Fifth Sunday of Epiphany – February 9, 2020
There are some deeply rooted questions we as humans have been asking since the beginning of times. These questions say something about our yearnings even today. Where are we? Who are we? Why are we here? What are we meant to be doing? How are we to go about this thing we call life? This is the way Kirk Alan Kubicek puts it in a sermon for today. [i]
I recall asking these questions to myself in my early 20s and it provoked a lot of anxiety and even despair. Sometimes I wonder whether so much of this type of anxiety is masked by the “noise” that life is producing around us. Perhaps we drown it out through alcohol, drugs, deafening music, or simply by trying to sleep it off.
Indeed, many voices are surrounding us from all sides claiming to answer these provoking questions. We seek freedom and abundance, yet most of us remain enslaved, bonded, to Want, to Have, and to Do. Whether we are 8, 18 or 80, we often keep craving, clutching, and fussing. We are kept in never-ending unrest: forgetting the one thing that encompasses it all and that is to Be. Being, not wanting, having and doing, is the essence of spiritual life.”
How can we focus on being instead of doing too much craving and fussing? Would it be by letting go and letting God?
“You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world” are Jesus’ statements that He makes in the part of the Sermon on the Mount that we heard this morning. I don’t sense a lot of craving, clutching or fussing in these words of Jesus. It is about Being, this is what we are. As believers in Christ, we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. This means this is what God does through Christ in us.
We tend to make the mistake of thinking we are capable of fulfilling all that God requires of us as laid out in commandments and reminders from prophets.
Like Isaiah, who helps us to imagine what it means to observe a fast: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly… Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and He will say, Here I am.”
In many small towns in South Africa, the manse is right next to the church. As it is also often in Canada we can do well by remembering that in small towns there are little or no shelters for the homeless, no shelters for women in abused relationships, no group homes for those who are intellectually disabled, no foodbanks. It is just not part of the fabric of South African society. It falls squarely on the church, and when there is no one available at the church the manse becomes the haven – the haven for the woman who runs away and wants to hide from a violent partner, the haven for the woman with mental illness who got dropped off by her husband, the haven for the father who just lost his teenager due to suicide, the haven for the intellectually disabled person who is singing at your door at 3 am and just wants to fill his hungry tummy – this is when we are relied upon to be salt of the earth…
…and light for the world towards those in need who come in from outside.
When Isaiah asks the question, “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?”
About five hundred years later, Matthew’s Jesus, the Son of God, confirms that our light, the light of Christ, the light of God’s purpose, shines brightest when we do just these things (as described in Matthew 25:31-46). Isn’t this the essence of our Being? This is why we are here in a world in desperate need of more light.
This is also why, when we are the salt of the earth, God is building up the church, preserving this church, making new things happen. William Barclay [ii] describes how in Palestine the ordinary oven is out of doors and is built of stone on a base of tiles. In such ovens “to retain the heat, a thick bed of salt is laid under the tiled floor. After a certain length of time, the salt perishes. The tiles are taken up, the salt removed and thrown on the road outside the door of the oven … it has lost its power to heat the tiles and it is thrown out. When Jesus mentions this, the point being made might be that uselessness invites disaster. We as a congregation can do well to be reminded of how important and vital our usefulness is. God equips us.
When salt loses its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?
When we are the light for the world, our lamps have oil and we can be burning till the break of day. Then, when we might experience blindness, God is our vision.
As “light” we are indeed to illuminate or make visible, Michael Youssef says on Christianity.com. Our lives are to be an on-going witness to the reality of Christ’s presence in our lives. When we worship God with pure hearts, when we love others as ourselves, and when we do good without growing weary, we are lights shining. It is important to know that it is not our light, but the reflection of the Light of the world, Jesus Christ Himself, that people will see in us. [iii]
I want to encourage you to continue allowing God to shed the light that shines on the path lying ahead of us. May God preserve the church, by using us as salt of the earth that keeps decay from setting in where we may tend to become less enthusiastic about the work we do, and I’m looking at myself first. My wish is that each of us would allow God’s Spirit to use us powerfully, “so that (as Jesus Himself put it) others may see our good works and give glory to the father in heaven.”
[i] “Salt, Light, and Stardust” by Kirk Alan Kubicek, a sermon for Epiphany 5 (A) – February 9, 2020 at https://episcopalchurch.org/library/sermon/salt-light-and-stardust-epiphany-5-february-9-2020
[ii] William Barclay, A commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (the version available online).
[iii] Michael Youssef, https://www.christianity.com/bible/christian-you-are-salt-and-light-11596480.html
Copyright 2020 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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