Scripture: 1 Corinthians 2:1-12; Matthew 5:13-20
Title: Active Faith
***Sermons are meant to be heard, so listen along here***
Right after Sam and I got married – we lived in a little apartment just south of downtown Minneapolis in the steven’s square neighborhood.
We were two blocks away from a stretch of Nicollet Ave called Eat Street.
And did we ever.
We ate a lot of incredible food.
We were young, didn’t know how to cook at all yet, and so it was easy.
And after a little while our pocketbook and general health began to suffer.
So we tried a diet.
And it worked for us, because it got us off the takeout, into the kitchen, and taught us how to eat and cook in a new, healthy, fresh, way.
But the initial program was NOT easy.
Because one of the things that was not allowed was added salt.
And let me tell you – I have never forgotten what it was like to not eat salt for 6 weeks.
Salt is amazing.
Really, really amazing.
Here’s the thing about it.
It doesn’t make the meal.
The meal makes the meal.
But it makes the food taste better. So. Much. Better.
It enhances the flavors of whatever it is added to.
We come upon Jesus today, still at the Sermon on the Mount.
There hasn’t been a break between the beatitudes and this text today in Jesus’ speaking.
So in case you were wondering why I added last week’s text to this week’s it’s because adding a week’s break in there is not the way it was originally heard. There was no pause.
We need to hear the familiar salt and light text today spoken as they were heard – alongside the beatitudes of last week.
Jesus began his sermon on the mountain reminding the gathered followers who are the receivers of God’s blessings… and last week Chad preached that if you want to know where Jesus is – you should look to those same blessed… the poor, the meek, the hungry and persecuted. That is where Jesus will be found.
And then Jesus continues by telling those gathered what their role is in this new Kingdom where blessing is found in the unexpected places.
Their role is salt and light.
You are the salt of the earth. Jesus says.
You are the light of the world.
This isn’t a thing we’re supposed to try.
This doesn’t say “you should be salt”
“Try to be light”
It says you are.
Even in the Greek, the form is indicative.
Jesus isn’t telling them to do something.
Jesus is naming something they already are.
You are the salt of the earth.
You are the light of the world.
So what does that mean exactly?
What does it mean to be salty?
No. Not sassy.
I think it’s helpful for me to go back to that crazy no salt diet and remember the first time we put salt back in and you guys it was so good I could hardly stand it.
It made everything taste better.
Like I said earlier, it didn’t make the meal, but it made the ingredients all taste better.
Eugene Peterson’s The Message says verse 13 this way: You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth.
It’s kind of hokey, I know.
What the heck is a God-flavor? Right?
But it’s also true.
We are called to go out and be salt in the world.
To go and work with God already acting in the world and make things taste better.
They will be fine, if we’re not there, things can and do happen without us,
But our action can make it better.
So then are we light.
We are the light of the world.
Again, what does this mean exactly?
I think it’s a really nice image to think of us as a shining beacon of light that everyone can see from wherever they are. It feels so nice.
Jesus says that we are to be a city on a hill, unable to be hidden, shining for everyone to see.
Does this ever make you worried?
Because I’m not trying to be light, remember? I am light.
And I find this image, this reminder that we are lights on a hill, to be a little daunting.
What we do matters.
People are watching.
People listen. Our kids listen.
We’ve been given something pretty amazing and then put someplace where we’re seen.
Am I being judged all the time? For my action and my inaction?
I hope not, but I think it might be true.
NT professor at Luther Seminary Karoline Lewis said that our default setting leans towards comfort, conformity, and complacency.
I know we don’t want to admit it most of the time, but usually we’d rather sit than act.
Acting is hard. Sitting is comfortable.
We’d rather post than do.
Posting is easy.
But whether we like it or not, we’re on a hill.
That is a hefty responsibility.
And if you’re anything like me, you feel the weight of this label of city on a hill.
There is so much to do.
So many people who are in need of help.
Of hope. Of Love.
There’s a phenomena discovered in the field of psychology that has been named psychic numbing.
Have you heard of this?
It’s when we get so overwhelmed by all the things we’re supposed to do, or all the bad things we’re seeing, that our brain literally stops caring to protect ourselves.
Anyone feeling this lately?
Yeah. It’s real.
If you need an example, it’s why we have a hard time with huge numbers of people needing help, but can get completely caught up and passionate over one.
We can’t handle the reality that causes pictures that we see on the news.
So we don’t.
Our brains help us leave it.
But our hearts can and do override our brain.
And that it what it means to be a city on a hill.
That light that shines in the darkness.
And it doesn’t need to be big, or fancy, or even the brightest.
It just needs to be light.
Mother Teresa once said that “if I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one, I will”
And who is the one we are looking for?
The ones whom Jesus has declared blessed.
The poor, the meek, the hungry, the persecuted.
We are reminded this morning of some tough realities.
Jesus has named us.
They aren’t conditional.
They just are.
But what we do with that salt, that light, and the love and forgiveness and grace we have received even here this morning… that is up to us.
Lastly this morning, Jesus gives us the why.
We have the who, we have the how, now why.
Verse 16: Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Don’t mistake this call to act on behalf of others as some kind of requirement of grace.
Or something we need to check off in order for God to give us some holy pat on the head before we’re sent along.
We are beloved.
Not a darn thing changes that.
But we’re on a hill.
Sticking out like a sore thumb for all to see.
And what we do matters.
Because we are sent as God’s representatives in the world, to bring out the God flavors. (nope, still hokey)
Our good works, the ways we love and the actions we take, they matter because they either bring people to God, or push them away.
I’d like to close with a great little video from Brad, the same guy that did the story about a bird video I showed a month ago. He wants us to get up and do something. To act.