Sunday, March 6, 2011

Epiphany 5A

You are the salt of the earth, the light of the world, cities on hills cannot be hidden, not one stroke of the letter of the law will pass away, you will be called great in the kingdom if you teach my commandments.

Simple words, rich and full with meaning.  Words we have heard so often that we forget their impact, their importance in our lives and in our worlds.

I could stand here today and exegete with great skill what each word means, how they fit together, how the salt Jesus spoke of was not table salt, but rather the salt used to create a chemical reaction that allowed dung to become pottery.  Yet, that is not the important thing.  The important thing is that we are salt and we are light, or we are not. 

A friend of mine shared, “Personally I wonder if we sometimes over think this. I remember a kid from youth group once saying, “if it's not salty, then it's not salt".  Her translation, “if you don't have the characteristics of a follower if Jesus, perhaps you're not one.”

That is cutting to the core of the matter isn’t it? Yet what does it mean to have the characteristics of a follower of Jesus, to be salt, to be light?

The simple answer?  We are called to use our gifts, time, and talents to love God and to love our neighbor.  How that looks for each of us will be different, because we are unique and have different gifts and talents than our spouse, our sibling, our parent, our friend. 

The key is to find your passion, that thing you burn to share with the world.

You are too old?  Never. 

In a nursing home sitting on a hill overlooking a valley, in a tiny room, in a bed near a window lay Mary.  Mary had become depressed.  When I visited her she shared she was no longer able to participate in active ministry.  All she could do with her days now was to look out her window and pray.  Someone visited her from the church each week and left her a bulletin with the prayer list and filled her in about folks in the parish.  She would take that bulletin each morning and study it with love and care.  Throughout the day she prayed for every name on that bulletin.  She prayed for the bishop, the priest, the church staff, the acolytes, the readers, you name it, if there was a person listed, they were prayed for by Mary.  When she finished that she prayed for the staff of the nursing home, the other residents, and the families of residents.  When she finished with those people, she prayed for the city at the bottom of the hill.  Mary may not have been able to get herself out of bed, but she had an active, vital, and necessary ministry.  When she left this earth, an important gift of prayer moved into heaven.  Knowing Mary was no longer on that hill praying, made a difference in countless lives.

Think you are too young? Never.
Jack went to a school with kids from all backgrounds.  He came from a family that had enough but not a whole lot.  There was always food on their table, new clothes when school started, and they never had their lights turned off.  When he began middle school Jack joined the basketball team.  They were asked to buy a certain shoe.  A shoe that cost over a hundred dollars.  His mom sighed when she was told, but found a way for jack to have the shoes.  When he went to practice he noticed a few of his peers did not have the shoes.  The coach let them know they only had a week to get them, if they were unable to; they would be cut from the team.  Now jack knew as tight as things were in his home, it was even tighter in the homes of these young men.  In one household, the father had been laid off; in another a younger sibling was undergoing treatment for cancer.  There was just no extra money for shoes.  And really why did they have to wear a certain shoe?  They were in middle school for goodness sakes.  Jack was so troubled by this that he shared with his youth group leader.  The youth group leader excused herself from the room and shortly returned with John an older man in the parish.  She asked Jack to share his concerns with John.  Turns out John owned a sporting goods store in town.  Because Jack cared enough to share his struggle with the shoes and talk to someone else, a solution was found.  In the future no basketball player at the school paid for shoes the coach insisted upon.  In fact in time even the coach realized it wasn’t about the shoes and his life was transformed.

Think you are too busy?  Rather than tell you a story here, I will just say, the gift of your checkbook will bless others.  Make a special offering to the discretionary fund so someone down on their luck can have their lights kept on.  Make a gift to one of our ministries here at the church.  Have a passion for Christian formation?  Fund next semester’s curriculum.  Love our worship space?  Give a gift that will enable us to buy new altar linens or a new frontal.  Have a passion for mission work?  Provide seed money for a mission trip.

Think you are too (insert your favorite adjective here)?  Again, no story, just remember you have gifts, you have talents, and you have passion to share with others.  The key is to pray, look around you, and as one of my favorite prayers from Morning Prayer says, “bend the knee of your heart” and listen.  As you listen, you will find that place God is calling you to make a difference.  It may be here inside the walls of the church.  Trust me we have much work to do here and many needs that go unmet. It may be outside the walls of this church.  I know I don’t have to tell you there are countless needs outside these doors.

Remember you are called to be salt, to be light.  To make a difference.  Jesus didn’t come into our world because he wanted friends.  He came because God needed to get our attention.  He came to teach, to challenge, to serve.  In two thousand years that has not changed.  He still teaches, he still challenges, and he still calls us to serve.  And there is much pain, much brokenness, and many needs in our world.  A world that needs us to be the hands and heart of Christ.

And at the end of the day?  If we aren’t salty, we are not salt.

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