Perspsective and Predicaments

This is the second time I have tried to post this blog.  I will learn not to use the WordPress App – it seemingly is demon possessed. 

Not only have I had a hard time with the blog app, it is cold, I have been sick, and I did my taxes today only to find out I am in debt to the IRS.  This makes for not the best of mental states (word of advice, don’t do your taxes when you are sick unless you know you are going to get a refund).  Still, I am trying to maintain the “in all things give thanks” mindset I know I should possess.

I am reflecting on the Gospel passage I will be bringing a message on this Sunday.  It is a passage that could create a lot of predicaments.  It is a passage in which one could easily slip into legalism if one is not careful.  It is a passage that speaks to murder and anger, to adultery and lust, to sin and self-mutilation, to divorce and adultery and to oaths and swearing.  Oh, and I must not forget the influence of the evil one.

This is the kind of passage that could make one wonder if Jesus was having a bad day. 

But, what if this passage is viewed from a different perspective than judgments and warnings.  Why are these things issues in the human experience?  Why would anyone end up near to them?  Jesus did not come to judge but to guide.  Is there a message of guidance in these words?  I believe there is.

I am already feeling better about being sick, it being cold, and owing taxes.

The Most Wondrous Gift

Today, my wife and I made a day trip to visit our oldest daughter and her family.  The trip makes for a long day but it is always worth the effort.

Today, we went to lunch (my daughter’s pick in celebration of a recent birthday) and had a great time.

When we came home God chose to give me a gift.

Poppi (that’s me) needed a nap.  My oldest grand-daughter grabbed her favorite blanket and came and snuggled up next to me on the couch.  For the next thirty minutes we napped together.  It was one of the greatest moments of my life.

Sometimes we are surprised by simple gifts of love.

Thank you my God for blessing me so today.

Are we really being Salt and Light?

Sermon for Sunday, February 9, 2014

 

Matthew
5:13-20   Are We Being Salt & Light?

 

This last week there was a news article
about the shortage of salt.  The article
stated that the salt of the Earth comes from a number of commercial sources,
from the Chile to Ireland. Few people,
however, worry about a salt shortage, since the mineral is usually in plentiful
supply.  But that changed this week, as
the northeastern United States got walloped with another heavy winter snowfall,
and stocks of road salt hit dangerously low levels.  Without salt to help keep the roads clear of
ice there will be many, many more accidents and fatalities.

 

I believe there is another salt
shortage.  It is a spiritual salt
shortage. 

 

Come on pastor, a spiritual
salt shortage?  Yes, a spiritual salt shortage!  OK, what is a spiritual salt shortage and why
do you say that one exists?  Let’s look at
our passage.

 

Jesus is continuing his teaching to his
disciples and the curious crowd that has gathered to hear what he has to
say.  He states, “You are the salt of the
Earth.”  Jesus also goes on to state,
“You are the light of the world.”  What
does Jesus mean by these metaphors? 

 

Salt
was a valuable commodity in Jesus’s day. 
It was used as seasoning, as medicine, as a means of money, an essential
element in sacrifices offered to God, and an element in sealing a covenant that
could not be broken. Salt was also a symbol of healing, in 2 Kings 2:20-21 Scripture
states, “Bring me a new bowl,” he said, “and put salt in
it.” So they brought it to him. 
Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying,
“This is what the LORD says: ‘I have healed this water. Never again will
it cause death or make the land unproductive.'”
 Jesus was speaking of our value to God.  Our value to one another.  We are to be agents of healing.  As for the metaphor of light, light
illuminates.  Light guides.  Light allows us to see in the darkness.  Jesus is speaking to people to whom God had
entrusted his law.  People chosen to be a
light shining in the darkness humanity faces. 
God stated in Isaiah 42:6-7  I, the LORD, have called you in
righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that
are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those
who sit in darkness
.” But there was a problem. Instead of being a light
that shown outward to others, God’s chosen people had become selfishly inward
oriented, trying to control the light rather than share it.  Instead of being agents of healing, they had
become agents of corruption and compromise. 
Jesus was addressing the problem head on.  Jesus is striving to awaken God’s people to
their purpose, their privilege.

