[Jesus said:] “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (NIV)
Grace to you and peace from God our creator, from Jesus Christ our redeemer and friend and from the Holy Spirit, our sustainer and guide.
My mom had grown up with what I will call “little church exposure.” She had certainly not any kind of a regular attendance at worship or practice of any spiritual routines. Sometimes she was invited to church with her friends, but that was about it. My dad on the other hand was in a family that were regular church attenders and he had grown up active in their local church community. When they married, my mom became active in the church too. Of course they raised their five kids in the church. On any given week you would find us there. Sunday school was a regular part of our lives. My mom taught the adult class while others taught us in our various classes. As I think about it, I have no idea what my dad did during the Sunday school hour. Did he attend my mom’s class? Was he in the church basement solving the problems of the world with other men not in Sunday school? Did he nap in the car? I have to admit don’t even know, but he was there somewhere, because we all came together.
I was very comfortable in church. I had other kids my age there. Most of my parents’ church friends were the parents of my friends so it was easy to be there. But just because I was there, sitting in Sunday school class, or sitting in the pew during worship, doesn’t mean I was really there. Not all of me. Many times my thoughts were anywhere but there. I was more likely to be scoping out the sanctuary for new places to hide for our massive ‘hide and seek’ game after church than paying attention to the message. I liked to sing. I always sang the hymns. They always brought me back to the moment. So what I am telling you is, I was in church, but it was always on someone else’s terms. I chose to be there only as far as I chose not to rebel against my parents and because I liked being with the other kids. God was in my life, but kind of like my grandparents. They were there because they were part of my parents, but they were not an every day part of who I was. God was the same way. And yet, when I found the paper I had to write for my confirmation class completion, I read through it. I was amazed. I realized, “There was something there after all.” We’d had to write a “Credo Paper.” “Credo” is “I believe” in Latin. We had to write a paper of what we believed. All these years later, I was amazed it had substance.
Finding that paper was a real lesson for me. I had long judged myself pretty harshly for not taking church very seriously when I was young. I had judged the congregation pretty harshly because I didn’t see that we did anything for the poor, the hungry, the prisoners or the downhearted. We did take food to other families when someone died or when someone was in the hospital, but none of us were in danger of going hungry. The state penitentiary was in our county seat, and we would go when they would put on their variety shows which they did from time to time. We would shop at the prison store for handcrafted items the prisoners had made, but did we ever talk about what kinds of challenges they would face upon reentry into society? Not that I ever knew of. Now mind you, I was a kid. What did I know? And I see it differently now, of course. Taking food to comfort a family is a way of showing love. Supporting the prison staff’s efforts to give the prisoners some pride of performance and creation are worthy things to do. When I served on the church council as a teenager, because it seemed like the thing to do, it was all about the building and the budget. But did I speak up and challenge the adult members to consider something more? Nope. I just quietly checked out. I wasn’t mature enough to do anything but stand back and criticize.
But looking back, I have to admit, there was something there. There was something there all along.
The Spirit was there, working in me, slowly, patiently, until I was ready to take my faith more seriously. The Spirit was there, waiting until I took the next step.
And that is the thing about God. God is patient. God waits. Sometimes God lets us set the timetable. God will not give us more than we can handle. God will not push us beyond our capacity. God has given us free will, and God doesn’t trample on that. And yet, sometimes when we think we are ready, but God says ‘Wait.’ We don’t like to wait when we think we are ready. We get impatient. We think we know what is best. But God says, ‘Wait.’ We know there are things that will only happen on God’s timing. And so sometimes we must wait. But we dare not get complacent in our waiting. We have to be ready when God says ‘Go!’ All too often we get comfy waiting and we miss the moment to ‘Go.’
This congregation has been in a time of waiting, but I believe we are being nudged toward a ‘go’ message. There is something we are to become that is about to be revealed to us. We have been doing God’s work that we have been comfortable doing, hanging out at church and doing what we like. That has been meaningful and we have done some good, but I believe we are on the brink of being called to take the next step in our life of faith together. I don’t know for sure what it is yet, but when it becomes clear, it will become clear to us together. It probably won’t be easy. It might make us uncomfortable. That’s got to be OK. ‘Uncomfortable’ is often our growing edge.
Now is the time to say “Yes” to God. Now is the time to recognize that our light is shining, and it is going to shine even brighter. Now is not the time to sit back. Now is not the time to give up. The Spirit is here in this church and we if we say “Yes, God, move in us. Shine your light through us. Use us to bless and change the world.” God will answer that prayer.
We think of Jesus as the light of the world, but that’s not what Jesus said. Jesus said YOU are the light of the world. YOU are the salt of the earth. We think of Jesus as the fulfillment of the law, but if WE are the light of the world and the salt of the earth, then WE are the fulfillment of the Law. The summary of the Torah, the law, is to honor God, to live in harmony with God’s people and the world God made. There are a billion ways to do that. There is a way for every church, every community, every family, every person; and when we are doing it well, it all fits together.
We are the fulfillers of the Law. Jesus said, “whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19, NIV) It is up to us to practice goodness, harmony, generosity and fidelity. These are the teachings of the Law. These are the lenses through which God’s light shines. These are the behaviors we practice to bring about the beloved community that God created and calls us to be. The reign of God is at hand. We are loved. We are forgiven. We have a lot to share.
The reign of God is at hand. The reign of God is in our hands.
And so I invite you to pray along with me. Would you tell God that you do want to be a lens for God’s light to shine through so all the world can see it? Would you tell God that you are ready and willing to take the next step toward what God is calling us to do and to be? Would you thank God for loving you and guiding you to this moment? Would you ask God to help you live the rest of your life being confident that God will equip you to do whatever God calls you to? During this time of silence I invite you to pray for God’s will to be done in us.
(silence for reflection)
Holy God, come into our hearts and increase our faith. Inspire us in serving your people and being the church for the good of the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Blessings to you,
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.