Our texts this week built upon our texts from last week and I asked each of us to discern what it means to do true worship in our time and in our place. The worship to do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly with our God.
In Matthew 5, we get the second piece of the Sermon on the Mount, the call to be the light and the salt of the earth. Isaiah builds upon what that means, and it is to break the bondage of oppression, to break the yoke of burden, to feed the hunger, to shelter the homeless.
This week I came across commentary and songs that spoke to this text better than I could summarize. I apologize in advance if this is a little longer than normal (which it is).
The first comes from Christian Century, where the author holds a powerful mirror in front of us, in order to convict us of our short-comings and show us a better way. It reads:
“Being salt and light involves giving ourselves away completely. True salt, salt that has not lost its taste, disappears into food to make the food tastier. Jesus’ disciples transform the world by disappearing in humble service. Life in a world thus salted is savory.
Likewise, light that is not bound by obstructions dissipates over miles, like the ripples of self-giving service. Life in a world so enlightened is liberated from bondage to darkness.
The rub, of course, is that we humans, even we so-called faithful ones, are hesitant to give ourselves away quite so fully, to dissolve or dissipate quite so completely. We like to hold back a little or cluster with like-minded people so that we can complement one another on our saltiness and brightness without the effort of salting or lighting anything.
Here in the United States at least, we who call ourselves Christian have for some time tended to cluster our salt and [concentrate] our light to the exclusion of others and to the benefit of none. Trading humility for hubris, we have salted our culture well nigh to death with notions utterly foreign to the Sermon on the Mount. We speak of Christian values, Christian policies, Christian economics, Christian candidates, Christian plumbers, Christian Internet plans, and even Christian hook up sites. We lament being persecuted Christians, overlooked Christians, insulted and mocked Christians, even Christians deprived of the phrase “Merry Christmas,” too good for this world.
Called simply to bear the savor of our Savior, we bear instead the bitterness of our better-ness. Too much salt is thrown out and trampled underfoot – along with the food it has tainted.
Is it any wonder that the ranks of the nones are filled out the dones – those who have experienced the church and want nothing more to do with it? Better, it seems, to chew on a life less savory than to risk the nauseating experience of swallowing nothing but salt.
In the same way, we too often hide our light – or at least contain its glow – under a bushel basket, fearful that letting it shine farther might make it less bright in our immediate vicinity. It is as though there are corners of God’s world unworthy of the illumination they would know if we let our light be placed on a lampstand rather than under the security of a basket. We should not be surprised that many would rather stand with others in the darkness than be cursed by light that shines only on some.”
(Christian Century. “Living By The Word”. January 18, 2017.)
I have never heard someone criticize Christ, but often the criticism of Christians for not fully living into teachings of Christ, such as the teaching to be the salt and light for the world. I think it is rooted in fear.
I turn to Garth Brooks songs in my time of darkness, when I need hope, when I need encouragement and support to be light and salt in a world that desperately needs it. This week, I noticed that those same songs have another thread that fear is what hold us back. So, I want to share some lines from some of those songs.
“People Loving People”:
We fear what we don’t understand
and we’ve been scared since time began
all the colors and the cultures circle ’round us on a spindle
it’s a complicated riddle, the solution is so simple…
It’s people loving people
that’s the enemy of everything that’s evil.
(Songwriters: Chris Allen Wallin, Lee Thomas Miller, and Michael James Ryan Busbee)
“Belleau Wood”, a creative telling for the Christmas Truce in 1914 (World War I):
And he raised his hand and smiled at me as if he seemed to say
here’s hoping we both live to see us find a better way
Then the devil’s clock struck midnight and the skies lit up again
and the battlefield where heaven stood was blown to hell again
But for one fleeting moment the answer seemed so clear
Heaven’s not beyond the clouds it’s just beyond the fear
No, heaven’s not beyond the clouds it’s for us, to find it, here.
(Songwriters: Joe Henry and Garth Brooks)
And “Thicker than Blood”:
And if blood is thicker than water
then what are we fighting for?
We’re all sons and daughters
of something that means so much more
I see it on my TV but I can’t understand
Lord, it’s one big contradiction to me
how in God’s name we love thy neighbor
with fists in our hands
and kill each other when we just don’t agree
Why can’t we see the walls we can’t see through?
and see what God’s been telling me and you
(and that is)
Blood is thicker than water
Oh, but love, love is thicker than blood.
(Songwriters: Garth Brooks and Jenny Yates)
We are “all sons and daughters of something that means so much more”. If we truly believe that we all have been created by our creator and that love is more powerful than blood or water, then it mean we have been called to justice, loving kindness, walking humbly with God, to love and service of our neighbor, to reach beyond that fear that we let divide us because it goes beyond our family, our community, our, state, our nation. It goes beyond our ethnicity, our race. It goes beyond the Lutherans, the Christians; it goes beyond even the Abrahamic Monotheistic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It includes ALL of HUMANITY, ALL PEOPLE.
My prayer is:
May we see through the walls we cannot see.
Reach beyond the FEAR,
for LOVE is thicker than Blood.
The Scriptures were Matthew 5: 13-20 and Isaiah 58: 1-12.
The Sermon was originally preached on 5 Feb. 2017.