt block. So, it might be surprising to learn how our little actions of word and deed brought some joy into someone’s life or someone did the same for us. Something as simple as how we answering the telephone with a cheerful greeting and readiness to listen. We might have shown patience while standing in a checkout line. Or a clerk might have helped us. When I check out at the pharmacy at a nearby Walgreens, I get overloaded with all the answers I’m supposed to put in that little screen. So, one young lady turns it toward her and does it for me, not only helping me but also aiding the waiting people behind me. Thus, people season our day with kindness or we are a ray of sunshine in another person’s cloudy day.
Notice Jesus says to us, “You are the salt of the EARTH.” “You are the light of the WORLD.” This is a commission from the Lord like when the resurrected Savior commissioned his disciples, to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing…and teaching them.” Now that’s a tall task. We may have trouble being salt and light in our daily encounters let alone for all the earth and for all nations. A member of my Friday morning Bible Class was an executive at Ralston Purina and then served as president of Concordia Publishing House for ten years. By his own admission, he was not a patient person. His greatest challenge now is that his wife is very ill and prone to frequent falls. Friday, she was having a bad day. He often gets frustrated. His wife tells him that the reason for her disability is to teach him patience. So being salt and being light can be a challenge.
Nevertheless, we are not judged on how successfully we carry out our identity as salt and light. Jesus has changed us into salt. Jesus has changed us into light. He will preserve us. For the source of our light is God who said in the beginning, “Let there be light.” In the same way, the source of our being light and salt is none other than our heavenly Father, who sent his light, that is Jesus Christ, as the light of the world. As John tells us, in him was life, and his life was the light of mankind. That light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it…The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”
But Jesus had said salt and light, “of the earth, of the world, and all nations.” I’m reminded of a time when the prophet Isaiah told the Lord that he was failing at what the Lord had called him to do. “I have toiled in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose.” And the Lord responded, “The problem is that I have given you too light a task to simply raise up the tribes of Jacob…I going to appoint you as a light to the nations so that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
So now that we are salt for the seasoning of the earth. Now that we are light for the enlightening of the world. How do we go about using our blessing, to be a blessing to others? The world certainly needs us. All we have to do is check the headlines; listen to the news; glance over the social media pages – there is dis-ease in the world. We have divisions in our country. Yet when we look back at last week’s words of Jesus, his blessing is for the down trodden of the world, for those who recognize they are poor in spirit, for those want peace, for those who show mercy, for those who mourn. As Mary sang about the child in her womb, “for he has looked on the humble…he has filled the hungry with good things, he has helped his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy.”
Scripture gives us a few ideas how to be salt and light. When Jesus speaks of his return to welcome into the kingdom of heaven those who are blessed of the Father, he will review our work. “When I was hungry…you gave me food.” Is there a food pantry nearby? Bring them some food. Is there a stranger nearby or a refugee in need of a welcome? Jesus says that’s me. When you welcome the stranger, you are welcoming Jesus. Jesus continues by saying that when we saw him naked we gave him some clothing. When we visit the sick we are visiting Jesus. The same for visiting a prisoner. The Southern Illinois District has a great prison ministry. Supporting that ministry is supporting Jesus. When I preach at Pinckneyville the pastor’s office is filled with material for ministry at the prison on the outskirts of town.
Some things are difficult to accomplish and some are simple. But however, we show our saltiness or let our light shine, Jesus says “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works” not so that they can send you thank you cards, but to” give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” In that way, the Lord says through Isaiah,” Your light shall break forth like the dawn,” demonstrating what it means to have “the mind of Christ.”