 

The church holds the status of being
God’s called out people today.  The
church is a community made up of people who are supposed to be disciples of Jesus Christ.  Disciples are students of their teacher.  Disciples are supposed to be the carriers of
the truth they have been taught.  Being a
disciple is not a part-time job.  It is
not a hobby or an entertaining distraction from real life.  It is real life.  It is a commitment, a responsibility and an
expectation.  Yet, in our world, church
is no longer about being called out.  It
is not about discipleship.  It has become
a more a matter of social convention. 
Church has become a choice rather than a commitment.  Its function is more individual consumption
rather than a calling to carry the cross.  The
reality is that dedicated discipleship has radically declined and convenience
is the deciding factor in attendance.  So
the question is, “Are we being salt and light?”

 

Look if you would at verse 17.  Jesus is now defining himself and his
purpose.  He speaks of how he has not
come to abolish what God has already done. 
He asserts that the Scripture and its purpose has not changed.  He makes it clear that the Word of God will
stand till the end of time.

 

Why does he feel the need to do
this?  Jesus had already caught the
attention of the establishment.  His
actions and words were cause quite a concern. 
He was being viewed as being a rebel. 

 

I must be honest.  I get quite perturbed at modern scholars and
supposed Biblical experts that say that Jesus was a radical, a rebel against
authority.  Absolutely not!  Jesus was not the one who had changed what
God’s covenant people should be.  Jesus
was not the one who changed the focus from being salt and light to being a
created status quo.  Jesus only spoke and
acted in the way things should have been. 
Jesus was perceived as a danger because he was a challenge to those who
had rebelled and took the law of God to the left and those who took the law of God to the right.  He made it clear that both were breaking the
commandments, that neither were right. 

 

Look at verse 20.  In the
terminology of our day, the scribes were those who took the Word of God to the
left and the Pharisees were the ones who took the Word of God to the
right.  Note what he says, “unless your
righteousness exceeds”, both the right and the left, you will never enter the
kingdom of heaven.

 

Wow, did you catch that!  That is a very strong statement. 

 

But pastor, some might say, I thought all you
had to do was believe in Jesus to get into the Kingdom.  James 2:19 states, “You believe that there is
one God. Good! Even the demons believe that– and shudder
.”  So, Pastor, you don’t believe in grace?  No, I believe in grace.  I believe that through the grace of God is
the only way a person can become righteous. 
I believe that only way a person can escape damnation and enter heaven
is by grace.  I believe it so much I
would never use it as an excuse or a loophole to not live up to my
responsibilities and expectations of being a disciple.

 

Let me focus just for a moment for on
that word “exceeds”.  Now you Bible may
translate the word as surpasses rather than exceeds but the basic idea is the
same.  What might be missed is that that
is translated is a word that indicates a process, an action of growth.  It is also a word that indicates a
choice.  It is something we much choose
to pursue. 

 

This is what discipleship is
all about.  It is pursing the will of
God.  It is growing in the Word of
God.  It is developing a deeper want of
God.  If these are not priorities in our
lives we need to wonder why?  Jesus warns
us in this passage about salt that has lost its savor and light that is
hidden.  Is that happening to us?  Are we being salt and light?  Do we take these element into our world?

 

This is why stated I
believe there is a spiritual salt shortage. 
Our world is changing.  The church
is changing.  We are a culture of
gamblers hoping we will not be held accountable for not doing what the Word
says we should.  To be a Christian
(Charles Wesley) is to pursue perfection.  I
feel too many do not pursue perfection but put on a pretense of piety, give a
pittance of participation, and are pitiful in the practice of the privilege of
being God’s covenant people.  History is
repeating itself.

 

The days are too perilous, the situation is too
serious for people who would call themselves Christian to pretend.  We need involvement, need investment. We need
dedication, we need disciples.  Are we
being salt and light?