Faith United Methodist Church

February 5, 2017

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Rev. Kristabeth Atwood

Scripture:  Matthew 5:13-16, Isaiah 58:9b-12

Prayer of Illumination:

God of justice and mercy, Christ of light and life, enter our lives and this time of reflection with your radiant presence. Bring light to our journey, that we may see your path of righteousness. Shine in us and through us, that we may be lights of integrity, compassion, and justice for all the world to see. Amen.

Sermon:   Don’t Let Satan Blow It Out!

In our reading from Matthew, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp-stand, and it gives light to all in the house.”  When I was a kid the verses to “This Little Light of Mine” were different than the ones we sang this morning. We sang a verse that went, “Hide it under a bushel. No! I’m gonna let it shine.” We are not to hoard the light to ourselves, but let it shine to be seen near and far. And there was a verse, “Don’t let Satan blow it out! I’m gonna let it shine.” I was always intrigued by that last verse. How could Satan blow out my light?

Integrity is our topic for today in our “Who Are You?” series. Living with integrity. Integrity implies stability, consistency, honesty, sincerity and trust. Someone who lives with integrity stands up for what they believe in, doesn’t compromise principles, and can be trusted with the smallest and the largest of things. Like those two young men on the video, people with integrity don’t take advantage of people or situations, no matter how tempting.

The other illustration that Jesus used in our Gospel reading is that of salt. “You are the salt of the earth.” There was no Sunday School song about this verse, at least not one that I learned. Of course, we sometimes refer to people as being the salt of the earth ~ honest, down to earth, good people. But, to be honest, this verse never really came alive to me until this past week.   In my sermon study I came across the simple explanation that salt, when we put it on our food, disappears into the food to make it tastier. In a similar way we are to go into the world, not to make a name for ourselves or to stand out, but to make the world better – to season the world.

Light, uncontained, dissipates over the miles. Salt disappears into the food. As Brian Maas wrote for the Christian Century, “Being salt and being light involves giving ourselves away completely… 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 fear that if let our light shine out we won’t have enough light for ourselves; if we season the world we’ll miss out on something here at home.

These Gospel verses come from Jesus’ larger teaching known as the Sermon on the Mount. When we think of the Sermon on the Mount we often think of Jesus gathered with his disciples to tell them the really important things he wanted them to know.   Yet, we tend to forget that others were there as well. The crowds had followed them and were listening-in. The shop keepers, the beggars, tax collectors, those needing healing, women, men children, you and I…. all were there to hear what the great teacher had to say.

So it is to this mixed group of the committed and the curious that Jesus proclaimed, “You are the salt of the earth…. You are the light of the world.”   Salt: Cleansing, Preserving, Adding Flavor. Light: Revealing what is hidden, Allowing all to see. Even at this early stage Jesus knew that those who followed in his way would make a difference, would change the world. Jesus knew that the message he shared would have the power to bring justice to the oppressed, hope to the hopeless and peace to those who were searching. Jesus knew that his followers would shine light into the dark places and go out into the crowds to flavor the world with love.

Jesus knew all this, but the disciples may not have realized it at the time. And even after they realized it, there were certainly times they forgot. Just as there are times we forget. Being salt and light isn’t always an easy calling. Sometimes we might not want to spice things up. We might not want to shine. There are times we just want to eat our bland dinner, turn out our lights and go to sleep. There are times when we just want to grab the beer from the open truck and be on our way. There are times when we are too tired or preoccupied to stand up to the bully, to call out the injustice in front of us, to stand in the breach for someone else in need. As I have come to understand it, these are the times we most have to fuel our light or, as my Sunday School taught, “Don’t let Satan blow it out!”

Because, as Marilyn Riggs reminds us in Feasting on the Word, it is indeed our calling as Jesus’ followers “…. to disorder the status quo by valuing those who are dispossessed, caring for those who suffer loss, seeking to do justice, showing mercy, having integrity, being peacemakers, and courageously standing for what (we) believe.” Salt? Light? Integrity? Love? Call it what you want. This is Jesus’ way of living ~ our way of living ~ in the world. Amen.