St. Matthew's Episcopal

A Salty Community Filled with Light

Posted on: February 14th, 2017 by Robin Jarrell

salt-and-lightI will continue my practice of summarizing the sermon for the previous Sunday because in these turbulent times, it is important to keep the Good News ever before us.

Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew is a continuation of Jesus’ proclamation that his followers are salt and light.  Using the Beatitudes as a foundation,  Jesus underscores telling us that he has come not to abolish the law of the Hebrew scriptures, but to fulfil the whole of it.  And the words of Jesus directing us to fulfil the law becomes a blueprint for Matthew’s faith community on how to live with our brothers and sisters as we follow Jesus’ Way.

I had the pleasure a few days ago of witnessing in Lewisburg for refugees and immigrants next to someone from Bloomsburg.  We got to talking and she told me the reason she was outside on that very cold morning was because she was a baptized Christian.  That really struck me because folks don’t usually describe themselves as “baptized” Christians.  Then she told me she was an Episcopalian and I told her I was an Episcopalian priest – and then she said something that was astonishing.  She said, “I think that Jesus was an amazing strategist.”

I was gob smacked.  In all my years, I had never thought of Jesus in that light.  I’d thought about Jesus as religious reformer, activist, etc., but “strategist”?

Then she said, “I mean, think about it.  That “love your neighbor stuff.  It really works!”

Of course Jesus would know what works best for human beings.  Because he is divine, he came to show us how to be fully human – since he is both fully human and fully divine.  Jesus is the better angel of all our natures.

So Matthew’s gospel understands that the new disciples of Jesus inhabit a world not unlike the one we live in today:  a dangerous world where power and money are used by the few to the detriment of the many who are sinners, outcasts, poor, needy, ill, orphaned, and exiled.  In Matthew’s gospel, we learn how to live out that “fulfilling of the law.”  Jesus reminds his followers of the ancient decrees, and then asks us to go even more deeply into them.  We know not to murder, but Jesus tells us that we should not let our anger even get us that far.  We cannot expect to give our gifts to God until we have reconciled our very human anger with our sisters and brothers.  And if we have wronged a brother or sister, we are to take responsibility for our actions, and come to terms with our accuser.

Finally, Jesus asks us to go more deeply into the ancient decree that we are not to “swear falsely.”  Of course we are not to use the name of God for unholy purposes – but I also think that Jesus is telling his followers:  words matter.  Later on in Matthew, Jesus will remind us that “it is not what goes into a person’s mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of a person’s mouth” that does the real harm.  Words have divine consequences and should be used to lift up the lowly, to encourage the downtrodden, to ease other’s burdens.

A “salty” community filled with “light” understands this and acts accordingly.

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